Cities around the world are using technology to improve the lives of their citizens. See what puts these eight communities ahead of the curve.

Barcelona is often touted as being the smartest city in the world. It has been on the forefront of using technology to improve urban life, and many of its smart city projects have been highly successful. Big data is a critical part of the success that Barcelona’s smart city projects have had. One such example is collecting and monitoring energy consumption within city buildings. This real-time monitoring of data can detect energy overuse anomalies and allows for rapid corrections, so reducing energy wastefulness.

Kansas City
In 2012, Google chose Kansas City as its first foray into the Google Fiber project, which brought fiber-optic broadband to thousands of homes. This put Kansas City on the map as the technological powerhouse of the Midwest. Not satisfied with simply having incredibly fast broadband for residents, the Kansas City City Council announced a smart city project earlier this year. Partnering with Sprint and Cisco Systems, the project will bolster the city’s network infrastructure to provide free public WiFi, networked kiosks, smart lighting, and a host of other digital tools that can streamline city services.

With a population density of approximately 45,000 people per square mile, the city of Seoul has sought out smart city technologies to simplify its cramped urban lifestyles. One such smart city adaptation appeared in its outfitting of the city’s 25,000 taxis with touch payments that leveraged GPS technologies. Not only did this simplify customer payments for rides, its byproduct is real-time traffic data that can be used for other smart city adaptations.

If you’ve ever taken a car into Boston, you know what a nightmare driving can be there — with everything from navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic to aimlessly driving around looking for that elusive parking space. There has to be a better way. Fortunately, one of Boston’s most popular smart city applications helps drivers avoid major traffic bottlenecks and pinpoint the closest unoccupied parking space.

Bogota, Colombia
Traffic is so bad in Bogota that car owners are restricted from driving at certain times. Since 1998, Bogota officials have implemented road-space rationing. During some peak hours, cars with even-numbered license plates can only drive on odd-numbered calendar days. Vice versa for odd-numbered plates and even days. While the tactic has worked to some extent, many get around the problem and further compound the issue by purchasing two cars.But Bogota is doing things a bit differently in an attempt to reduce the number of cars, trucks, and buses on the road. Not only is the city collecting real-time automobile traffic data, it’s also collecting data on congestion on pedestrian walkways and bike paths. The idea is to streamline alternative modes of transportation to encourage people to walk or bike to their destinations instead of driving.

Copenhagen is hosting the 2015 Smart City Expo. Here, one of the keystone smart city initiatives deals with water. The need for water in the city has been on the rise for decades. To help meet demand, smart meters measure water consumption — and more importantly, detect and eliminate leaking pipes. Astonishingly, up to 40% of urban water is lost in transport from the distribution pumps to the consumer. Thanks to leak-detection sensors, Copenhagen’s water loss is down to only 7%.

When you think of modern, high-tech cities, odds are that you envision the city of Tokyo. The Japanese have a longstanding love of all things electronic, so it makes sense that city planners have embraced the idea of smart cities. Energy consumption is a major problem throughout all of Japan, and the country can only self-produce approximately 20% of all its energy needs. So in major urban areas such as Tokyo, conservation is key. One way of becoming more self-sufficient is to monitor real-time power consumption in tandem with alternative power generation from sources such as solar and wind. Consumption data is used to pinpoint when and where alternative power could be used most effectively.

Earlier this year, Dubai announced a new three-year plan to develop a smart grid with smart meters, smart lighting, and management apps to set the groundwork for building managers and individual residents to monitor, and ultimately reduce, energy consumption. Considering that Dubai city leaders rarely do anything conservatively, look for this city to catapult to the top of everyone’s smart city list very soon.

The smart city technologies highlighted here will pale in comparison to what lies ahead. Spending on IoT devices and services is expected to grow to $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to research firm IDC. Smart cities will move far beyond managing traffic jams and monitoring electricity consumption.In the future, the combination of communications infrastructure with real-time data and analysis will bring us smart cities that can automatically adapt to weather changes, emergencies, and other disasters. Disruptions that would normally bring cities to a standstill can be significantly reduced thanks to smart city infrastructure, pertinent data collection, and automation.