Smartest Cities In The World
WHAT MAKES A CITY ‘SMART’?
What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you? Most published research into ‘smart cities’ is directed at the concept of, how technology and the internet of things help with environmental issues like waste management, pollution and transport. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a pretty dull explanation of the term ‘smart city’. Yes it’s great that technology could be making a positive contribution to solving such problems, and I’m not putting that down in any way, but it’s just not that fun to write about. So I thought I’d take a slightly different angle.
WHAT I THINK MAKES A ’SMART’ CITY
When I first heard the phrase, what sprang to mind was smartphones, virtual reality, Wifi, contactless, apps etc. Not pollution and waste management. So I thought, lets explore a different meaning for the term ‘smart city’ and look at how cities use technology to convenience the lives of those in it and how technology has been used to make experiences more exciting.
Lets start with Wifi. In order for us to be able to do any of the cool things we want to with our smartphones, we need internet connection, and even better if it is free. Wifi is available basically everywhere now, but how much of it is free and how much does it actually work?
CITIES WITH THE BEST WIFI
Hong Kong tops the list for the city with the best wifi. There are lots of wifi hotspots in public spaces and metro stations for tourists to use free of charge, but if you want even better wifi usage, you can purchase a tourist SIM for your phone for HK$88 (£8, €10, $11) which allows you 5 days access to 12,000 PCCW hotspots around the city.
Seoul, South Korea is another on the top of our list. Not only do you get free Wifi access in almost all public places, but you can also download 50 times faster than you would on a normal cable modem connection. Others on the list include, New York, Barcelona, Paris, Tel Aviv and Perth.
TOP RIDESHARING CITIES
Ridesharing technology companies like Uber and Lyft have come alive over the past few years making it EASIER, FASTER and CHEAPER to get around busy, touristy city centres. Uber is the top dog, now in over 500 cities worldwide including, Toronto, San Fransisco, London, Paris and Mumbai. Download the App and you’re ready to go. In the clicks of a few buttons your ride could be waiting on you in as little as 4 minutes.
HOW DOES UBER COMPARE TO USING A REGULAR CAB?
Well first of all, I’m not sure about other cities, but where I come from, you always have to actually call someone to book a taxi. Personally, I hate this whole rigmarole and I’d much rather just be able to do it straight from my phone without having to speak to anyone. Call me anti-social, but I think most people would like this convenience nowadays with their busy lifestyles. And the use of smartphones, social media etc has ironically made people less sociable therefore, Uber definitely has it’s place in the market.
Many say that riding in an Uber can be more pleasant. It is more often than not, regular people who are not taxi drivers full time, that drive for Uber. This means they are fresh and new to the job and don’t mind making chit chat with passengers. They can be much more knowledegable about places to go, eat, drink, visit etc too.
Pittsburgh have just launched self-driving Ubers. Ok, this is not an official launch of self-driving cars and the next time you order an Uber, you’re not going to be greeted by an empty vehicle. It’s more of a research project at the moment. Uber wants to test how the cars react to people and how people react to the cars before actually rolling out the idea. But, it shows the ‘smart’ advancements that are yet to come to our cities.
CITY APPS THAT MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER
Apps are little things that we use every day of our lives. They make our lives more convenient in many ways and apparently we spend more time using them than we do watching TV. Which cities have the best apps and how do they help us?
It seems logical to start with New York, one of the largest and busiest cities in the world. What if you could navigate much easier around the city via your smartphone? Imagine the time and money you would save! Lucky for you, apps like BusBus NYC and CabSense NYC exist. BusBus gives real-time updates on location of the bus you need so you can decide if its worth waiting or if a walk might be quicker. CabSense tells you which street corners are best to flag a taxi based on where you are and when you need it. And, if you’re not the natural NYC taxi flagger, it will even whistle one down for you if you shake your phone – how smart is that?!
Whilst we’re on the subject of transport, Hong Kong has a great app called, Hong Kong Taxi Translator. How useful does this sound? I can’t tell you how many times I have stepped into taxi in a foreign country and not had a clue how to communicate. And even worse when you make your best attempt and just get the most blank look you’ve ever seen staring back at you. The app has thousands of places in Hong Kong translated from English into standard Chinese and shown on a “taxi card” which enables a driver to read and understand at a glance. You can search destinations by name, or search for by category for example, sightseeing points, hotels, hospitals and transport links.
This next app is a game-changer. Drizly is the app that can deliver alcohol to you from anywhere. Whether you can’t be dealing with the busy city streets or you forgot last minute party supplies, Drizly will be there for you. Currently only available in most US cities like, LA, New York, Chicago, Boston and Dallas. It’s probably a good thing that this app only exists in the US because if it existed where I come from, there would be severe consequences.
Living in the city is expensive. There’s no avoiding it. Your rent is higher, food is more expensive and transport? Don’t even get me started. If you are struggling to budget your money, then you need Mint. A nifty little app that manages your finances so you don’t have to. An essential for life in the city.
BIKE HIRE APPS
Bike hire is a fab and cost effective way to get around a busy city and now more popular than ever. But how do you locate and pay to hire a bike? Well there is an app for that! In London, the best app is Barclay Hire Cycle Hire App. Search for bikes by postcode, location name or venue name, and if you are a frequent user, you can view all of your favourite docking stations on one screen. And don’t worry if you get lost easily, let the app help you plan your journey. For bike hire in Paris use, Vélib and New York use, Splinster.
VR EXPERIENCES IN CITIES
Ok, lets move on from technology for convenience and talk about smart tech for fun! Virtual Reality, as we all know, is becoming increasingly popular. It is now being used in a number of different ways for instance, mental health therapy, to gain animal insight, crime scene investigation, combat training, and even in porn! Read our article about the top uses for VR in 2016.
But which cities are actually using VR?
You can read about VR and watch countless YouTube videos, but you will never truly know how good it is until you try it for yourself. In Tokyo, there are many places which host Virtual Reality experiences for tourists and locals to engage with. For example, in Tokyo’s Sunshine60 Observatory, you can have a fully immersive VR experience in their impressive Sky Circus. Try on one of their Virtual Reality headsets and be thrust into a futuristic version of Tokyo in a ‘magical journey’, 251m above the city.
However amazing this experience will be, the question is do you have £200+ to shell out on it?
In New York, Madame Tussauds have a brand new Virtual Reality experience by The Void based on the 2016 Ghostbusters movie. Here you will experience the thrill of being one of the Ghostbusters blasting your way through an apartment complex with full VR headset, suit and backpack. Thankfully, this one is a bit cheaper costing $55 (£42).
With the Oculus Rift now released in the UK , I imagine VR is going to take off rapidly here.
WHAT IS THE ‘SMARTEST’ CITY?
So, if you’re looking to have a ‘smart’ experience whilst on your travels I would definitely recommend Hong Kong as one of the smartest cities in the world. The extent of the technological innovation that has taken place there, really over steps any other city. From the transport system to the quality of Wifi, this city really does have it’s technology and innovation locked down.
Stay tuned for a follow up on this article and in the mean time feel free to follow me on instagram:@techgirlcarrie .
Thanks for reading! (If you made it this far!)