Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the smartest city of them all?

We'll admit it right off the bat: rankings like this can have a feeling of fairy dust about them.

That said, it caught our attention this week when we spotted an awards list of the planet's top five smart cities.

Whatever a 'smart city' is exactly is a somewhat subjective thing (did we mention fairy dust?). But it generally entails connected information technology that keeps a city operating safely, efficiently and at reduced costs. Highway cameras spot traffic jams and flash alerts to reroute commuters and motorists. Electricity grids note when power demand drops, and then alert generating plants. That sort of thing.

Modern, digital lighting plays a key role in it all. In fact many people in the lighting industry would have you believe that urban lighting networks will form the backbone of smart cities. Not only will cities be able to remotely control outdoor and street lighting remotely – turning it on and off and changing is brightness and even colour as needed – but sensors mounted on the lights will also help control them.

Lights and light poles will detect crowds, air quality, parking conditions and much more, feeding that information into central systems that dispatch it and act on it as needed. The location of available parking spaces pop up on your phone app; a police car arrives when a crowd gathers at an usual place or time; flashing LED streetlights guide rescue crews to emergency scenes. And so on.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for the world's numero uno smart city -- Barcelona.

The Spanish metropolis won top honours in a ranking by UK market research firm Juniper, which included four other finalists:

  1. Barcelona
  2. New York
  3. London
  4. Nice
  5. Singapore

'Juniper’s Smart City Rankings have been compiled following an analysis of each city’s ‘smart’ capabilities, with particular focus on their use of smart grids, smart traffic management and smart streetlighting, alongside aspects such as technological capability and social cohesion, among others,' the comany wrote in a press release.

'It was found that the leader, Barcelona, performed consistently well across all metrics and serves as an exciting model of success from which others can learn, bolstered by strong environmentally sustainable initiatives,' it said. 'Other leading cities, such as New York and London, still require greater emphasis on implementing environmentally positive projects, despite excelling in areas such as technological capability and a willingness to engage with citizens through open data.'

The Juniper rankings emphasised the roled of smart electricity grids, which Juniper believes will save cities $10.7 billion annually by 2019.

However, Juniper also warned against cyber attacks on smart grids, a vulnerability that security experts have exposed. 

The same sort of concern surrounds smart lighting systems, which could open network security threats to users. So, let's allow Barcelona a little celebration. But let's all keep in mind that we have a lot more work to do, including keeping our cities safe from cyber intruders. That would be smart.

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Photo is from Featureflash via Shutterstock

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The education of a lamp: