The Future of Cities: Smarter, Greener

flickr_Trey Ratcliff

Propelled by drivers in all five STEEP categories (social, technological, environmental, economic, and political), many of the world’s cities are striving to become greener and smarter.

A rising number of cities are pursuing environmental sustainability and embracing intelligent systems not only for their own sake (to cut costs, to run more efficiently, and to better serve their residents), but also for the sake of the greater world (to reduce carbon emissions and to inspire other cities to do the same).

Many cities are succeeding on both counts. They are employing a growing variety of intelligent tools (cloud computing, social networking, apps, sensors, crowdsourcing, big data analytics, and more) and experimenting with new materials, methods, and systems that enhance sustainability and improve their residents’ way of life. And those cities that successfully arrive at the most innovative solutions to living smarter and greener are becoming models for other cities. A smart, environmentally sustainable city serves, in the words of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, as “a shining city on the hill,” guiding other cities to follow its example and find their own paths to intelligence and sustainability.

The full report looks at some of the innovative technologies being developed by the world’s “shining cities” in their quest to be greener and smarter. It examines factors driving cities to innovate toward intelligence and sustainability, and describes some newly implemented solutions. And it explores some of the business implications of the drive for smarter, greener metropolises.


“Cities are only a means to a way of life, and whatever we do over the next 40 years will determine the quality of life for millions. I am convinced that we need radically new designs… that can lead us to more sustainable cities where people will lead much happier lives.” — Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor, Bogotá, Colombia


  • Cities worldwide are embracing new strategies to become greener and more sustainable.
  • Cities are adopting smart technologies to anticipate people’s needs, run more efficiently, and increase citizen engagement.
  • Successful and innovative approaches of today and tomorrow will become models for future urban construction and improvement.


A number of factors are driving innovative efforts to make cities smarter and greener. These drivers include:

  • Urbanization. A majority of the world’s population (54%) already lives in urban centers today—and almost all projected population growth over the next three decades will take place in the world’s cities.1 By 2050, the world’s urban population is projected to double, totaling more than 6 billion.2
  • Big data. Technological advancements have made it possible to collect and analyze unprecedented quantities of information.
  • Leapfrogging mobiles. Mobile phones and smartphones are proliferating in developing economies, having leapfrogged both landline and laptop technology. In coming years, billions of people who are otherwise poor in developing economies will have access to smartphone technology (and smartphone services).


  1. The world’s most successful and innovative cities are no longer content to wait—They realize that state, provincial, and national governments, as well as international bodies, to solve global problems like climate change. Their drive to tackle such challenges and to pursue “radically new designs” makes them increasingly willing to enter into public-private partnerships that will help them become more sustainable. Given that most people and economic activity are now found in cities, these efforts can make a difference on a global scale.
  2. The success of Tokyo’s cap-and-trade program may prompt many other cities worldwide to follow suit—By the end of the decade, dozens of other cities may introduce their own cap-and- trade programs rather than wait for state or national action.
  3. Cities are gearing up to employ big data to improve municipal services. But like Rio de Janeiro, many cities are still in the monitor-and-react phase of this process. Cities will have a growing need for improved data analytics that will allow them to make the best possible use of the flood of data provided by mobile phones, GPS, traffic cameras, social media, banks, retailers, and others.


To read this entire brief — and to learn more about the trends and forecasts in this report and what they mean for your organization — contact