How do you rank a city's smarts?

What is the criteria used to rank cities and what makes a city 'smart'? Fast Company and Zipcar take on the art of ranking with the "Future Metropolis Index."

What criteria is used to rank cities in the United States and around the world? What makes a city "smart"?

Zipcar just published the Future Metropolis Index. This commissioned study ranked the 36 largest cities in the country based on innovation, sustainability, vibrancy, efficiency, and livability. Can you guess the winner?

San Francisco was regaled for its arts-related businesses and jobs, its many parks, high percentage of hybrid cars and widespread use of public transportation. Next in line were Seattle, Washington, D.C., Portland, O.R., Boston, and New York.

In general, the East Coast took innovation while the West Coast took sustainability - Tucson, Portland, San Francisco, Albuquerque, and Seattle rate the top five.

Atlanta rates number one for innovation based on the number of universities and wireless hotspots.

El Paso tops the livability chart due to crime - or lack thereof - it has the lowest homicide rate in the country and the second lowest burglary rate.

While the criteria used isn't surprising, it does point to the importance of context.  For example, if innovation is measured based on the number of free wireless hotspots and colleges per 10,000 residents, as in the Zipcar study, shouldn't we also be asking how information technology is being used?

SmartPlanet covered climate strategist Boyd Cohen's ranking of the smartest cities on a global scale for Fast Company's Co.Exist blog. Boyd's criteria was similar to Zipcar's commissioned study: innovation, regional green, quality of life, and digital governance. But his methodology pointed more towards the relationships between the criteria used.

Boyd writes:

I took into account the Innovation Cities Top 100 Index from 2thinknow to get a fair comparison of the level of innovation in top global cities. I also used more well-known rankings of the quality of life of cities, as well as the Siemens regional rankings of green cities, the digital city rankings of Digital Community for cities in the U.S., and the IDC rankings of smart cities in Spain. Finally, I used the digital governance in municipalities worldwide study to compare cities on their innovative use of ICT [information and communication technologies].

As Co.Exist points out, there was only one U.S. city on Boyd's list, and it wasn't San Francisco. But the Future Metropolis Index does offer a comparative survey that highlights how future-thinking major U.S. cities are.

In the end, whether top of the list or not, San Francisco sounds pretty good.

[via Co.ExistZipcar]

Photo: Wiki Commons
Charts: Zipcar

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