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Smartest Cities in America and the World

Updated on November 30, 2022
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

In many ways, music saved my life, and I have the most famous director of the USMC bands to thank for it!

Smart Cities Are Inventive

Every year, a list of "smart cities" is designated by the organization Intelligent Community for their innovative inroads to new technologies that improve business and the quality of live for their inhabitants.

The smartest of the smart communities are listed in a special "Smart6" for America or the "Top7 Intelligent Communities" globally. The number one slot in any of the list goes to the community chosen as the Smart City of the Year around the world.

Invention of the 2010s: "Nuclear light bulb" spacecraft engine. Smart Cities are home to new industries and new transportation modes in the world.
Invention of the 2010s: "Nuclear light bulb" spacecraft engine. Smart Cities are home to new industries and new transportation modes in the world.

What is Smart6?

The Smart6 is a list of the American members of the Smart21 Cities named annually, considering their tech innovations, but also weighing heavily their infrastructures, various local programs, and business/education partnerships.

All this does not reflect a reliance on advanced college degrees or high IQ among the citizenry!

The American and Canadian winners for the 2010s are listed below in alphabetical order of 10 North American winners. Dublin, Ohio was the fastest growing place in the state during the decade and was a winner among the 21 honorees for three years running.

In 2019, another Columbus suburb of Westerville took up the honor and garnered a nomination for Smart Community of the Year around the World.

Just what defines a Smart City for this survey performed and presented by Intelligent Community each year?

The cities and towns chosen are often college towns that produce large numbers of graduates, but they also develop strong partner relationships with businesses and local/federal governments along with colleges and universities to create new high-tech, new-tech, and clean-tech jobs.

How many of these new graduates stay in the cities in which they complete their academic degrees? If it is Ohio's Dublin, then perhaps not a large percentage, since Ohio from 2000 - 2018 lost graduates to other states in which employment and business incentives are more attractive.

On the other hand, Dublin has people moving in faster than graduates are moving out.

Columbus, Ohio was also chosen for the winner's list in 2013 (Top7), 2014, and 2015; with the honor of becoming the Smart City of the Year globally in 2015. The suburb of Dublin was chosen in 2010 and the suburb of Westerville was honored as a Top7 in 2019 and 19th in the world in 2020.

Smart21 Communities for 2020

  1. Adelaide, South Australia
  2. Binh Duong Smart City, Vietnam
  3. Chiayi City, Taiwan
  4. Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
  5. Fredericton, New Brunswick
  6. Hamilton, Ontario
  7. Hudson, Ohio
  8. Issy les Moulineaux, France
  9. Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  10. Markham, Ontario
  11. Matsu, Taiwan
  12. Newmarket, Ontario
  13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  14. Prospect, South Australia
  15. Rochester, New York
  16. Sunshine Coast, Queensland
  17. Tallinn, Estonia
  18. Wellington, New Zealand
  19. Westerville, Ohio
  20. Whanganui, New Zealand
  21. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Ten Years of the Smartest City in the World

London, UK
Espoo, Finland
Melbourne, Australia
Montreal, Quebec
Columbus, Ohio
Named to the Smart6 or Top 7 for three years since 2013.
Toronto, Ontario
Taichun City, Taiwan
Riverside City, California
Eindhoven, Netherlands
Suwon, South Korea

Westerville is the first city in the USA to appear on both the Smart7 and the Intelligent Community of the Year nominations list during the same year.

Important American Additions to the Smart21

Three US cities joined honorees in 2014:

  • Arlington County VA: Honored also in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
  • Mitchell SD: Honored in 2013 and 2015.
  • Walla Walla WA

Three US cities joined the list in 2015:

  • Arlington County VA: Honored in 2010, 2013, and 2014.
  • Aurora IL: Suburb of the often chosen Chicago.
  • Dubuque IA

Two US cities were added in 2016:

  • Marlborough MA
  • San Diego CA

One US city was added in 2017:

  • Rochester NY

Three US cities were added for 2019:

  • Chicago IL: Top7
  • Hudson OH: Top7
  • Westerville OH: Top7 and a suburb of the 2013 honoree, Columbus.

Top U.S. Cities honored in 2020:

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Hudson, Ohio
  • Rochester, NY
  • Westerville, Ohio

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Frost Fest at Pentagon Row Shops in Arlington. This juggler comes out of a translucent plastic bubble!Arlington National Cemetery  sits in a Smart6 City honored during several years.The Pentagon is an important government installation in the county.
Frost Fest at Pentagon Row Shops in Arlington. This juggler comes out of a translucent plastic bubble!
Frost Fest at Pentagon Row Shops in Arlington. This juggler comes out of a translucent plastic bubble! | Source
Arlington National Cemetery  sits in a Smart6 City honored during several years.
Arlington National Cemetery sits in a Smart6 City honored during several years.
The Pentagon is an important government installation in the county.
The Pentagon is an important government installation in the county. | Source

Progress of American Smart21 Cities

Arlington County, Virginia for 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015

Arlington participates in a large "smart" business accelerator for infrastructure.

  • 2010 Population 210,000
  • 2017 Population 234,965 (12% increase)

This is smallest self-governing county in nation, thriving thus beside Washington DC and its tradition of community involvement with government, private sector, and universities. In the 1970s, a planning commission created zoning system to group business and residential developments around bus and train stops in the DC Metro catchment.

In addition, Arlington County developed additional open space; bike-hike paths, public transit and Employment & Training opportunities. As a result, broadband, distance education, and STEM careers as well as entrepreneurship have influenced the region’s youth to succeed. Residents overall possess advance degrees, move in from 125 other nations, and speak 100 languages; but are united in business and community groups for positive change.

Bristol, Virginia

  • 2010 Population 17,500
  • 2017 Population 16,790 (6% decrease)

Bristol is a rural community in a low-income region that long depended on tobacco and coal production. With these industries on the downswing, others have become necessary to keep the city and its population solvent. The Digital Divide needed to be bridged in a new technologically-driven effort and Bristol seized that opportunity. It has been a Smart21 City for two years.

Bristol moved into the 21st Century in the late 1990s, when it began pursuing its own fiber network, which it achieved and named OptiNet. Its first deployment was in serving local government entities and school systems, followed by business use and residential applications. It then grew to service four entire Virginia counties.

OptiNet saved its customers over $10 million in the 2000s alone, while drawing $50 million in private investments from new technology companies. The high tech advancement also worked to improve education and healthcare through digital communications and tools for work. Further economic development is expected through partnerships more easily formed digitally, among government at the federal, state, county, and local levels; higher education, and business. This is a winning combination in one of America's Fastest Growing Places and Best Cities for Work and Business.


The 33 Smart Corridor is a 35-mile highway linking Dublin, Marysville, and East Liberty. This corridor is anchored by automotive assets Honda of America, the Transportation Research Center, and over 65 auto companies.

— Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Dublin, Ohio Started a Smart Corridor for Autonomous Driving

  • 2010 Population 40,000
  • 2017 Population 47,619 (19% increase)

Dublin has been a Smart21 city in 2008, 2009, and 2010. This is a well-respected accomplishment for a town that once embodied all of the "wild west" in Ohio with saloons, gunfights in dirt roads, horses, cattle, cowboys, and outlaws. Named after the city in Ireland, it is also a center of Irish culture. Overarching all is the city's advancing "smart corridor" for future transportation.

It has a city-wide WiFi system that helps make it the fastest growing place in the State of Ohio. Communication and transportation are high class and easy and the city is headquarters for Fortune 500 companies that include Wendy’s, Ashland, and Cardinal Health. Companies such as OhioHealth and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), are also happy to take advantage of the Dublin technologies of WiFi and dark fiber.

It is difficult to believe that in the mid-1800s, Dublin and Muirfield Golf Course (hosting the Memorial Day Tournament) was once the Wild West with muddy streets, saloons, and prospectors. In the 2000s, it became the hub of a supercomputer-linked network of K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals. This is the difference between Gun Smoke and Sir Arthur Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now, 80% of the population has an earned college degree.

Dublin leaders thought "telecom." They took a risk and engaged partners and constructed a system of underground conduits for future fiber-optics networking. This is a far cry from the muddy streets of the Wild West and a single telegraph office. The network emerged and became DubLink, partnered by the Ohio Supercomputer Center to create the Central Ohio Research Network or CORN, reflected by Dublin's famous concrete corn field art installation.

By 2009, Dublin had completed a total WiFi network encompassing all city offices/installations and leaving enough to support WiFi service provides room on the platform to reach private customers as well. Dark fiber is used to support and connect OhioHealth and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and to promote growth revenues of approximately 20 Dublin-area commercial companies.

Dakota County, Minnesota

This community maintains the SMART Center for training first responders.

  • 2010 Population 398,500
  • 2010 Population 421,751 (6% increase)

Just south of Minneapolis-St. Paul is Dakota County, which extends into rural Midwestern Minnesota made famous by Garrison Keillor and the weekly Prairie Home Companion radio show over many decades.

The county is supported by diversified economies: manufacturing, IT, food, clean energy, chemical plants and real estate. During the 2008 – 2009 Recession, the county pushed ahead with partnerships among community colleges, businesses, and government to increase business and jobs. Entrepreneurs bloomed and made use of the enhanced Education and Training programs and schools available.

There is practically no Digital Divide in Dakota County and the few remaining of Dakota Nation for which it is named enjoy the same Wi-Fi as Big Business. IT is a healthy economic base, supplemented by medical devices, logistics, and new industries emerging from partnerships mentioned above.

Jobs have increased considerably, with new ICT jobs equal in number to 8% of the total population. The impressively strong development nonprofit, Dakota Future, is leading toward even more sustainable growth.

Danville, Virginia

  • 2010 Population 49,000
  • 2017 Population 41,130 (16% decrease)

In 1970 Disco America, Danville was the economic stronghold in Central Virginia. Its leading industries lost power in declining textiles and other manufacturing by the end of the 20th century, so Danville pursues Information Technology (IT) for the future,

The nDanville open-access fiber network exploded in connectivity for business, government, and residential applications. The fiber infrastructure is self-sustaining and impressive at 125 miles of fiber that serves private and public sectors equally well. In addition, the city and county governments collaborated in a Business Incubator operated with Virginia Tech for a new research entity that investigates ways to create new jobs through innovations in healthcare, aerospace, manufacturing, and many other sectors. It is a winning project.

New employers emerge from the Incubator to become quickly self-sustainable. This attracts other commerce, such as the Danville Ikea plant, the company’s first North American manufacturing plant.

Declining Industries Are Replaced In Danville: In 1911, young girls rolled cigarettes in the Danville Cigarette Factory.
Declining Industries Are Replaced In Danville: In 1911, young girls rolled cigarettes in the Danville Cigarette Factory.

Riverside, California Continues SmartRiverside

  • 2010 Population 291,000
  • 2017 Population 327,728 (13% increase)

Riverside is a college town, which is usually a good sign that recession does not hinder its development of business and jobs. It is also a growing suburb of Los Angeles and Palm Springs, as well as a warehousing and logistics center and citrus hub. Millions of square feet of commercial and industrial space have been added. These five characteristics make Riverside smart.

Strong population growth was not matched by income growth in 2009, but 2010 brought change. New leadership set the goal of making Riverside a high-tech city with increasing numbers of jobs. It partnered with its universities and created technology parks, business incubators, business accelerators and internship/mentoring programs.

The turnaround was quick. AT&T deployed a citywide Wi-Fi network, Riverside became an anchor tenant and AT&T began offering free low-speed access, with higher tiers available for a fee. A new fiber network slashed costs. In 2010, wireless networks reach 80% of the city and the Digital Divide is almost closed.

Any family that successfully completes training receives a free PC refurbished by ex-gang members. This green program makes Smart Riverside the primate collector of “e-waste” in the region.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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