Cutting Edge Smart Cities

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Boulder Tops Silicon Valley as Most Cutting-Edge Metro in U.S.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Boulder, Colo., is the most cutting-edge metro area in the country with the most robust EV-charging network per capita.
  • Top cities that have drawn tech companies are also on the cutting edge, including Seattle; Boston; Denver; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C.
  • A red-hot startup economy propels Salt Lake City into the top 10 most cutting-edge metros.
  • Blistering fast internet speeds bring Miami to the cutting edge of decentralization and crypto.

When you think of “cutting-edge technology,” what comes to mind? Some might imagine lasers, holograms, cryptocurrency and the metaverse. Others might think of the ability to control devices and services with our minds — or at least our voices. For example, if it’s too warm in the house, command your virtual assistant to turn on the A/C. Or, if you find the only parking spot for blocks, but it’s a really tight squeeze, just use your automatic parking assist to fit in perfectly.

These functions are nice, and they do save us time and reduce stress. However, these advancements are still relatively small in scale — affecting only the world that is immediately around us. We’re constantly seeing ads for cutting-edge gadgets and cars. But what if we thought really big? What does a cutting-edge metro — or an entire metro area — look like?

I’m so glad you asked.

To find out, we first identified the relevant variables. Next, we compiled the data, sifted it, cleaned it and weighted it to identify the metros that are on the cutting edge of city development. Then, we analyzed how electric-vehicle (EV) friendly the cities were; how many bikesharing stations they had; how focused on technology and green technology their economy was; and how fast their internet was. Notably, all the metros included in the study were analyzed on a per capita basis, therefore placing them on equal footing regardless of size or prominence.

Read on to see the top 30 most cutting-edge metros in the U.S.

Boulder Joins Silicon Valley & San Francisco as Most Cutting-Edge Metros in Nation

Some of the metros you would expect to lead the way in smart technology adoption did make the list — like San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Miami and Austin, Texas. But there are also some less-talked-about metros that are also getting rapidly smarter.

Boulder Most Cutting Edge CityFirst up is Boulder, Colo., which topped our list of the smartest metros in the U.S. This metro stood out for having the most EV charging stations per capita on our list with nearly 90 chargers per 100,000 residents. That’s a total of more than 300 charging stations for Boulder’s 327,000 residents. What’s more, nearly 93% of households here had broadband access — second only to Silicon Valley — and more than 16% of jobs in Boulder were in the tech and green tech industries.

Silicon Valley Cutting EdgeSilicon Valley took the second spot on our list. The Bay Area has been the mecca of technology companies, venture capital and blistering innovation for the better part of a century. As such, it’s no surprise that this metro was one of the smartest in the nation. Specifically, more than 12% of apartment units in Silicon Valley had dedicated EV charging stations and, to no one’s surprise, 21% of jobs in Silicon Valley were in tech and green tech — the highest proportion in the nation.

Washington DC Cutting EdgeOn the other side of the country and as the center of government in the U.S., Washington, D.C. is a natural draw for tech-forward individuals and companies alike. It came in at #3 on our list — and it’s getting smarter: Amazon’s new HQ2 is currently under development in Arlington, Va.

San Francisco Cutting EdgeSan Francisco landed in fourth place on our list. Adjacent to Silicon Valley, this metro also benefits from the immense technological innovation happening nearby. And, although San Francisco doesn’t lead in any of our categories, it does score well across several of them. Plus, its eclectic atmosphere and global appeal make San Francisco as cutting edge as just about any other metro in the U.S.

Austin Cutting EdgeRounding out the top five smartest metros in the U.S. was none other than Austin, Texas. No other metro in the last few years has received more attention for attracting tech companies, workers and entrepreneurs than Austin — and why wouldn’t it? The metro ranks high for start-ups, internet accessibility and, of course, tech jobs. Not to mention that the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, even relocated to Austin recently.

Seattle Cutting EdgeMeanwhile, in the Northwest, Seattle scored well with jobs in tech and green tech — bringing it in at #6 on our list of most cutting-edge cities in the U.S. In fact, the Emerald City has been known for tech innovation for decades: Both Amazon and Microsoft began here. And, while their proliferation is part of the reason for the metro’s growth, the environment they flourished in is also nurturing countless other forward-looking policies and technologies.

Denver Cutting EdgeThe red-hot startup hub of Denver enters our list at #7. According to TechCrunch, Denver-based startups have raised record levels of venture funding — approaching $1 billion in 2019 and nearly doubling each year since then. Top-notch universities, exceptional recreation, and a cost of living that’s relatively lower than the coasts make Denver an attractive location for tech companies and their employees.

Boston Cutting EdgeBoston (#8) is famous for its universities that educate top talent from all over the world. And it’s arguably been on the cutting edge for many years, which is admirable given that it’s one of the oldest cities in the country. Of course, top talent working on cutting-edge research projects is a surefire recipe that leads the metro to the forefront of innovation.

Portland Cutting EdgeOne of the most famous cities for progressive policymaking and thinking comes in at #9: Portland, Ore. Portland scored high on our list partly because of the ubiquity and quality of internet access and speed here. But the forward-looking metro also fosters the type of creativity and ambition to try new things — both of which are certainly qualities that make it cutting edge.

Salt Lake City Cutting EdgeAs tech companies began leaving Silicon Valley, Salt Lake City (#10) became a popular destination, with new headquarters here for companies like Cisco, Oracle and Adobe. Startups are also a huge draw for highly educated and ambitious individuals looking to change the world, similar to Denver.

Miami Has the Fastest Internet, Fostering Blockchain Technology


We’ve already identified Boulder as the metro with the most EV charging stations per capita and Silicon Valley as the nation’s leader in jobs in tech and most broadband access. But those weren’t the only metrics we analyzed.

While Miami boasts the fastest internet of all the cities we analyzed, it’s also up-and-coming in terms of cutting-edge technology. As a matter of fact, Miami has been drawing a lot of attention recently as a rival to Austin in terms of startups and innovation. Mayor Francis Suarez even has a notable Twitter presence that further markets his metro to cryptocurrency, web3, and decentralized technology advocates and developers.

Check out the table below for the full breakdown of the cities we analyzed by weighted point values.


Check out the table below for the full breakdown of the cities we analyzed by actual numbers.


Methodology

The number of Energy Star Certified projects per capita was obtained from Energy Star and weighted 5 points.

The percentage of multifamily units with dedicated EV charging stations was taken from Yardi Matrix and weighted 10 points.

The number of EV charging stations per capita was obtained from the Alternative Fuels Data Center and weighted 10 points.

The number of bike sharing stations per capita was obtained from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and weighted 10 points.

LEED projects per capita data was obtained from Yardi Matrix and weighted 20 points, 10 points for multifamily units and 10 points for commercial buildings.

Average internet speed metrics were per BroadbandNow and weighted 10 points.

The percentage of households with broadband access and the percentage of startup businesses were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and weighted 10 points each.

The percentage of jobs in technology and green technology were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and weighted 15 points.

Metropolitan area names have been condensed.

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