Digital technologies connect people, information, and urban elements, allowing smart cities to function as a single organism to improve the quality of life. Considering the climate emergency, urban solutions are not merely smart, but also sustainable. Tech-driven innovations optimize energy consumption in a large scope of applications from mobility to urban planning and waste management. Also, in a post-Covid world, startups offer new approaches to healthcare, education, and citizen protection. At the same time, global connectivity creates new challenges in data governance. Significant efforts to make the infrastructure transparent and secure will ensure a citizen-oriented approach to city management, expanding community collaboration, inclusivity, and creativity.
This article was published in May 2022 and updated in September 2023.
Innovation Map outlines the Top 10 Smart City Trends & 20 Promising Startups
For this in-depth research on the top global decarbonization trends and startups, we analyzed a sample of 3298 global startups & scaleups. This data-driven research provides innovation intelligence that helps you improve strategic decision-making by giving you an overview of emerging technologies and trends in the smart city industry. In the Smart City Innovation Map, you get a comprehensive overview of the innovation trends & startups that impact your company.
Top 10 Smart City Trends (2024)
- Smart Mobility
- Digital Citizen
- Public Safety & Security
- Smart Energy
- Green Urban Planning
- Advanced Waste Management
- Smart Building
- Advanced Water Management
- Intelligent Farming
These insights are derived by working with our Big Data & Artificial Intelligence-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering 3 790 000+ startups & scaleups globally. As the world’s largest resource for data on emerging companies, the SaaS platform enables you to identify relevant technologies and industry trends quickly & exhaustively.
Tree Map reveals the Impact of the Top 10 Smart City Trends
Based on the Smart City Innovation Map, the Tree Map below illustrates the impact of the Top 10 Smart City Trends in 2024. The internet of things (IoT), AI, cloud computing, and data analytics support sustainable modifications in smart city components. The most prevalent trend is smart mobility which ranges from intelligent traffic management and zero-emission transportation to autonomous vehicles and car-sharing programs.
Tech solutions for digital citizens are another important direction that consists of remote healthcare, interactive education, and entertainment. Startups also undertake measures to ensure people’s safety and security using blockchain. Lastly, developments in robotics, extended reality, and drones empower urban planning, farming, and waste disposal.
Global Startup Heat Map covers 3298 Smart City Startups & Scaleups
The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the global distribution of the 3298 exemplary startups & scaleups that we analyzed for this research. Created through the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, the Heat Map reveals that Western Europe is home to most of these companies while we also observe increased activity in the United States and India.
Below, you get to meet 20 out of these 3298 promising startups & scaleups as well as the solutions they develop. These 20 startups are hand-picked based on criteria such as founding year, location, funding raised, and more. Depending on your specific needs, your top picks might look entirely different.
Interested to explore all 3000+ smart city startups & scaleups?
Top 10 Smart City Trends & Innovations in 2024
1. Smart Mobility
Smart mobility leverages technology to enable people and various forms of transport to function in more efficient, resilient, and sustainable ways. Advances in urban mobility revolve around improved infrastructure, mobility-as-a-service, micromobility, logistics solutions, and zero-emission transportation. Intelligent traffic management, advanced commuting, and autonomous vehicles are making urban mobility eco-friendly. Novel transport options such as hyperloop, robotaxis, and water taxis also find applications in smart city mobility.
Urban SDK simplifies Transportation Planning
US-based startup Urban SDK develops a transportation planning tool for smart cities. The startup deploys real-time location analytics to facilitate an efficient, safe, and sustainable mobility future. Also, its business intelligence platform utilizes quantum data modeling and cloud computing for fast geographic information system (GIS) data visualization, analysis, and prediction. This allows city planners to make better-informed budgeting decisions and manage data collaboratively, ensuring that the policy-making decisions involve all stakeholders.
BluSmart simplifies Electric Mobility Sharing
BluSmart is an Indian startup that provides an eco-conscious electric cab-sharing app. The operational model prioritizes punctuality evidenced by on-time pickup and the absence of a cancellation feature for drivers underscores reliability. Central to BluSmart’s ethos is environmental responsibility, with the company reporting a reduction of 14500+ tonnes in CO2 emissions.
To date, the service has facilitated over 6.5 million environmentally-friendly rides, accumulating in excess of 225 million clean kilometers. Transparent fare structures eliminate unpredictable surge pricing, and the company offers both point-to-point and hourly rental options at competitive rates.
2. Digital Citizen
The digital citizen trend focuses on increasing citizen engagement, collaborative community, and access to healthcare and education. Inclusive services provide equal rights to civic participation and career opportunities. For instance, local connection platforms include online voting and remote interaction with the officials.
In the education sphere, remote and personalized learning contributes to the broadening access to education globally. AI-powered healthcare ecosystems also offer early prediction and prevention measures based on data-driven insights with a particular emphasis on elderly support.
eAgora simplifies Citizen-City Administration Collaboration
eAgora is a Spanish startup that provides a unified digital citizenship platform for municipalities. The startup’s app features various solutions for connecting citizens, informing the public, managing road incidents, or collecting e-waste.
With eAgora, citizens impact budget distribution, share ideas, launch initiatives, and publish events. Moreover, the startup integrates gamified modules of points and enables badge trading for real-life awards, such as a discount at a local trade, to reinforce public participation.
Waymap offers Inclusive Navigation Guidance
UK-based Waymap startup makes navigation in cities inclusive and broadly accessible. The startup’s app offers precise guidance for both indoor and outdoor navigation using in-depth orientation and mobility surveys. The combination of sensor technologies and a community-based approach to urban framing offers maps up to 1m accuracy for pedestrians without any external signals.
3. Public Safety & Security
Digitalization is advancing public safety and security by helping citizens combat crime and handle emergencies faster and more efficiently. Big data and AI facilitate the deployment of critical city solutions such as surveillance systems, smart streetlights, real-time crime mapping, and predictive policing.
By doing this, the implemented strategies optimize road traffic, anticipate incidents, and prevent fires. Further, as smart cities become more interconnected and vulnerable, cybersecurity and digital ethics are gaining in popularity.
Intelense facilitates Anomaly Detection
Canadian startup Intelense offers AI- and data analytics-based solutions for traffic management, airport management, and emergency care. The startup’s platform, KEN AI, combines IoT sensors, 5G, and video footage to identify behavioral anomalies like shoplifting, trespassing, and other security threats in real time. Thereby, this automatic solution recognizes complex patterns in cities and handles safety issues in a faster manner.
Brinc Drones makes First Response Drones
Brinc Drones is a US-based startup that develops innovative first response drone solutions for critical situations such as fire, defense, and search & rescue, among others. The LEMUR 2 drone features a glass breaker, effective on tempered, automotive, and most residential glass types. This functionality enables the drone to access structures swiftly. The attachment proves instrumental in ventilating buildings during fires, facilitating entry in active shooter scenarios, and aiding in life-saving operations. Additionally, the BRINC Ball, another product, produces a sound audible from up to 100 feet away. Its volume compares to that of a lawn mower when positioned a foot and a half distant.
4. Smart Energy
A reliable, efficient, and environmentally friendly energy supply is one of the main goals of smart cities. Interconnected IoT solutions enhance energy management by delivering data-backed decisions for better energy storage and distribution. Smart grids provide real-time tracking, while deep learning solutions forecast energy consumption and potential system breakdowns. Additionally, virtual power plants (VPPs) are powerful means to efficiently distribute energy. To further aid the clean energy transition, new renewable energy practices transform organic waste into biogas more efficiently using bacteria.
Serenity Source simplifies Automated Energy Demand Response
Serenity Source is an Australian renewable energy startup that utilizes blockchain to automate demand response and reduce carbon emissions. Through a decentralized micro-grid system, the platform enables citizens to track energy production in real-time and avoid damage by controlling the voltage and transmission rates. Additionally, users receive carbon credits that are traded and monetized using encrypted smart contracts. As a result, the startup lowers energy bills and minimizes administrative costs.
Qube manufactures Smart Energy Meters
Indian startup Qube offers solutions for monitoring and managing energy consumption. Using the startup’s smart meter, users are able to forecast their monthly bills based on real-time data. The platform allows real-time power and energy tracking from any location and on any device. Additionally, users have the capability to remotely control their meters, including switching them on or off.
The system provides detailed analytics on daily energy usage patterns. Alerts are generated for sudden spikes in energy consumption. Furthermore, the startup’s platform supports both prepaid and postpaid options on a single meter and facilitates sharing of meter readings.
The e-governance trend drives smart city actors to make public services and decisions more open, sustainable, collaborative, and transparent. To achieve this, startups utilize blockchain and IoT-based solutions, to include all stakeholders in the decision-making process.
Digital services, such as online voting, digital passports, and robust data security tools, encourage citizen participation and lead to the expansion of e-democracy. Further, online retraining programs, local e-career centers, and digitalization of business functions like licensing and tax filling contribute to economic growth and an entrepreneurial business environment.
Kleros offers a Dispute Resolution Platform
Kleros is a French startup that provides a blockchain-based solution for decentralized third-party dispute resolution. Its crypto-based mechanism, built on Ethereum, functions as an online arbitrator to resolve gray-area disputes in legal claims, finance, and e-commerce, among others. Kleros’ smart contracts thus bring fast, reliable, and transparent digital methods to the traditional legal system.
Polyteia provides an End-to-end Governance Solution
German startup Polyteia provides an e-governance platform for the public sector that allows city leaders to integrate, share, and utilize data to improve decision-making. The cloud-based platform unifies and merges data from various systems to empower state, federal, and local municipal bodies. Its analytics tools derive insights from demographic changes to forecast daycare capacities and personnel shortages, allowing city authorities to better plan future operations.
6. Green Urban Planning
Due to climate change, urban planning is facing a significant challenge to make cities smart, sustainable, and resilient. Driven by decarbonization goals, a green urban design incorporates sustainable neighborhood approaches and 15-minute city models where most daily necessities are reachable by walking or cycling.
Besides, smart farms for plant growth and vertical miniature forests increase urban biodiversity. As sea levels rise globally, new and sustainable alternatives such as floating cities, islands, farms, schools, and riverbanks capture the world’s attention.
Airmine provides Air Pollution Forecasts
Norwegian startup Airmine utilizes data from IoT sensors to predict air quality and local pollen distribution. Air quality sensors obtain measurements of PM 2.5, both indoor and outdoor, for smart window control and indoor climate management.
For pollen forecasts, the startup processes the data from the satellite images using machine learning algorithms to display maps with trees and grass that cause allergies. Smart cities utilize Airmine’s solution to efficiently analyze local air pollution and pollen data to make suitable decisions in urban planning.
TreeSense enables Plant Health Monitoring
TreeSense is a German startup that uses AI to monitor the health of trees. The company develops a platform that collects data from sensors attached to the trees and analyzes it using machine learning algorithms. The platform provides insights into the trees’ growth, stress, water use, and carbon sequestration.
The startup also offers a mobile app that allows users to access the data and interact with the trees. It assists forest managers, farmers, researchers, and environmentalists in improving their decision-making and conserving natural resources. TreeSense thus reduces deforestation, enhances biodiversity, and mitigates climate change.
7. Advanced Waste Management
As urban populations and consumer culture continuously grow, waste production increases as well. Advanced waste management systems utilize IoT sensors to accurately monitor waste disposal, notify residents about their consumption, and encourage them with monetary rewards. At the same time, e-waste recycling kiosks allow people to exchange electronics for money.
Intelligent smart bins sort uncategorized trash and regulate the amount of garbage. AI recycling robots precisely identify the type of materials during waste separation, which increases overall productivity by avoiding human involvement. Together, emerging waste management solutions reduce the environmental impacts of economic activities.
Recircula Solutions provides a Waste Disposal Rewarding System
Spanish startup Recircula Solutions develops IoT technology for urban waste management. The startup’s patented technology, RecySmart, distinguishes all types of packaging waste and also provides real-time analytics. It scans barcodes, controls the entry of unrecognized materials, and inspects the level of filling using ultrasonic sensors.
The devices are connected to the waste management platform that features business intelligence tools for better recycling decisions. Moreover, Recircula’s gamified app allows citizens to redeem the rewards and spend them on the startup’s market, supporting local businesses.
Banqloop offers an AI Smart Trash Platform
Banqloop is a US-based startup that develops an AI-driven cloud-based ecosystem for waste recycling. It organizes waste, breaks it down, and sends it directly to the manufacturers for reuse. The startup’s waste bins use patented auto-sorting technology that analyzes images, inspects barcodes, and separates waste using a spectrometer. Besides, Banqloop’s platform integrates the data like time of discard, type of waste, and geolocation to transform supply chain logistics and manufacturing into agile processes.
8. Smart Building
In light of climate change and COVID-19, the construction industry is also shifting towards flexible workspaces, remote management technologies, and automated building control. Technologies such as digital twins, smart sensors, and cloud computing enable real-time monitoring, energy usage forecasting, security risk detection, and expense optimization.
For example, intelligent, vibrant, and interactive kiosks with self-services, navigation information, Wi-Fi, and public safety alerts. Additionally, data analytics enable intelligent materials to sense surfaces and react in suitable ways. High-tech materials, such as graphene, further improve the structural health of buildings.
Sapient Industries develops a Plug Load Management System
Sapient Industries is a US-based startup that applies smart socket devices to identify unused equipment. The embedded sensors in the plug load management system cover plugged-in assets in the whole building, collecting vital information to track energy costs. On top of that, the startup uses machine learning (ML) algorithms to optimize energy consumption, reduce utility bills, and minimize the wasted plug load.
Solarix designs Solar Facade Panels
Solarix is a Dutch startup that offers solar facade panels to make buildings energy-neutral. The startup’s proprietary technique prints solar cells on ceramic tiles considering its transparency and texture, so the panels are sustainable, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. Solarix’s energy-generating facades allow buildings to save energy and accelerate decarbonization.
9. Advanced Water Management
The rising need for enhanced water management systems is dictated by global warming which causes long-term droughts. Smart tools and devices in wireless metering provide citizens with hourly statistics on water consumption to increase awareness and reduce costs. Intelligent control systems, for example, employ cloud computing, sensors, and user-oriented approaches to reduce water wastage in both residential and commercial buildings.
In addition, real-time water quality control detects potential leakage and prevents issues at early stages. Additional measures in water restoration include saltwater desalination and materials for stormwater collection. Finally, structural floating technology responds dynamically to water level changes that lead to more diverse aquatic life within the riverbanks.
Orca-tech develops Water Surface Cleaning Boats
Chinese startup Orca-tech manufactures self-driving boats for automated cleaning of water surfaces. Combining robotics and AI, the startup produces intelligent sanitation equipment. Its multifunctional robots accumulate information on water quality for unmanned real-time cleaning of floating garbage. Orca-tech’s self-driving boats also feature a wireless modular charging device, which decreases operational expenditure and occupational risks.
Droople builds an Internet of Water Platform
Droople is a Swiss startup that provides IoT-based smart solutions to monitor water quality and promote its conservation. The startup’s platform, Water Intelligence Platform, tracks the real-time health status of connected assets and, in turn, predicts their lifespan.
Droople also adds smart motion sensors, iLink, to measure the flow and temperature of inline pipes. The cloud platform stores data and further analyzes it for alarm notification, consumption reduction, and behavioral pattern modeling, improving water management.
10. Intelligent Farming
Recent technological innovations in IoT, robotics, and data analytics foster farm management and labor optimization. Today, farmers use wireless sensing applications to monitor and diagnose soil conditions as well as livestock well-being, thereby preventing disease spread.
Urban agtech incorporates vertical indoor farming, aeroponic containers, and urban aquaponics for automated food cultivation. For example, smart greenhouses apply agrivoltaics with the vertically-embedded bifacial solar cells to generate electricity. Also, emerging smart nanomaterials offer protective layers to improve food safety, eliminating wastage.
Fish n’ Greens offers Aquaponics
Portuguese startup Fish n’ Greens delivers healthy, fresh, and locally-grown food for citizens. The startup applies aquaponics to synergize fish farming and plant growing in one place. This method facilitates water-saving, reduces maintenance costs, and improves food safety.
Using solar energy, the startup’s smart modular technology produces food in a limited space without harming the environment. By filtering solid waste into a liquid fertilizer, the system retains the fine sediments in soil and also reduces carbon emissions.
Urban Plant Growers develops Indoor Smart Gardens
Australian startup Urban Plant Growers provides easy-to-use hydroponic gardens equipped with LED lights to grow food indoors. The startup’s specially designed smart kits enable people to grow different types of herbs within a small space, reducing maintenance efforts. It also supplies indoor gardens with smart soil that absorbs water significantly faster and keeps plants moisturized for longer. The startup’s method resolves food waste and reduces food miles.
Discover all Smart City Trends, Technologies & Startups
The long-term effects of COVID-19 and the ecological crisis shed light on what smart cities should concern about. Making cities habitable, resilient, and designed with a strong sense of community is one of the top priorities for emerging startups and scaleups. The top 10 Smart City Trends bring changes in transportation, utility management, space planning, mass participation, and data protection. These solutions are committed to building a connected and intelligent ecosystem that nourishes human and environmental needs.
The Smart City Trends & Startups outlined in this report only scratch the surface of trends that we identified during our data-driven innovation and startup scouting process. Among others, connected mobility, climate technologies, and natural resource management will transform the sector as we know it today. Identifying new opportunities and emerging technologies to implement into your business goes a long way in gaining a competitive advantage. Get in touch to easily and exhaustively scout startups, technologies & trends that matter to you!