- Following a preview scorecard released in September, Leading Cities and Bright Cities have unveiled their full smart city rating of 500 U.S. cities on Tuesday at Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
- No cities scored an A+ or an A, but four small cities scored an A-: Centennial, CO; Newton, MA; Pleasanton, CA; and San Ramon, CA. "These cities demonstrate that bigger is not always better," the organizations wrote in a press release.
- The ratings use cities' open data to evaluate performance against 32 indicators across 10 dimensions: governance, economy, education, entrepreneurship, environment, health, mobility, security, technology and urbanization.
Leading Cities and Bright Cities emphasized that the development of a rating system instead of a ranking is intentional, as rankings can often be misinterpreted. Leading Cities President and CEO Michael Lake suggested that if these ratings were ranked, it would give the impression that an A- city is "No. 1," or an ideal smart city, when in fact there is room for improvement.
Rankings can also lead to unnecessary competition. "[They are] a zero sum game. In order for one city to move up, another city has to move down," Lake said during a presentation at the conference.
Lake and his colleagues intend for these ratings to instead encourage collaboration and communication between cities of all sizes. For instance, Boulder, CO, which earned a B+ in the preliminary ratings, could turn to its neighbor Centennial for advice and guidance on the various indicators that helped that city reach an A-.
When asked how financial resources play into the ratings — Newton, which received one of the highest marks, is known as an affluent city — Lake suggested wealth isn't as important of a factor in becoming a smart city as strategic decision-making.
"I would say the number one factor, no matter the size or income level, that determines [a city's] smartness is its leadership. It's really about choosing to invest the resources they have, not how many resources they have," he said. "You have a city like Holyoke, [MA], which is much less wealthy than Newton .. but the mayor of Holyoke can turn to the mayor of Newton and learn from what they've done. The idea is that the next city to follow Newton's lead is going to do it better than Newton."
"It's about knowing which projects are the best projects," echoed Raquel Cardamone, CEO and co-founder of Bright Cities.
In future iterations of the ratings process, the partners hope to expand globally and potentially develop a system that would enable cities to submit data on a rolling basis to improve their ratings. It also remains to be seen if and how cities will take action to improve their ratings annually.
"We see this as kind of a living organism," Lake said. "[We won’t] pretend we've captured everything in this first edition. We have to continually change, update and improve."