Europe’s Smart City Initiative

Last year, Europe has set up an Initiative on Smart Cities. The Initiative fosters the dissemination throughout Europe of the most efficient models and strategies to progress towards a low carbon future. European countries should be progressing towards the energy and climate objectives at a local level while maintaining or improving the quality of live. Investments in energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emission can be used to improve local economies.

The Initiative wants a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (with start year 1990), which is very ambitious. This reductions can be obtained by using and producing sustainable energy. The Initiative will support cities and regions in creating a systematic approach and organizational innovation to encompass energy efficiency, low carbon technologies and the smart management of supply and demand. The main components of the Initiative is the measures of buildings, local energy networks and transport. Local authorities have to propose and implement holistic problem-solving approaches that use appropriate technology and policy measures.

Things that have to been done is for example the refurbishment of existing buildings so they use as less energy as possible while increasing performances and comfort. A good example of these sort of buildings are passive buildings, using vacuum insulation, windows, cool roofs,… New buildings have to be build with zero energy requirements or net zero carbon emissions.

In terms of energy, smart grids, smart meters, energy management systems, smart appliances and equipments can be used. And when thinking about transport, we think about sustainable mobility. Advanced smart public transport, intelligent traffic management and more encouragements to walk and cycle.

And all these objectives have to be turned into actions. The Initiative helps with this according to a city’s ambitions and the risk that’s involved. So ambitious cities could get funding for technical assistance to facilitate access to loans and risk sharing loans. And pioneer cities, taking much greater risks because they use radical technology and organizational transformations, could in addition receive grants to support the implementation of the proposed package of technologies and measures.

For more information about the Initiative, its objectives and the actions that will be taken:

World Smart Capital

The vision of the World Smart Capital concept is to identify and share successful urban innovations across cities worldwide while demonstrating how governments, industries, educational institutions and citizens are working individually and together to revitalize and invent their urban environment with help from urban Technologies, ICT and smart systems.

The World Smart Capital initiative wants to promote and encourage the use of technologies to further the economic and social development of the world’s cities. But they also help cities better position themselves, give them a better image and increased visibility, attract investors and creative people, improve their quality of life and set up public-private partnerships.

So some of their objectives are:

  • To increase awareness for and access to the modern sustainable solutions for cities both in the western world and the developing countries.
  • To educate city officials, managers and planners in urban development knowledge and to promote future governance structures of urban areas.
  • To help cities involve their citizens regarding urban development as part of a creative and practical collaboration.

World Smart Capital AmsterdamThe Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is the pilot city to develop the World Smart Capital concept for the years 2012 and 2013. They will do its utmost to execute the implementation of a two year long programme of projects and events to contribute to the development of the World Smart Capital concept. This is why they host the WSC Framing events and other various activities and events in Amsterdam.

The WSC International Summit and Convention is an international gathering that brings together hundreds of representatives of cities, universities, educational institutions, research institutions, corporations, local and regional government. It is held from Monday 25 June – Tuesday 26 June 2012 in ‘Pakhuis De Zwijger’ in Amsterdam and participation is invitation-only, based on the submission of an entry form.

More info on the World Smart Capital initiative and the WSC International Summit and Convention can be found on their website.

The UK is getting ready for Smart Cities

The UK is getting ready for Smart Cities. They called in the help of the British Standard Institution (BSI) to help shape the future of Britain’s Smart Cities. Dr Scott Steedman, Director of the British Standards Institution, said that Britain’s cities can decide the pace in exploiting Smart City thinking for the future. The UK already has a vision for the cities of the future and now, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has asked the BSI to carry out a study. This study should formulate a strategy for Smart Cities in the UK and should help realize the future cities.

Cities now are facing increasing pressure on their resources. So there is a need for Smart technologies that can revolutionize the efficiency and sustainability of urban communities. The BSI is therefore looking at how best practiced codes and standards for Smart technologies could bring substantial benefits to services like healthcare, transport, utilities and waste management by integrating data from sensors across the urban environment.

The concept of Smart Cities in the process of urbanization is high on the political agenda of both the UK and other European countries. What makes cities Smart Cities is that they use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and they integrate this with the services that a city delivers.  A good example of Smart technology is that weather information can be combined with traffic sensors to anticipate congestion and keep traffic moving. Or leaks in water networks could be detected automatically.

Dr Steedman also explained that an essential first step in creating Smart Cities is agreeing on how knowledge and standards can set the principles by which a Smart City works and the technology that will drive it forwards. The Smart City concept will only work when infrastructure and service delivery channels support the objectives of city planners across environmental performance, healthcare and promoting sustainable growth. But it’s not just about infrastructure, it’s also about sensing what is about to happen in the urban environment and having systems or people that can take appropriate actions.

So BSI is helping to shape the strategy. But to do that, it needs the input and expertise from governments and local authorities procuring Smart City technologies. They need researchers, regulators and consumer groups who represent those using Smart City developments. And they need manufacturers and service providers who can supply Smart City solutions.

The strategy that BSI is making will identify the needs and concerns of all the stakeholders and it will also explore where standards might facilitate the wider uptake of the Smart Cities concept. So the strategy will look at what cities are trying to achieve, what needs to be in place to help cities provide Smart services and how issues like privacy can be managed.

Liverpool as the UK’s first Smart City

Liverpool held Europe’s first Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March this year. The event is an inter-disciplinary gathering of startup champions from around the world. It’s an event where entrepreneurs, government officials, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers work together to bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It was the first time that this event was held in Europe since previous hosts have been Kansas City, Dubai and Shangai. It was organized by GEC’s principal sponsors, ScottishPower and Liverpool Vision.

By hosting this event, Liverpool shows again that they have the ambition of becoming the UK’s first “Smart City”. This has been underlined by City leaders, captains of businesses,  industry and technology experts. They debated on the benefits and challenges of addressing how more effective investments in IT, energy and human resources could provide better services to citizens.

A reason why Smart Cities will become necessary in the future is because population is growing, placing a greater demand on infrastructure and the vital services they deliver. Smart Cities are seen to be identified along six main criteria: economy, mobility, environment, people, living and governance. It is these criteria that will help meet the needs of communities in the future.

Mike Parker, Chairman of Liverpool Vision and Liverpool’s Smart City Board, told delegates the reason why Liverpool wants to become a Smart City. He said that future investments will flow into those cities that can demonstrate they have an innovative, green, adaptive structure. And although Liverpool, like competitor cities, faces many economic, social and technological challenges, they are in a remarkably good position to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Their ambition is matched by their determination and their enterprise is matched by their creativity.

Frank Mitchell, Chief Executive of ScottishPower Energy Networks, said that ScottishPower is committed to supporting Liverpool’s Smart City ambitions since they are an integral part of the local community. They want to help make Liverpool a city of growth and they will continue to invest in its infrastructure and seek to create and support local employment.

Volker Buscher, Smart Cities Director of ARUP, Global thought leader in the Smart City space spoke about the mechanics of a Smart City and gave cutting edge examples of Smart City activity from cities such as San Francisco, Seoul and Helsinki.

And Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said that the concept of being a Smart City is one that must be embraced and investigated by Liverpool if they want to make the most of the giant steps that they’ve already taken in recent years. He states that Liverpool as a Smart City will have a smarter and fitter economy with first class transport and communications infrastructure. They city will have a smart environment with people enjoying the benefits of smart living; healthier, wealthier and happier. The Smart City concept holds the promise for Liverpool of being more competitive, investing in human and social capital and education. These investments hold an interest for everyone because it’s about the continuing well-being and future prosperity. Ultimately, Smart City Liverpool will help the Mayor to accomplish his main priorities; creating jobs, economic growth and a better future.

The speakers were joined by Mike Taylor, High Growth Director, Local Enterprise Partnership, Deputy CEO, Liverpool Vision and leading member of the Liverpool Smart City Board spoke about the pioneering technology being created by Connected Liverpool.

Danish presidency dialogue on smart cities and renewable energy

Connie Hedegaard, European climate action commissioner, said that solutions to the economic crisis and green growth have to go hand in hand. She  spoke on Thursday at a Danish presidency dialogue on smart cities and green growth. The event aimed to discuss the potential of integrating private and public sectors, combining ICT, renewable energies and resources, while keeping in mind some of the barriers that prevent this from happening.

With holding this EU council presidency and Denmark already leading the way on renewable technologies, Europe gets a lot of opportunities to take big steps in changing the way energy is produced. Europe could reduce dependence on non-sustainable sources which could also mean reducing costs since Europe’s fuel import increases year-on-year.

Solutions for renewable energy should become part of the growth strategy of cities. We already have sustainable and renewable technologies but we need to use these better to meet the increasing demands for energy. Hedegaard thinks governments and political leaders need to be aware and appreciate that renewable energy can also lead to economic benefits since there is a growing demand for energy within cities. There is a potential to create jobs within ICT, health, green solutions and other industries.

Hedegaard also expressed that there is a need for European targets to guarantee that the EU and member states prove long term commitment to renewable energy. EU targets can properly focus attention on the energy problems.

Another statement came from Graham Watson, chair of Climate Parliament. He spoke of the many advantages of smart grids, which are self-monitoring digitalized electricity grids that can distribute electricity according to demand, cost, supply and many other conditions. These smart girds create a much more efficient system. He said that there is no excuse for cities not to become a smart city and he spoke of the importance of informing customers and citizens about the benefits of such systems.