New York is the world’s smartest city according to a new study. The IESE Cities in Motion Index studied the development of 165 cities in 80 different countries, and the Big Apple emerged at number one.

The Big Apple gains the first spot for the second year in a row. Photo by Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

London ranked number two, while Paris earned the third step on the podium. Asia shows up in fourth place with Tokyo, while Iceland’s capital Reykjavik takes fifth place. Then it’s back to Asia with Singapore and Seoul in sixth and seventh place. Toronto is at number eight, Hong Kong at number nine, and finally, Amsterdam wraps up the top ten.

London ranked number two thanks to its immense human capital. Photo by Doug McKinlay/Lonely Planet

But what does “smart city” mean? What makes a city smart? One might think that only megapolises would enter the top ten, but as proven by Amsterdam and Reykjavik having millions and millions of inhabitants is not essential. That’s because the Index’s team takes into consideration nine factors to determine where a city stands: its ability to attract and nurture human capital; social cohesion; economy; environment; governance; urban planning; international outreach; technology and transportation.

International outreach was the key to Paris’ third place. Photo by anmbph/Shutterstock

Excelling in one or more of these areas is good (and that’s exactly what the top three do, New York with its economic power, London with its human capital and Paris with its international outreach), but cities should ideally strike a good score in most of these areas. For example, Seoul and Amsterdam are actually the most balanced, but they can’t compete with the top three’s sky-high scores. The Index is supposed to act as a “long-term perspective to transform cities,” write the report’s authors led by Professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart.

Seoul is one of the most well-balanced cities across all nine factors. Photo by Mongkol_Chuewong/Shutterstock

The Index is also a good asset for tourists, because wouldn’t everyone prefer to visit a city with good transportation, nice environmental policies, top-notch human capital? The latter can translate into culture and lifestyle improvements that are sure to attract tourists. And travellers, on the other hand, also impact the Index, because they are part of a city’s international outreach – Paris knows this very well since its very high ranking comes mainly from having the second-highest number of international tourists in the world. It’s a circuit where every factor influences each other, and that’s good. “One of the greatest challenges for cities is to transform themselves into urban centers that are simultaneously prosperous, equitable and inclusive,” continue the report’s authors.

Milan jumped up 13 spots, arriving at number 45. Photo by Laura Zulian Photography/Getty Images

This year’s report saw some cities go up (like Milan, Helsinki, and Barcelona) and some cities drop down (like Oslo, Tallinn, and Munich), so that means that the top ten is always up for changes. And travellers are among the people who have the power to influence next year’s rankings.