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The human factor determines the success of a smart city

25 November 2019

Participants from all six RUGGEDISED cities met in Rotterdam - at the event centre Ahoy - to discuss how cities best transform into smart cities. In collaboration with companies and research centres, the RUGGEDISED cities show how ICT, e-mobility and energy solutions can be combined to design smart, resilient cities for everyone. One outcome of the congress was that the human factor is the key factor for the success of a smart city.

“It is five to twelve. Or maybe one minute past twelve already,” Jolanda Jansen, CEO of Rotterdam Ahoy, said after the ‘RUGGEDISED, Sharing Capacities’ conference organized by Rotterdam Ahoy. She was referring to a worrying scenario sketched out earlier in the afternoon by philosopher and trendwatcher Ruud Veltenaad. She then added: 

“But we, as humanity, can do something about the enormous climate crisis that is in front of us. We all have to take responsibility and that is why Ahoy is participating in the RUGGEDISED project,"

Smart city project

RUGGEDISED, a Smart Cities and Communities project funded by the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Union, brings together the three lighthouse cities: Rotterdam, Glasgow and Umeå and three fellow cities: Brno, Gdansk and Parma to test, implement and accelerate the smart city model throughout Europe.

In Rotterdam, the area around Zuidplein that is currently being renewed under the name Hart van Zuid (Heart of South), has been designated as a RUGGEDISED project. Partners within and outside the area, such as the Ballast Nedam/Heijmans building consoritum, energy company Eneco, Erasmus University, KPN and the municipality of Rotterdam, are working together to accelerate the sustainability of the Rotterdam district around the Heart of South.

Helping this effort, Ahoy has invested heavily in solar panels on the roof of its largest event hall and on the roof of the new Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre (RACC). Eneco took over Ahoy’s heat and cold storage installation and it was connected to a thermal smart grid so surplus heat and cold can be supplied to nearby properties in the future. Ahoy expects to reduce its CO2 emissions and energy costs by 25 per cent.

CEO of Ahoy Jolanda Jansen says:

"RUGGEDISED is not only a very innovative way of working together, it also makes a substantial contribution to sustainability. Moreover, it has turned out to be an accelerator in raising awareness about sustainability in general. Nowadays we pay closer attention to our waste streams and we use considerably less plastic."

Radical change

To share the experiences of Hart van Zuid with an international audience, Rotterdam Ahoy organized the ‘RUGGEDISED, Sharing Capacities’ conference.

More than a hundred participants listened breathlessly to the keynote speech by philosopher, trendwatcher and affiliate professor at leading institutions such as MIT and Nyenrode, Ruud Veltenaar. And his input did not start out on a positive note:

"Within the next twenty to thirty years the world is heading for a radical change. More radical than humanity has ever experienced and as human beings, we have caused the revolution that is coming. We are thus - as far as we know - the only species that accelerates its own downfall," he said.

Yet Ruud Veltenaar does not want to call himself a pessimist.

“Because people have also proven to take action only when the crisis is the biggest. So we will change. But for that it must first go horribly wrong. That is simply ingrained in our species”, Ruud Veltenaar said before explaininging that .

“[the upcoming] uncontrollable climate change is forcing us to think differently, to act differently, to structure our economy differently, to organize smart cities differently. Because we can not sustain it this way. So, in the end we will live in a world and in cities that are much better than what it is today. But driven by crisis. So it's actually a very positive story."

The keynote speech is exactly what RUGGEDISED is about: in order to be able to cope with climate change and also to find an answer to the ever-progressing urbanization in the world, cities will have to be smarter. But smartness should not be limitied, as both the RUGGEDISED partners and Ruud Veltenaar agrees:

"Please do not limit Smart Cities to technical solutions alone. Technology is beautiful but not the only solution. How does our soul diminish when we are completely dependent on technology? I think smart cities are cities with good social cohesion. They have a different type of education that fuels the potential and passion of people. Smart cities focus on prevention rather than diagnosing and treating diseases. In smart cities, the government, market and society share their assets with each other, with customers and suppliers," he said.

We must act

Jacqueline Cramer, professor of Sustainable Innovation at the University of Utrecht and former environment minister, was moderator and discussion leader during the RUGGEDISED conference.

"Smart cities are the heart of everything we need to do to be able to transform into a more sustainable society," she said and added that Ruud Veltenaars story was not a surprise for her, and why she thinks it is important to work on these issues.

"It is a frightening story about what awaits us if we do not act. But he is right. It is the reality."

However,  Jaqqueline Cramer believes that mankind is also able to overcome this crisis:

"It’s not the technology that holds us back, but we must change ourselves. We can only do that together, through cooperation in projects and cities. An afternoon like this can stimulate RUGGEDISED partners to help each other on points that could still be improved,” she said.

Jacqueline Cramer then led a panel discussion with Jolanda Jansen (Rotterdam Ahoy), Jasper Feuth (Eneco), Haydee Sheombar (Erasmus University), Rutger Borst (KPN), Albert Engels (municipality of Rotterdam and Project Coordinator in RUGGEDISED), Maarten Kokshoorn (Hart van Zuid) and Maxine Tillij (TNO).

The participants in the discussion agreed that the RUGGEDISED method of making cities more sustainable requires courage and leadership. But that alone is not enough, Haydee Sheombar from the RUGGEDISED partner Erasmus Univeristy said and added:

"All actors - from citizens, to travellers, to patients, to consumers - must change their behavior. We have to help each other with that, nudge each other. Both government, business and society must enable us to change our behavior," she said.

As summed up by Jasper Feuth from the RUGGEDISED partner of ENECO:

“We people are not very good with changes. But I am convinced that everyone can contribute. A lot of small stones can have a big impact."

The RUGGEDISED conference 'Sharing Capacities' was an initiative by Rotterdam Ahoy. Ahoy is an affliated partner of RUGGEDISED in Rotterdam helping to implement smart and sustainable solutions in Rotterdam.

Smart bus station inaguarated in Umeå

3 October 2019

A new RUGGEDISED solution, an experimental bus station designed for arctic conditions, has opened in Umeå to coincide with the EU’s Arctic Forum. The bus station is christened the “Station of being” – a place where travelers can “just be”, aimed at transforming a cold and boring wait into an unexpected, pleasant break. The “Station of being” is designed by the RUGGEDISED partner RISE (Sweden) and Rombout Frieling Lab (The Netherlands).

“Bus stop Universum, which is part of the EU project Ruggedised, gives Umeå an opportunity to participate in an international development project where different parties contribute with the skills and resources to test brand new solutions. Now we hope that the bus stop will help more people take the bus instead of a car, but also that smart solutions and new sustainable materials will turn tedious waiting times into quality time, says Janet Ågren, 2nd Deputy Chairman of Umeå's  Municipal Board, in a press release from the RUGGEDISED lighthouse City of Umeå.

Read the full press release from the city of Umeå: http://innovationbyumea.se/press-releases/a-station-of-being-is-inagurated

Read the full press release from RISE Sweden: https://www.ri.se/en/press/comfortable-bus-station-arctic-conditions

The City of Brno engages with students on the future of its smart city district

18 September 2019

The City of Brno held the international student competition MUNISS 2019, which this year focused on the future smart development of Brno’s replication area Špitalka. One topic of the competition was the analysis of smart solutions and their impact on the quality of life in the area.

An interdisciplinary group of students were asked to propose and assess ten specific smart solutions, technologies and practices, which can affect the model of the future smart district Špitalka. The solutions had to address six aspects of what it means to be a “smart city” as defined in research made by SIX Research Centre at Brno University, a local partner of RUGGEDISED in BRNO.

The basis for the competition was to examine the winning proposal from the architect agency Aulík Fišer, which was made for the International Urban Idea Design Competition for the Špitálka area. Students had to assess the social impact, environmental analysis and analysed specific solutions from RUGGEDISED such as the Pavement heat/cold collector. Important parts of the competition were also the breakdown of financial structure and proposals for how to communicate about the solutions.

More information about MUNISS is available here.

Rotterdam’s smart city district chosen for Eurovision

3 September 2019

The city of Rotterdam will host the European song contest in May 2020 at the AHOY Arena in the middle of the city’s testing area for 13 smart solutions implemented as part of RUGGEDISED.

The testing area, called Hart van Zuid (‘Heart of South’) is home to the venue Rotterdam AHOY where Eurovision will take place.

Just last year, RUGGEDISED partners and Ahoy signed a cooperation agreement to implement a Smart Thermal Grid and install the largest solar roof in Rotterdam, cutting more than 1400 Tonnes of CO2 from the venue’s emissions.

Albert Engels, Project Coordinator for RUGGEDISED and Senior Process Manager in the City of Rotterdam, is very pleased with the decision to host the event at AHOY:

"I’m sure there were many reasons to select AHOY as the venue for Eurovision, and I like to think a part of it has to do with AHOY’s sustainable ambitions. Both AHOY and the rest of Heart of South, implement interesting Smart Energy solutions, and we look forward to sharing them with everyone coming to Rotterdam as a part of Eurovision."

Watch this video to learn more about how the Heart of South becomes smart and how RUGGEDISED and AHOY work together.

You can also read more about the Smart Thermal Grid in the RUGGEDISED factsheet.

Erasmus University Rotterdam launch new data analytics centre set to work on RUGGEDISED

30 July 2019

Update 4/11/2019: The new data analytics centre has shared a questionaire to assess the state of play of urban data platforms in Europe. To answer this questionaire, click here.

Erasmus University Rotterdam, a partner of RUGGEDISED, has just launched a new research centre, Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics, which includes an expertise area dedicated to “Smart cities and communities”.

The new centre will focus on realizing value from data and analytics, the importance of data governance as well as the necessity of making sure decisions based on algorithms are unbiased. RUGGEDISED’s leading partner, the Lighthouse city of Rotterdam, is one of the founding partners.

Several researchers affiliated with the new centre are already working actively on Ruggedised topics from a data-driven perspective.

This includes work on renewable energy and infrastructure for charging buses, energy prediction in buildings, design and governance of urban data platforms, innovation ecosystems and data-driven business models.

Dr. Marcel van Oosterhout, Erasmus University’s coordinator for RUGGEDISED is looking forward to exploiting the new possibilities created by the centre:

"ECDA [Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics] will be a big boost for our research on smart cities and data-driven solutions in general. It will make exchanging knowledge more efficient both in-house and with partners such as the City of Rotterdam and the whole RUGGEDISED team. I am confident the end result will be better solutions for smart cities and communities.”

If you want to read more about Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics and the work they do, please visit the centre’s website.

It's not about smart cities but about smart people

18 June 2019

As part of Brno’s Smart City Fair, URBIS, on 5-6 June, the changes happening in Glasgow, Umea and Rotterdam within Ruggedised were presented to the participants at the fair.

Wolf D. Prix, Internationally acclaimed architect and a member of Ruggedised’s Advisory Board gave a keynote speech highlighting the essentials when planning for sustainable development in complex city systems:

“It's not about smart cities but about smart people", Wold D. Prix told the participants before explaining how much planning should go into making buildings sustainable.

The Mayor of Brno, Markéta Vaňková, spoke at the Urbis fair on the importance of good urban planning. She pointed out, that the UN expects 80 percent of all Europeans to live in cities in 30 years, and then went on:

“Ensuring enough resources and quality conditions for so many people will not be easy. Our main goal is to transform cities into places where it is not just about survival, but about living - living a quality and meaningful life”.

Ruggedised contributes to the launch of the "The Smart City Guidance Package"

8 May 2019

Ruggedised coordinator, Albert Engels, was in Brussels on May 8 to contribute to the launch of the "The Smart City Guidance Package", developed by the Integrated Planning, Policy and Regulations Action Cluster of the EIP-SCC, let by NTNU.

In the initiative “From Planning to Implementation and Upscaling of Smart City Projects” cities, industry, NGO’s and knowledge partners collaborate on the exchange of experiences in the integrated planning and implementation of smart city projects, and their upscaling and replication afterwards to achieve the urban transition to smart and sustainable cities on an increasing scale across Europe.

The guidance package was also tested through workshops in two of our Fellow cities: Brno and Parma, who also took part in the launch event in ensuing panel discussion.

Brno selects winner of its international competition for the smart district of Špitálka

17 April 2019

Our fellow city of Brno has awarded a winner in its International Open Urban Design Idea Competition. Participation was record-breaking, with designs arriving even from Japan and Singapore.

The jury evaluated a total of twenty-six proposals from the Czech Republic, but also from Slovakia, Serbia, Poland, Belgium, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore. The winner of the competition was a design submitted by the Prague-based studio Aulík Fišer architekti.

“The competition was very well prepared and fulfilled its goal of bringing a solution to the transformation of an unused part of the industrial compound of the heating plant, where a lively urban neighbourhood should arise. It is one of the first steps towards revitalisation of the broader area around Špitálka, Křenová and Cejl streets, and at the same time an example of how to use other brownfield sites in the city centre,” said Markéta Vaňková, Lady Mayor of the City of Brno.

Read the entire press release here.

10 key points to de-risk smart city investments

15 February 2019

Digitalisation was the theme of this year’s Connected Smart Cities Conference 2019, organised by the OASC (Open & Agile Smart Cities), together with SmartUp BSR (Baltic Sea Region) and with support from SynchroniCity. The main takeaway of the day: “We must work ever more closely together, share experiences, and involve citizens to de-risk investments in smart cities and communities”. Dr. Marcel van Oosterhout, Assistant Executive Director at Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics, and a partner in our RUGGEDISED project, has come up with 10 points to de-risk investment in smart cities.

Read the full article here.

EIP's Smart City Guidance Package tested in Parma

8 February 2019

After a workshop in RUGGEDISE's other fellow city of Brno, it was this this Parma that welcomed on 8 February 2019 the opportunity to collaborate with the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) to test the guidelines to be published in May 2019 and which will be used by all European cities committed to develop their own smart city strategy.

The representatives of the integrated planning group of EIP, Simona Costa and Judith Borsboom Van Beurden, met the Councilor for environmental sustainability policies of the Municipality of Parma Tiziana Benassi, together with the local coordinator of the Ruggedised project Enzo Bertolotti and the project managers Marco Mordacci and Cristina Pellegrini as well as the technicians of the various sectors of the Municipal Administration and the group of local stakeholders who are part of the Parma Futuro Smart co-designing group.

The 25 participants, divided into two groups moderated by EIP referents, tested the 7 steps of the process, analyzing all aspects related to the construction of the smart city vision, the timely design of the measures, the involvement of the most relevant actors, the obtaining of the necessary resources, up to the evaluation of the results. The results of the work of the two groups has therefore been consolidated by an evaluation process: the methodology developed within the Smart Cities driving package has proven to be an effective tool to innovate in the city and to get in touch with the citizens and has confirmed that the process of drawing up the strategy that Parma Futuro Smart is carrying out is going in the right direction.