Meet the 3 Smartest Cities in the World

Meet the 3 Smartest Cities in the World

Did you know that 54% of the world’s population lives in cities? That’s right. According to a report from the United Nations, we have more than half of the population living in cities and this number will significantly increase. The UN report estimates that by 2030 60% of the world’s population will live in cities and that 1 in every 3 people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.

This is why managing urban areas is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. We need to rethink the cities of the future, and we need to put our hands to work, specifically on issues such as sustainability, connectivity, mobility, and citizen engagement.  

However, some cities are already getting closer to the future, by implementing innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of millions of people. But, which are the top smart cities in the world? What’s the best example to follow? What kind of solutions should we build for our own cities? Well, you’re about to find out.

Market research firm Juniper Research recently ranked the smarter cities in the world. To get to the final rank, researchers at Juniper took into account many different factors, including their adoption of smart grid technologies, intelligent lighting, the use of information technology to improve traffic, Wi-Fi access points, smartphone penetration, and the app landscape.

Here is the top 3.


Singapore Smart City

I’ve never been to Singapore, however, according to Juniper Research, it is the top smart city in the world. Why? First, because they set it out as a goal back in 2014, with the launch of a program called Smart Nation. With this in mind, Singapore installed sensors and cameras to track everything from “the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle”, explained the Wall Street Journal. A little creepy if you ask me, but this actually provides large amounts of data for the city to analyze. Meaning that they can easily identify the main problems within the city.

This data goes into an online platform called Virtual Singapore, and it pretty much gives the government an unprecedented look into how the country is functioning in real time. But, just before you think that this is getting too much like Orwell’s 1984, a spokesperson for the government said that these sensors are only installed when there are specific benefits to citizens and that it doesn’t set out to build systems and collect data before deciding what to do with it. The government has also made much of this data public, allowing for innovation to come from big companies or startups.

I’m still a bit skeptical about this whole surveillance but, Singapore is a the top smart city in the world because it was actually able to implement innovative solutions. Singapore had high marks for its smart mobility and technology as well as its wireless connectivity. For example, they developed a software called “Virtual Singapore,” a dynamic 3-D model that enables city planners to run virtual tests, verifying, for instance, how crowds might evacuate from a neighborhood facing an emergency.

They are also the world leader when it comes to transport. Singapore has implemented congestion charging while also making significant investments in road sensors, phased traffic lights, and smart parking.

As for broadband availability, Singapore also had also a very good score. According to an article on the Internet of Things Institute, there is a company called Singtel which “recently announced that it was rolling out a 10-Gbps fiber broadband service that would enable residents to download a two-hour HD movie in 90 seconds”.

Then, there is another interesting solution which is a monitoring program for the elderly. The sensors measure movements of the elderly at home. The data is then handled by private companies selected by the government. It can be accessed, with family members’ permission, by caregivers. Doris Oo told the Wall Street Journal that she has used the system when leaving her 79-year-old mother at home alone in the apartment they share. She got text messages when her mother’s movements changed, suggesting potential illness or distress.

2. Barcelona

Barcelona Smart City

Unlike Singapore, I’ve been to Barcelona before, and to me, it is not a surprise that the capital of Catalunia ranks number 2. Over the past few years, Barcelona has pushed for innovation to improve the lives of its inhabitants. Xavier Trias, who was the Mayor of Barcelona from 2011 to 2015, started a new team called Smart City Barcelona, who was to be responsible for integrating existing projects and identifying new opportunities to improve services for all of the city’s people and businesses. Smart City Barcelona identified 12 areas for intervention, including transportation, water, energy, waste, and open government, and they initiated 22 programs.

They have also installed sensors to monitor traffic, which enabled the city to come up with a plan to remodel its traffic, saying that it could reduce traffic by 21%. The city has also implement smart parking technology, smart streetlights, and sensors to monitoring air quality and noise.

As to wifi, they have been expanding the city’s network and having free wifi in many public spaces. Since 2013, the number of hotspots is up 62% to 670 WiFi hotspots at a maximum distance of 100 meters from point to point, and the number of WiFi users has doubled.

However, what really makes a difference in Barcelona is what they are doing in terms of energy and sustainability – smart grid pilot projects, smart meters, and a plan for reducing carbon emissions. According to an article on Data-Smart City Solutions, “to improve energy efficiency, the city installed 19,500 smart meters that monitor and optimize energy consumption in targeted areas of the city. As for waste management, households can deposit waste in smart bins that monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes.

And to top it all off, Barcelona has also made its Sentilo sensor and actuator platform available on the Internet. The open-source software platform can be found on Github, and it allows city planners around the world to study data from Barcelona’s smart city projects and learn from them.

3. London

For London, it all began in tackling congestion and to make parking simpler. But, since then, many of the key issues have been addressed. Like other cities in Europe, London has also made its data available to the public with a platform called London Datastore. However, it is on traffic and congestion that most of its efforts lay. This includes building new roads, investing in public transportation, and in smart traffic technology.

Nonetheless, and despite all the efforts, London is not ranking higher mostly because of its use of unclean energy and its poor energy use reduction initiatives.


Notice that Lisbon is not on this list? Well, soon it will be. With initiatives such as Lisbon Aberta, an open data platform from the city of Lisbon, and Smart Open Lisboa, a startup program on smart cities, Lisbon is putting itself on the map.

If you want to be part of this future, find out more about it here.


Corporate Innovation: What Your Company Can Learn From BMW’s Innovation Strategy

Corporate Innovation: What Your Company Can Learn From BMW’s Innovation Strategy

Just like every other carmaker, back in 2008, BMW was going through a bumpy ride. With the global financial crisis, the german company saw its sales drop significantly – according to the Financial Times they had a “90 per cent drop in profits year-on-year in 2008”. The overall mindset of the younger population was also changing. People became more environmentally conscious and chose other types of transportations instead of covering the expenses of owning a car.

The future was happening and it looked like BMW was being left behind. And this is something that other big companies will find familiar. It’s like your industry is moving forward but somehow you’re dragging behind. Startups are coming up with new technologies and new business models, and you’re stuck with your core product that will most likely be obsolete in the next decade if you just stand still.

For BMW, it was clearly time to roll up their sleeves and gear up.

In this blog-post, I’ll tell you how BMW turned the tables and was able to maintain its position as a leading player in the industry, by boosting innovation and creativity.

Want to learn from BMW’s innovation strategy? Join us at the Lisbon Investment Summit where we’ll have Sohaila Ouffata, investment principal at BMW i Ventures, as speaker.

In the case of the german carmaker, the challenge was obvious. How could they improve their product and service, while looking for new business models? How could BMW be more than a car company? How could they develop environmentally friendly technologies but still have a personalized and luxurious experience?  

How to kick-off the new strategy

To kick-off this mindset shift, BMW started something called “project i”. A special unit to develop new ideas on mobility, and its sustainability. Their goal? To reduce the environmental impact, and solve the mobility challenges of those who live in big cities. They spoke with several experts on these issues to understand how transport would evolve, and which products BMW could build to keep holding its position as a leading player in the industry.

“Project i” turned into “BMW i”, a sub-brand of the company, which led the efforts of developing lightweight eco-friendly urban electric car concepts, including what we now know as the i3 and i8 electric cars. They also launched BMW i Ventures, so that they could make strategic investments in innovative solutions with the same focus of BMW i. At Beta-i, we’ll actually learn more about BMW i Ventures, as we’ll have Sohaila Ouffata, investment principal of BMW i Ventures, as a speaker at the Lisbon Investment Summit so, feel free to join us.

Another thing BMW did was that they established relevant partnerships to think of new business models. One of those partnerships was with Sixt, a car rental company, to create something called DriveNow, a premium car-sharing service that started in Munich and quickly expanded into other European cities. In September 2015 DriveNow was operating over 4,000 vehicles in five countries worldwide and with over 500,000 customers.

Gearing up for the next 100 years

However, this couldn’t possibly be enough for a company like BMW…. The German carmaker raised the bar and defined 3 main challenges: optimizing production, improving mobility through new technologies, and creating environmentally friendly solutions.

The best of real and virtual worlds

On optimizing production, an interesting example of what BMW is up to is about making the process of creating new car designs as quick and painless as possible. According to TechCrunch, “the carmaker has tapped Unreal Engine’s rendering capabilities to generate virtual surfaces and objects overtop 3D-printed prototype vehicle pieces, letting designers and engineers preview how various materials or surfaces will look on a final shipping vehicle without having to actually make the thing first.” This solution not only decreases costs, as the carmaker spends less money on prototyping, but it also pushes for the development of better products and increases the collaboration between designers and engineers in other parts of the world.

Dynamically drive yourself or relax while being driven

As to new technological developments, BMW has announced in 2017 their vision for the next 100 years. It’s like Back to The Future, but with fancy gadgets. The car of the future is much more than any of us could wish for. BMW is pushing for self-driving cars, where you can either relax and enjoy the ride or drive it yourself and have a dynamic experience. All of this, to serve who they imagine as the “ultimate driver”. According to BMW, tomorrow’s “ultimate driver” will have 5 key characteristics: totally calm, relaxed all the way, a role model for sustainability, always up to date, and always in good mood. Check the video of this campaign to get the whole picture:

But, until these new technologies show up at our doorstep, the german car company keeps us on the edge with other cool features. One of them is related to connectivity. Over a year ago, they launched BMW Labs and were the first carmaker to integrate with an IFTTT service. This basically means that if you want to turn your house lights off by turning on your car, you can, thanks to BMW’s new integration with the IFTTT service that allows personalized connections just like that. This makes testing and implementing easier for BMW, as they get to test features with a few customers before full implementation.

Environmentally friendly solutions

BMW has stated that “in future, vehicles will be measured more than ever before according to the effects they have on people and the environment, and not only in terms of their energy consumption and CO2-emissions – the production process, sourcing of materials and their recyclability will all play a crucial role.” This is why their goal for the next 100 years is to develop personalized mobility experiences while thinking about the environment and how it can shape the society we live in.

What can your company learn from BMW’s innovation strategy

So, to sum this all up, what can your company learn from BMW’s innovation strategy? Well, don’t get left behind and think of new business models and new products in your industry. The challenge here, though, is to do that without losing sight of your core product and your role in the market.

Focus on customer development, and understand what your customers expect, and how you can solve their problems. Work alongside startups and innovative projects to bring those solutions closer to your companies. Define your innovation strategy and stimulate a culture of innovation in your team, and spark creativity. If you need any help, let us know 🙂

Was this case-study useful to you? Then, join us at the Lisbon Investment Summit this June, to learn from BMW’s experience, as well as other big companies, on how to drive innovation and creativity, and how to invest in startups from your industry.

Startups in Tourism: These Top 7 Tourism Companies Want to Support You

Startups in Tourism: These Top 7 Tourism Companies Want to Support You

At Beta-i we have supported many tourism startups along the years. Many of those have hit the headlines, have grown incredibly fast, and have made us proud.

Startups that have been through our accelerators like Uniplaces, the student accommodation platform which is currently one of the most successful startups in Europe, or Inviita, the mobile app for city tours which seriously impressed TechCrunch’s editor Mike Butcher, have really made of Lisbon a top tourism startup hub.   

However, we felt like we could do more. We felt that tourism was too big of an industry not to have its own program. So, we talked with one of our key partners, Turismo de Portugal, to figure out how we could support innovation in tourism, from Lisbon to the world.

With this in mind, we have launched a new accelerator in Lisbon, The Journey, and this is where it begins. Together with Turismo de Portugal, we have brought together some of the top players in tourism including Airbnb, Pestana Hotel Group, Agência Abreu, Amadeus, Grupo Barraqueiro, and NOS, to help promising startups in tourism take off. You’ll get to work with these big companies on your product, take advantage of their huge network, and close important partnerships and customers for your business.  

Lisbon is currently one of the trendiest travel destinations in the world. We’ve had over 3.5 million tourists last year, coming from all over the globe. Lisbon is also one of the top 5 cities on Airbnb. It hosts huge events such as the Web Summit, the best tech conference in Europe, or NOS Alive, one of the best music festivals in the world. With its undeniably beautiful landscape, Lisbon is the perfect set for a booming startup scene, that is welcoming more and more international entrepreneurs, and it’s the perfect place for you to start a business.

Want to build your startup from Lisbon to the world? Ready to be part of this journey? Find out more about The Journey right here.   

European Innovation Academy in Lisbon: Learning from Berkeley and Stanford

European Innovation Academy in Lisbon: Learning from Berkeley and Stanford

Have you ever been to Stanford? Or Berkeley? Well, I haven’t, but I have met some of their professors along the way, so when we got the news that Beta-i was bringing the European Innovation Academy to Lisbon, I was thrilled.

Why? Because this means that this summer some of the best professors of Stanford and Berkeley, and some experienced mentors from Google, will be in Lisbon to teach 400 students from all over the world about technology and entrepreneurship.

During this 3 week program, university students will have to come together in teams to create their own projects in areas such as big data, internet of things, 3D printing, mobile applications, or artificial intelligence. Throughout the program they will have classes and mentoring from some of the top professors and mentors in the world.

The European Innovation Academy was officially launched yesterday at Santander Totta and it will take place in Lisbon and Cascais, in partnership with Beta-i, Cascais City Council, Nova University, and Santander Totta. The first edition will be from July 16th until August 4th.

Find out more about it here.


Prio Jump Start: 6 Startup Challenges That Will Jump Start Your Business

Prio Jump Start: 6 Startup Challenges That Will Jump Start Your Business

At Beta-i we see entrepreneurs come and go, every day. However, there is one question we get very often:

Which industries will disrupt the future?

This question is not that difficult to answer. Just like Steve Case’s new book, The Third Wave, puts it, we’re about to enter a new era of technology which will take us to disrupt complex industries. What are these industries you ask? Well, we’re talking about healthcare, banking, energy, industrial production, or food and beverage.

The thing is, it will be more difficult for startups to tap into these industries because they are over regulated, complex, and expensive. So, what can you do as an entrepreneur? One of the tricks you can definitely pull is getting partnerships with big companies, at the right time of your product development.

This brings me to one of our startup programs, Prio’s Jump Start, a 3-day Bootcamp followed by a pilot to test the best solutions, in real life, with Prio. Prio is one of the fastest growing energy companies in Portugal. In just 10 years, they became one of the 40 biggest companies in Portugal. Over the past few years, they’ve been focusing a lot on how to improve urban mobility and on renewable energies, and now they want to support innovation by working closely with startups.

So, which kind of startups is Prio looking for?

Remember, those complex industries which technology will disrupt in the future? Well, some of them are part of the challenges of Prio.

1. Energy

Energy is the source for almost everything we do. However, we need to adapt our consumption if you want to save the planet. Climate Change is at our doorstep and we need to focus on renewable alternatives for the future. We’re talking about startups working on electric mobility, on car sharing, on smart grid solutions, or just thinking of the fueling stations of the future. How will we move from place to another in the future? Which sources of energy will we use? If you’re developing a product that answers these questions, find out more about it here.

2. Industrial Production

Everything we use, eat, or wear is produced in factories nowadays. These manufacturers need to be more and more efficient if they want to deliver their products to a growing population. This includes looking at the internet of things, artificial intelligence, manufacturing robots, or predictive maintenance. Any product that helps us produce the products of the future faster and better. Are you working on products to improve manufacturing? Then, find out how Prio can support you here.

3. Retail

How will buy your products in the future? How will we manage stock? There are many different startups looking at this industry, however, it’s crucial to find new customers, meaning, big retail companies. Prio is looking for this kind of startups. Startups looking at in-store retail tech, stock management, customer flow, or even smart video surveillance, have a chance to nail a big partner in this sector. Find out how, right here.

4. Loyalty Marketing

Marketing is always looking at new technologies to better reach out to customers. However, getting new customers is one thing, getting them to come back is another. Especially, when we’re talking about offline stores you need to come up with new strategies to better engage with customers and keep them coming. This is where loyalty marketing comes in. We’re talking about loyalty card management, or reward systems, that can be extremely helpful to big companies such as Prio. Find out how to test your solution in real life right here.

5. Distribution

When you order something you’re always trying to figure out where your delivery is, when should you expect it to arrive, if everything you ordered is going to be in the package, etc.  Distribution is a hassle, but it’s also very crucial to keep customers happy, and great businesses running. For companies like Prio, optimizing their delivery systems is essential. This includes products which track the delivery, which check for route optimization or even manage the orders and fleets. Find out more about here.

6. Big Data and Customer Behaviour

Understanding customers is highly relevant for any business. In a time where information plays a crucial role, finding out who your customers are is easier than ever. We’re talking about products that are focused on big data, client behavior analysis, or aggregation of customer data. With Prio you can improve your solution by testing it with one of the main companies in Portugal. Find out all about it right here.