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Cities are becoming digital – Urban Data Platforms enable it

13 May 2020

In 2015 the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) set a goal to ‘serve 300 million Europeans with urban data platforms in their cities by 2025’. Where do we stand in meeting that target?

A new study from the RUGGEDISED partners Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics (NL) – involving more than 100 respondents from European cities that all seek to exploit data to monitor and improve city infrastructure and services – highlights the four main reasons cities see the value from implementing Urban Data Platforms (UDP), which are to:

  • Improve city operations
  • Inform better decision-making
  • Spur innovation and new services
  • Enhance environmental sustainability

Urban Data Platforms (UDPs) enable digital technologies to integrate data flows via open standards within and across city systems used by both the public and private sector. For example, platforms can share raw data streams or show 3D visualisations of how underground piping, bus lines, thermal grids, environmental data and a wide range of other information is connected.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential of Urban Data Platforms has also been brought to the forefront in many cities. Data from citizen self-sharing of data, traffic sensors or Wi-Fi hotspots can be used to track the effectiveness of social distancing, and to keep apart from other people when in public. Urban Data Platforms and the digital twin of cities could be used to bring such data together and visualize it to the different stakeholders.

In a blog from Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA) the study is presented and the researchers behind it, Dr Marcel van Oosterhout, Dr Haydee Sheombar, Julia Amelie Holst , Dr Tobias Brandt, Prof. Eric van Heck, provide the key results. The work has been undertaken as part of the RUGGEDISED project and with support from the EIP-SCC Action Cluster on Integrated Infrastructures. 

It is clear from the study that that there has been an uptake in the adoption of Urban Data Platforms and 70 percent of the cities are now using open standards to develop their platforms. The importance of building trust between the private and public sector is also highlighted as crucial if cities are to make more use of data in their own ‘clouds’.

Svetoslav Mihaylov, Policy Officer Smart Mobility & living for the European Commission, says about the study and the European efforts to develop Urban Data Platforms:

“The study has created a comprehensive landscape of the current deployments and plans for urban data platforms in the EU and comes to evaluate the results of the intensive seven-year work performed at the EIP SCC and the Smart City Lighthouse projects. It allows us to highlight the progress in comparison with a similar 2015 study and what still remains to be done. The study comes at a crucial moment when we are defining our actions and commitments for the next framework programme within the Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe Programme as well as the accompanying Joint, Boost, Sustain initiative of the EU cities and communities.”

More open data in cites will unleash potential

The increase in Urban Data Platforms opens up the possibility to empower all participants in the cities’ ecosystems to contribute to a city’s triple-bottom-line: social, environmental and economic.

The respondents in the study – of which a majority are involved in one of the 17 European Smart City Lighthouse projects – are at different levels of adoption with 44 percent in the first explore and plan phase, 25 percent in the build and implement phase, and 31 percent with an operational urban data platform.

One city currently implementing an Urban Data platform is Rotterdam. They are building a so-called digital twin that will allow several stakeholders to engage in new ways. For example, citizens will be empowered to co-design the city with city-planners, who can test ideas, possibilities and more in the platform rather than through complicated and expensive studies where different data has to be added for each new project. Engineers will be able to use the digital twin to visualize underground infrastructures, while working in the field. And many more use cases are foreseen for the urban data platform and digital twin.

Roland van der Heijden, Programme manager Digital City for the Municipality of Rotterdam, participated in the study and will use the input in the city’s future work:

“We will try to incorporate the findings in our next development steps. The most important one at this moment is: if we want to organise a successful UDP we need to create trust, not only in the platform but in the whole urban digital ecosystem,” he says.

Future efforts

The study also draws conclusions on what’s needed to fulfil the “300 million” goal set by the (EIP-SCC). Three main commitments are recommended by the researchers behind the study:

  • City leaders must lead by example and commit to invest in this vital infrastructure as a matter of policy, and / or request the preparation of a business case to justify their data platform.
  • Institutions and national governments should encourage the uptake of UDPs at city or regional levels using incentive schemes, vouchers, and initiatives that also help build capacity.
  • Trust between city hall and industry needs to be improved, which requires local measures. Some cities will need to strengthen engagement with communities to increase trust between city hall and society. They will also need a core actor in the data system.

The study was conducted by Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA) as part of the EU-funded Smart City project RUGGEDISED and with cooperation from the Actions Clusters of EIP-SCC. It analysed urban data platforms’ development; the vision behind these platforms; the business and technology design; barriers to implementation and accelerators for implementation, and the use and impact of these platforms. A full blog on the study is available here. The detailed findings from the study can be requested from Dr. Marcel van Oosterhout, who has been leading the study on behalf of ECDA.

Image: Erasmus University Rotterdam

Struggling with the lockdown? A hashtag can help

28 April 2020

Follow #SmartCitiesHelp to discover the best ideas EU smart cities offer to better deal with the everyday challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic

With the outbreak of Coronavirus cities have to face a completely new situation. Even the simplest daily tasks have to be rethought to ensure social distancing and support to persons in need. To embrace this challenge, cities are developing and implementing new ideas which will make them more resilient, stronger and smarter and so improve everyone’s wellbeing. But how can the brightest ideas from EU cities be collected and made easily available to citizens? The answer is #SmartCitiesHelp, the dedicated social media campaign launched by the cluster of the 17 H2020 European Smart Cities projects. 

Solidarity actions, online museums and concerts, hubs to connect citizens, digital contests, new city transportation strategies, apps, data collection platforms and much more will be shared.

Follow #SmartCitiesHelp on Twitter and LinkedIn to discover how European Smart Cities are reacting to COVID-19 to help you face these challenging times!

The 17 H2020 European Smart Cities projects which launched #SmartCitiesHelp are:

atelier+CityxChangeGrowSmarterIRISMAKING-CITYMAtchUPmySMARTLifePOCITYFREMOURBANREPLICATERUGGEDISEDSharing CitiesSmartEnCitySmarter TogetherSPARCSSTARDUSTTriangulum

These projects received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and Innovation programme. Their goal is to design and implement a number of smart urban solutions to make cities more sustainable and inclusive.

Smart data use allows Rotterdam to improve e-charging of buses

4 March 2020

Charging of electric buses will be smarter in the future. That could be a very real-life consequence of a theoretical RUGGEDISED study from Erasmus University of Rotterdam. The study investigates how a public transport operator (PTO) can best power a fleet of sustainable electric buses.

Traditional approaches include battery-swapping in buses, investing in energy storage systems or using the so-called opportunity charging in which buses are charged on layovers during trips. It is the latter system Erasmus University, and their co-author John Collins from the University of Minnesota, wanted to investigate improvements of – and they found them with an extensive analysis of data.

However, using opportunity charging with high charging power adds a substantial load to the electricity grid. Thus, the problem is how to optimize the charging schedule of the electric buses to guarantee a reliable operation without adding too much pressure to the grid at the peak moments.

It is this problem, the study has come up with an answer to, explains Ayman Abdelwahed, PhD candidate at Erasmus University and one of five authors of the new study.

“By investigating the routes, the trip and bus assignment schedules we have shown the value of optimizing the charging process in a way that minimizes the impact on the grid in comparison to some other greedy charging strategies. It will hopefully make the electrification of public transport easier to achieve,” Ayman Abdelwahed says.

In total, the study provided an efficient optimization model that can help cities, public transport operators and smart city developers to strengthen the transit bus networks electrification process in the future, with a minimised extra added pressure on the city-wide power grid.

The results of the study are expected to be put to use in the Heart of South area in the RUGGEDISED Lighthouse City of Rotterdam, where the public transportation company RET provided the data for the study. It is currently being investigated how the results can help implement a highly ambitious rollout of electric buses that is underway.

The study has also been accepted by the prestigious scientific journal Transportation Science and will be shared a different conferences throughout 2020. It has been published with open access and is available on Research Gate.

The authors of the study are Ayman Abdelwahed, Pieter van den Berg, Tobias Brandt, John Collins and Wolf Ketter.

Umeå shares videos and insights on sustainable solutions

2 March 2020

The City of Umeå is a Smart City Lighthouse in the EU-funded RUGGEDISED project and has worked to implement smart – and sustainable – solutions for the past three years. Now, the city shares 11 videos detailing that work as well as a comprehensive implementation report for smart city experts.

The City of Umeå joined the EU-funded project RUGGEDISED in 2016 in order to implement smart city solutions benefiting citizens and allowing the city to achieve its high ambitions for growth while contributing to the fight against climate change.

“We have to try new solutions, that will work in the future as well. We are up against a big change in the climate so as a city, we have to also participate in the development and try to stop it in some way,” says Carina Aschan, RUGGEDISED project manager in a new video explaining Umeå’s work in the project.

What are the innovative solutions being developed in the smart district of Umeå – the so-called smart University District? With 11 short films linked to physical signs, visualisations and explanations of what has been done in the University district within the framework of the European project RUGGEDISED, Umeå is ready to share its work with the world.

The first video in a series of 11 short videos entitled “Small steps for mankind” describing solutions, also detailed in the City’s Implementation report from the RUGGEDISED Project, has been released. The videos begin with a brief intro to the University District as a national and international role model in reducing the climate footprint of urban areas. The University District is a pioneering area of Umeå where new solutions are being tested to meet the need to reduce the city’s CO₂ emissions.

The videos are available with English subtitles and detail the work by the people who have worked with the implementation of the innovative solutions with an approach meant to engage the citizens. The introductory video “Step # 1” provides a comprehensive overview and includes RUGGEDISED partners from both the energy company Umeå Energi and Umeå University.

The videos are connected to 11 physical signs in Umeå and residents can find the movies through QR-codes on those signs. Citizens can also find all the information on a touch-screen centrally located at an info-centre at Umeå University.

The movies will be made available on Umeå’s City page on RUGGEDISED.EU/cities/umeaa and on the Youtube channel of Green Umeå.

The full implementation report – to learn from Umeå’s work – is available on the same website.

The release dates are as follows:

February 27 - STEP # 1

March 5 - STEP #2 - #4

March 12 - STEP #5 - #7

March 19 - STEP #8 - #11

April 15 - Physical signs on site

 

Glasgow pushes on with implementation of smart and sustainable solutions

27 February 2020

Edit: Since the publication of this article, COP26 has been pushed to 2021.

Through RUGGEDISED, the City of Glasgow works to implement a wide range of smart city solutions on its ‘Smart Street’. Ahead of hosting COP26, becoming a smart city is an integral part of the City’s effort to address climate change, air quality, fuel poverty and an ageing infrastructure through an increased use of technology to improve everyone’s quality of life.

With a relaunch of the City’s ‘Sustainable Glasgow’ initiative on 25 February – leading up to the city hosting COP26 in November – Glasgow is ready to share its ambitious plans and efforts with the world.

“RUGGEDISED and Sustainable Glasgow proves Glasgow’s commitment to becoming a more sustainable city and to achieve substantial CO2 reductions without leaving anyone behind. A smarter integration of renewable energy while fighting fuel poverty is what we are doing in RUGGEDISED, and I am happy we can contribute to make Glasgow a leader on the issue of our time – the fight against climate change,” says Gavin Slater, RUGGEDISED Project Lead for the City of Glasgow.

Since the City was awarded funding from the European Commission in 2016, the RUGGEDISED partners in Glasgow have worked to create a ‘Smart Street’ in the city centre through the implementation of ten RUGGEDISED solutions.

The smart solutions specifically look into:

• Maximising consumption within the district from local energy generation;• Increasing the use of electric vehicles to improve air quality and reducing CO2 emissions;• Demonstrating that electric vehicle charging, intelligent street lighting and other controllable systems can be used in a demand-side management system to manage different loads in the power grid;• Creating contract models for local generators and consumers to better share heat and power;• Developing an analytics engine to upscale the solutions implemented.

Through the RUGGEDISED project, Glasgow has had the opportunity to develop ground-breaking contractual models to allow companies and other entities to exchange surplus heat energy from one entity to the other. Extensive work, though not yet finalised, has also been undertaken to create an electric vehicle charging hub with a solar canopy and battery storage to both support the uptake of electric vehicles in Glasgow and potentially help alleviate peak loads in the energy grid.

Central to many of the solutions implemented in Glasgow is a network of intelligent street lights already deployed throughout the ‘Smart Street’ area. These intelligent streetlights are linked to a new Central Management System, and in 2020 an electric vehicle charging functionality will be integrated into selected street lights. In addition to the possibility of charging electric vehicles, the lights installed already connect the city with other smart solutions deployed by RUGGEDISED through a wireless communications network.

Benefiting from a more connected city and the data shared through the intelligent street lights, a bespoke data based decision platform, designed internally by Glasgow City Council, collects, analyses and visualises data to be used as a tool to shape decision making processes for both the city and the wider public. This platform is up and running.

A better connected city will also allow the final three solutions in Glasgow to serve their purposes of lessening fuel poverty and provide the city with the tools needed for demand-side management in the power grid. Currently, demand-side management systems have been installed and are being tested in the intelligent street lights, in a domestic building and in the connection to a building management system in a non-domestic building.

Learn a lot more about Glasgow’s work to implement the RUGGEDISED solutions in the city’s first implementation report available on www.ruggedised.eu/cities/glasgow

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.