Smart Cities

Relocating? Make a smart move

I confess. When I used to think of nerds, I thought of coders in jeans and black turtlenecks who fashioned their street trash cans to look like R2D2.

But truth be told, being a “nerd” isn’t a bad thing anymore.  Look around, ladies.  All the things we love like Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat, are nerd inventions.  Geeks are the new jocks and they’re taking over the world.

These Silicon Valley tycoons and NASA engineers flock to certain cities, and as it turns out, they make really good neighbors.  There are a lot of bennies of living in metropolises that attract the smartest people in the country–benefits  beyond getting the latest Play Station before it even rolls out into stores..

Here are the deets:  By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to Fast Company Magazine. I don’t want to get all Independence Day on you, but the survival of our planet is largely going to depend on what happens in our cities.  People are migrating to places like San Fran and Chicago at an unprecedented rate, and this puts high demands on our infrastructure, as well as an increased demand for resources such as food, energy and water.  Ruh-oh.

But this is where smart cities come in.  Smart cities are innovative and resilient.  They find ways to accommodate their growing populations while not just maintaining their residents’ current quality of life, but improving it.  For example, London recently announced a partnership with O2 to launch the largest free Wi-Fi network in Europe.  This sort of thing.

Smart cities optimize existing infrastructure, deliver more services via mobile technology and break down bureaucracies in order to stimulate creative, entrepreneurial economies.  And yes, the largest number of smart people – i.e. Shell engineers who own pi-shaped ice cube trays – live in these cities, too.

It makes sense to buy in smart cities because they are the cities of the future.  Similar to how dirt roads were paved in the first half the century, smart city infrastructure—like   software and networked systems-will shape how our cities work for the next generation. The Hong Kongs and New Yorks of the world will offer better civic services, reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, move us faster through traffic, and gather data so that the complexities of urban life can be better understood and managed. The visions for these futuristic utopias are not totally unlike something you might see in The Jetsons.

So without further ado, here’s a list of the smartest cities in the good ol’ US of A for 2014.  You’ll probably want to put those coke bottle glasses on…

 #1  Seattle

I know two people who live in Seattle. One is a business-savvy girlfriend who was recruited for a killer position with Nordstrom.  The other is my sister who works as a graphic designer for Microsoft. Have you noticed this pattern, too?  Seattle has a knack for attracting creative, entrepreneurial talent.  It’s for this reason that it earned the No. 1 position this year on the “Smartest Cities” list.  Seattle also serves as a hub for startups, focuses on sustainability innovation, and it recently started something called the Happiness Initiative, which aims to measure the  level of local happiness.  Nothing more important, right?

 #2  Boston

Bean Town has an incredibly smart population, boasting more than 70 universities and leading North America in both patents per capita and venture investment capital per capita.  Also, get this:  In Boston, more than150 transactions with the city can be completed online.  And if there’s a gunshot, acoustic sensors set up within the city will detect it.  It’s like we took a wrong turn into Gattaca or something…

 #2  San Francisco (Tie)

The epicenter of the Bay Area entrepreneurial system seems to be moving away from Silicon Valley and toward San Francisco. And similar to Boston, San Fran focuses

But this is where smart cities come in.  Smart cities are innovative and resilient.  They heavily on innovation.  It also consistently ranks as one of the (if not the) greenest cities in the States.  It has 302 LEED certified buildings (as of this post) and SF jumped ahead of the curve when it started requiring its residents to divide up their trash into recyclables, trash and compost.  How smart of them.

 #4  Washington, D.C.

While this one might seem like a no-brainer (I mean, The White House is there), the Nation’s Capital is on here for two main reasons:  One, mobility.  Experts are finding that walkability and transit-access are critical to improving citizens’ quality of life while reducing their carbon footprint.  D.C. is just behind New York in this area.

Secondly, well… the city cares.  D.C. launched a program to vet through social media searching for complaints and concerns.  Once the data is collected, it’s directed to the appropriate municipal agency so the issue can be addressed.  Times, they are a’changin.

 #5  New York

The Big Apple has fostered a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem (Silicon Alley), pioneered the adoption of electric vehicles and promoted a low-carbon economy.  And do we even have to say it?  New York is now and always has been a leader in the use of non-motorized transport.

 #6  Portland

The City of Roses has long since been a leader in the green cities arena with features like green roof standards and the pioneering of Eco districts. Plus, if you live in Portland, you can go to all the places you see in Portlandia – which is only the best cable show ever.

 #7  Chicago

Chi-Town has 405 LEED certified buildings, and an ambitious bike share program that includes more than  4,000 bikes and 400 solar-powered bike stations.  People-wise, 34.4 percent of Chicago’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher.  The city is also looking to use technology to improve urban life by increasing public Wi-Fi access and helping tourists gain access to real-time, hyper local data.

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Natalie Holtz
Natalie Holtz is an avid blogger and freelance journalist living in San Diego. Her work has been featured in regional magazines and by online publications such as WordPress' Freshly Pressed, Elephant Journal and Quarterlette. Inspired by her real estate-saavy grandmother, Natalie dreams about owning a house with a clawfoot bathtub and a garden. She is also passionate about empowering others to live their best lives through her writing. For more on Natalie, visit her blog http://thesurferstokeproject.com/.
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