SFCED | San Francisco Center for Economic Development


The 10 Smartest Cities In North America

Which cities are doing the most to become the sustainable, connected, innovative city of the future?

The survival of our species on planet earth is largely going to be determined by what happens in our cities. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in them. We are observing a mass migration to cities at an unprecedented rate. The growing urbanization places high demands on infrastructure such as transportation and building as well as increased demand for resources such as food, water, and energy. Global cities can not continue to sprawl as many U.S. cities did in the 20th century.

Today’s cities demand 21st century solutions to accommodate their growing populations in ways that not only maintain the quality of life, but also improve it. That’s where smart cities come in. Smart cities find ways to become more efficient, to deliver more services via mobile technology, to optimize existing infrastructure, and to leverage citizen participation to create better land-use decisions and to break down bureaucracy in order to stimulate a creative, entrepreneurial economy. In short, smart cities are innovative cities.

This is the third year of publishing a ranking of the region’s smartest cities (you can read last year’s here). This North American ranking is the first of four that we’ll unveil in the coming weeks, which will include Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. Over the past year I refined the smart cities wheel framework, a visual guide that I use to help frame the discussion of smart cities. While the ranking methodology for 2012 is quite similar in its use of publicly available data as proxies for measuring each of the six components of the wheel, I have added an important new element this year: information from the cities themselves. Learn more about the full methodology here.

Here, then, are the smartest cities in North America for 2013:

1: Seattle

2: Boston (tie)

2: San Francisco (tie)

San Francisco holds its number-two spot down in 2013. Like Boston, one of the areas I am most interested in regarding San Francisco is its strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. I am particularly interested in the work by urbanist Richard Florida in suggesting that the epicenter of the Bay Area entrepreneurial ecosystem is moving away from Silicon Valley and towards San Francisco itself. Much like Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, San Francisco has a mayor’s office dedicated to civic innovation.

Of course, for years San Francisco has been a leader in embracing sustainability and smart urban development as evidenced by their regular spot in the top of North American green cities rankings. San Francisco reports having 302 LEED certified buildings, which would place them in the upper echelon of North American cities.

Read more: Co.Exist The 10 Smartest Cities In North America

Smart Cities Wheel Framework