This article will focus on European smart cities, and how these examples are unique and different from other smart cities around the world. These cities differ from other smart cities around the world because of the stage of development in Europe and the constraint of implementing initiatives within existing cities. From 8 examples of top-ranked smart cities, this article will define the scope of study to understand the context in which smart initiatives are taking place and emphasize best practices through a benchmark based on various key performance indicators (KPI).


Final Ranking of 8 European Smart Cities through 6 main factors of development: Mobility, Environment, Innovation, Living, Energy and Governance


European smart cities differ from others on three main topics

As smart cities are spreading across the world, European smart cities have specificities both in terms of strengths and challenges to face.

  • Firstly, EU is one of the most developed world regions. The challenges it faces are different from those of the developing countries (e.g.: absolute poverty was almost eradicated in the EU).
  • Secondly, in Europe there are less examples of building cities from scratch like in other parts of the world. Consequences of that, implementing smart city projects in already established cities is the typical European challenge.
  • Thirdly, the EU cities prosperity depends heavily on attracting and retaining world’s best talents. Taking into account how open and connected is European Single Market and how flexible people are, failing to offer an attractive environment would result into a brain drain and be harmful for the economy. Besides, global competitors are also working hard on implementing smart initiatives and stimulating growth and development.

8 European cities investigated

The scope of the study has been narrowed to 8 European cities on the following basis:

  1. Based on primary research, each of the cities selected was identified as being most advanced in a particular segment or as having a particularly strong vision and management.
  2. The chosen cities always appear at the top of related studies such as “Quality of Living Ranking” by Mercer, Green City Index by Siemens, “Mapping Smart Cities in the EU” by European Parliament. As such, these cities were felt to be full of best practices applicable to other cities.
  3. These cities vary in terms of context (ie population, location, demographics) and were felt to be a representative selection, allowing for wider and more insightful analysis.

The cities under observation are: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Hamburg, London, Milton Keynes, Paris and Vienna.

Furthermore, there are data limitations. Some cities have more centralized and transparent smart city operations than others; not all necessary information for the 8 cities is publicly available. However, this has been incorporated into the maturity analysis and those cities with a more open and transparent online data presence have been rewarded.

Our key performance indicators

Key performance indicators can be selected to assess and benchmark cities:

  • Advancement of initiatives: number of initiatives in trial phase, deployment phase or already deployed;
  • Scale of initiatives: e.g.: % of city coverage, number of users served;
  • Impact of initiatives (if deployed): cost savings, environmental impact;
  • Number and type of stakeholders involved: diversity of stakeholders and big names involved;
  • Connectivity of the initiatives regarding the other segments.


From an Imperial College & BearingPoint study