There are many factors driving the creation of Smart Cities around the world today, mainly the need to best prepare for a sustainable future. Today, cities are currently using more than two-thirds of the world's energy, while emitting 70% of the world's CO2 emissions, while housing 50% of the population; this is bound to worsen as urbanization continues to accelerate, especially in the emerging economies. According to the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), this is forecast to hit 70% by 2050. As most of the world's resources are finite, cities will have to find strategies to cope with this, becoming more efficient and encouraging citizens to make better use of energy and water, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time cities need to effectively handle the increasing population and its impact on mobility and public infrastructure and services utilization.

IDC Energy Insights believes that Smart Cities are emerging as holistic playgrounds for low-carbon economies, creating synergies and fulfilling the interests of stakeholders of both the private and public sectors. If a city is a system of man-made systems that come together and interact with each other, then one of the basics of a smart city is one where intelligence (ICT) is embedded into the city's core infrastructure to make it more efficient, responsive, and less costly. One of the keys for the successful implementation of a smart city is that it be created in an open environment, with an interoperable and scalable platform, one based on non-proprietary code and interfaces.

As the city microcosm provides more immediate opportunities for innovation, IDC Energy Insights devised the IDC Smart Cities Index to help cities take an active role in and to invest in their future. The IDC Smart Cities Index provides a better understanding of cities' efficiency, infrastructure, and service utilization capabilities, and suggests potential areas to work on to create a more sustainable environment for citizens.

The IDC Smart Cities Index evaluates cities on five smart dimensions (smart government, smart buildings, smart mobility, smart energy and environment, and smart services) and three enabling forces covering the characteristics of a city that could facilitate or hinder its evolution into a smart city (people, economy, and information and communication technologies). The IDC Smart Cities Index produces two end results -- a ranking and a matrix of the cities. The ranking combines the enabling forces and smartness dimensions, while the matrix plots the cities based on their separate enabling forces and smartness dimension scores.

IDC Energy Insights' first application of the IDC Smart Cities Index was in Spain. Some of the most advanced cities in Spain are exemplary in their smart city testing and project developments. Considered in the IDC Smart Cities Index were Spain's 44 largest cities (with over 150,000 inhabitants). The results of IDC Smart Cities Index revealed that the Top 5 cities in order of "smartness" were: Málaga, Barcelona, Santander, Madrid and Donostia-San Sebastián. The remaining 39 Spanish cities ranked were clustered into the following groups: "10 Contenders", 21 "Players", and 8 "Followers". If you are interested in learning more about the IDC Smart Cities Index Top 5 cities, go to this Forbes article that contains an excerpt of the original IDC Energy Insights report "Smart Cities Update: IDC Smart Cities Index and Its Application in Spain."

IDC Energy Insights is in the process of evaluating the next country where to apply its IDC Smart Cities Index, check back to find out if your county is the one!

This blog post was co-authored with Gaia Gallotti.