Smart Cities - 3 unique examples from around the globe

Cities looking to become smart cities are generally targeting the same goals: improve quality of life, attract tourism, reduce carbon footprint, improve and expand safety. Power and energy consumption, waste management, lighting, traffic, parking, and public transportation are just a few examples of city-wide areas and interests improved with the IoT. 


Europe has always been at the forefront of addressing and resolving environmental concerns, so it follows they are out in front as well in adopting IoT, big data, and analytics, as a key part of all their city planning.


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In Germany, the Smart City Berlin Network estimates that, in the near future, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.  To try and accommodate the influx from a comfort, reduced crime, and reduced carbon point of view Berlin has written the Berlin Strategy Urban Development Concept 2030 document, outlining its plans to make Berlin a smart city.  The goal is to make Berlin a more competitive business hub, make citizens more comfortable and safe, leave a carbon neutral footprint, and foster further innovations to improve city life. Toward that end they are focusing on public services, and working with homeowners and businesses to have intelligent vehicles, smart homes, and a smart grid.


In their planning document, Smart City Strategy, Berlin acknowledges that what has made all of this possible is the large advances in recent years in cloud computing, big data, analytics, and IoT: “These technologies have opened up what seems to be an almost endless array of technical possibilities for using sensors to automatically gather information about processes and events within the urban environment.”


Manufacturing is paramount to Germany’s economy, so part of Berlin’s plan is to promote Manufacturing 4.0., the application of IoT, big data, and analytics to the factory floor and supply chain.


Finally, because Germans value their privacy, and have codified that into laws, the systems that aggregate data flowing from private homes are configured to protect the privacy of the people who live there by making that data anonymous. 


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Amsterdam is the 16th largest city in the world and the 2nd in terms of becoming smart, according to the Cities in Motion Index. Part of the Dutch strategy to become smart is to provide an API to make data gathered from the public open and accessible to anyone who wants to tap into and contribute to that. That data cloud helps with everything from transportation and building services to tourism.


Amsterdam, along with 8 other European cities, provides this API as the CityService Development Kit.  For Amsterdam, it powers much including the Dutch Traffic Link and Digital Road Authority.


 Smart Cities


Amsterdam is filled with pilot projects for smart initiatives, which they have deployed to smart communities called Living Labs.  For example, in one community, 250 households have been given free intelligent power outlets supplied by the firm Plugwise. In West Orange, 500 homes are connected to and controlled by smart meters. These integrations enable homes to monitor their energy usage see where they can reduce their energy consumption.


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Barcelona is another city that has added an API to its goal of becoming smart.  They call their data abstraction City OS.  Their system includes free IoT devices and computing cards developed by Project of Fab Lab Barcelona and Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia.


 Graphic Source: Barcelona City OS

Graphic Source: Barcelona City OS



The smart city API is called Sentilo, and is “the piece of architecture that will isolate the applications that are developed to exploit the information ‘generated by the city’ and the layer of sensors deployed across the city to collect and broadcast this information.”


This data flows to the cloud, social media and elsewhere using battery-powered IoT devices called the Smart Citizen Kit, consisting of Arduino computing cards fitted with sensors and paired to a smartphone app.  They measure air quality (CO2 and NO2), temperature, humidity, light intensity, and sound levels.  

The Barcelona solutions include what they call Smartshelters, SmartMobility, SmartStation, Smartlighting, and Smartsensors.  These provide all kinds of services like letting people buy tickets as they walk into transportation hubs, get data at the bus stop and onboard, monitor air quality through the city, and navigate traffic.  The smart lighting system is based on LED street lighting that adjusts to natural light levels. 


These are some examples of what some cities are doing to use IoT, big data, and analytics.  As this infrastructure is rolled out, it will grow exponentially because this becomes the base from which further innovation will spring as people find many more ways to use this technology to solve everyday problems.


Read about IoT, Smart Cities  and Increasing Efficiency