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Shanghai. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty

One of the most over-used slogans of recent years has been "smart cities," the vision of connected, Jetsons-like future of streamlined metropolises where technology smoothly manages energy use, traffic, policing and more.

Even so, a decade after the term first gained currency, we still have no truly smart cities, says McKinsey Global Institute in a new study of 50 selected cities around the world.

What happened: One of the problems, say the study's authors, has been that cities have focused too much on the technology and too little on humans. The study emphasized that smart phones are the door to the smart city, providing all the information at one's fingertips for health, traffic, safety and news.

  • Co-author Jaana Remes tells Axios that she was surprised by how low European cities rank in much of the study.
  • In terms of establishing a strong technological base, Amsterdam and Stockholm scored high right alongside Seoul, Singapore and New York. All were praised for having "ultra-high-speed communication networks and [being] in the process of launching 5G services."
  • But Europe fall back when it came to using smart apps and especially so on being aware of smartness, according to the study.

More results:

  • In terms of having a strong technological base, no one came near the maximum 37 points. The highest was Singapore with 25 points. NYC was right behind that with 24.4 points.
  • When it comes to smart apps, NY, L.A., London, Singapore, Shenzhen and Seoul ranked the highest. There was differentiation — Europe's emphasis is mobile apps; in North America, it's health apps. Rio and Cape Town emphasized security. But, again, no one came close to the maximum 55 points: London, L.A. and NY got 34.5, and Seoul 33.
  • Asian cities scored the highest on awareness of being smart, specifically China — Beijing residents scored 24.2 out of 30, and Shanghai and Shenzhen were at 23.2.

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.