On my last train trip with the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam, I read an article in the on-board magazine about the best examples of smart cities in Europe. While I had heard about the term ‘smart city’ before, I was surprised to read about some of the initiatives that were launched right here in Europe to make the world around us a bit more efficient and improving the quality of life for everyone in those places at the same time.
Went I got home, I did some research and found that half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Not only that, but it is said that by 2050, this number will increase to about two thirds of the world’s population. That’s crazy! I am a big fan of (big) cities and have lived in Amsterdam, Sydney and London, so I was really curious to find out what life in the city will look like in the future.
To get a glimpse, read my article about 5 innovative destinations that are improving the lives of their citizens and visitors by using smart technology:
What we'll cover in this article
SMART CITIES IN EUROPE
Did you know that half of the world’s population lives in urban areas? Currently, over 3.9 billion people live in cities and this number will increase to about two thirds of the world’s population by 2050. And this doesn’t even include the amount of tourists that flock to our cities each year!
As you can understand, the footprint of a city is a heavy contributor to the un-sustainability of life on our planet. But luckily, urban life is getting an upgrade all over the world.
A ‘smart city’ is an urban area that integrates information and communication technology by using different types of data collection sensors to efficiently manage city operations and services such as transportation systems, water supply networks and waste management, but also schools, libraries, hospitals and other community services.
People, Processes and Technology are the three principles that make up the success of a smart city initiative. Cities must study their citizens and communities, know the processes and then create policies. Technology can be implemented to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is evolving. This way, citizens’ needs are met, economic opportunities are created and the quality of life improves for everyone.
Western Europe is on the forefront of urban development and in this article, you can discover 5 innovative destinations that are improving the lives of their citizens and visitors by using smart technology:
01 – Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva is installing 650 parking sensors to make finding a parking space a whole lot quicker and easier. The sensors will be able to detect the arrival and departure of vehicles, with motorists using a smartphone application to find out what parking spaces are free to use. The sensors will also provide statistical data, such as occupancy and turnover of the city’s most populated areas.
TOSA is the name of the city’s electric bus system. The buses have the same flexibility as diesel buses, while remaining 100% ecological. Each bus charges for only five minutes at the terminal before beginning its journey, and requires just a 20 second ‘flash’ recharge, which takes place every four stops, en route.
02 – Lyon, France
Over the last five years, Lyon has launched more than a hundred projects and schemes designed to improve city life, such as smart power grids, citizen empowerment and better air quality. The city is working together with residents, entrepreneurs, large corporations, start-ups and institutional players to create a ‘city of tomorrow’.
TUBÀ is a unique venue for the co-creation of innovative urban services. Here, communities, small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and research laboratories can get together and develop innovative solutions to serve the city, in cooperation with and tested by its citizens. Companies can use open data from the platform, while combining their private data and pooling their resources.
03 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Street lamps in Amsterdam have been upgraded to allow municipal councils to dim the lights based on pedestrian usage or adjust them according to the weather. Saved energy can then be used for other functions, such as powering the WiFi network or measuring air quality.
Amsterdam’s Mobypark app allows owners of parking spaces to rent them out to people for a fee. The data generated from this app can then be used by the City to determine parking demand and traffic flows in Amsterdam.
04 – Barcelona, Spain
Sensor technology has been implemented in the irrigation system in Parc del Centre de Poblenou, where real time data is transmitted to gardening crews about the level of water required for the plants.
Where an emergency is reported in Barcelona, the approximate route of the emergency vehicle is entered into the traffic light system, setting all the lights to green as the vehicle approaches through a mix of GPS and traffic management software, allowing emergency services to reach the incident without delay.
05 – Bristol, United Kingdom
Bristol has become the UK’s leading Smart City, overtaking London to the number one spot. Bristol’s move up the rankings is directly linked to two key projects: ‘Bristol is Open’ and ‘SPHERE’.
Bristol is Open is developing an open programmable city that gives citizens more ways to participate-in and contribute-to the way their city works. It is a collaboration between the technology, media & telecommunications industry, universities, local communities, and local and national government.
SPHERE is developing sensors for the home to diagnose and help manage health and wellbeing conditions. Their technology will aid early diagnosis, lifestyle change and the ability of patients to live at home.
All of the necessary changes to make our planet more sustainable might not sound easy and can take years of planning and experimenting. But what is clear, is that the most basic premise for change starts at the roots of a city, with its people’s will for change, and in conversation. In the end, we’re all in this together.
Let us know: what does your ideal city look like? Do you know what smart innovations your own city has made?