Smart urban development starts from the top - and the bottom

26 May 2021

To succeed with radical innovation paving the way for more sustainable cities, smart city projects require experienced professionals, partnerships and financing for their solutions. But efficient operations are not enough. To truly transform urban areas, project developers must also align with city-planning and integrate with the strategic ambitions of the municipality, new reports from the RUGGEDISED project shows.

The concept of bottom-up or top-down initiatives are well known in cities and other organisations around the world, but for the cities of the future — smart and sustainable — both approaches must be taken in unison with an embedding of the bottom-up efforts into an organisation guided by clear top-down visions. That is one of several conclusions coming out from the European project RUGGEDISED in a series of new reports.

Adriaan Slob, Senior Researcher at TNO Strategy and Policy, who co-wrote reports based on lessons learned in the three Lighthouse Cities of the RUGGEDISED project: Rotterdam, Glasgow and Umeå, explains why the importance of looking at the full picture is such a key conclusion:

“Smart projects are essentially about innovation in urban areas, and for that to happen the entire city ecosystem must pull in the same direction. No single actor has the capacity to fully understand the entire system with all its complexity, problems and challenges, and that makes the cooperation so important” he says.

In total, the EU funded project has produced four guides in which partners provide useful, step-by-step lessons, to tackle frequent urban innovation challenges. These guides include:

A series of three reports dealing with cross-city learning on implementation and innovation in the lighthouse cities have also been published as part of the RUGGEDISED project. Find all the reports at

Parma enters new phase of Smart City efforts

4 May 2021

The final event of the project Parma Futuro Smart was held earlier this year ending a process started in 2017 within the framework of RUGGEDISED.

During the event, the City of Parma presented the four strategic projects that are part of the ‘Parma Smart City’ action plan:

  • the creation of PEDs ( Positive Energy Districts), or a vision of sustainable urbanization based on a new model of energy production and consumption;
  • the development of an integrated data platform for the management of the city in real time;
  • the energy and digital transition of businesses;
  • the strengthening of the business acceleration chain to encourage the growth of start-ups for innovation and the competitiveness of the area.

The meeting was opened with greetings from Tiziana Benassi - Councillor for Sustainability Policies of the Municipality of Parma, who welcomed all the participants and highlighted the idea behind; to make cities smart, inclusive and sustainable.

The Councillor referred to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development approved in September 2015 by the United Nations, which contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 secondary targets for sustainable development that have a single common denominator: to end extreme poverty.

The Councillor emphasized how the word smart is the pivot of all new projects and how technology must be the means, not a purpose in itself, to create better lives for citizens.

Michele Alinovi, Councillor for buildings, public works and town planning, supported the importance of the development of a smart city strategy combined with sustainability and energy retrofit projects.

Parma, is one of the fellow cities of RUGGEDISED and in addition to developing skills and design ideas through the exchange with the lighthouse cities, it is also committed to building the smart city of 2050 and is drafting a roadmap and an investment plan to implement concrete smart city projects.

The role of the Municipality in the project was exemplified by the engineer Marco Mordacci who, shared an overview of the RUGGEDISED project with the participants. The Parma Futuro Smart Action Plan was introduced by Dr. Cristina Pellegrini who illustrated the four project proposals that have been defined in greater detail within the working groups with stakeholders.

Mario Gualdi and Daniel Cassolà of ISINNOVA, the Replication Lead in RUGGEDISED, presented the next steps of the project and gave perspectives on the work done within Parma Futuro Smart also at European level, particularly in regards to the mission of "100 Climate Neutral Cities ” from the European Commission. The mission foresees the involvement of 100 cities chosen by the European Union to support the European goal of achieving carbon neutrality on the continent in 2050. The cities involved will be directed to European funding and programs to reach this ambitious target, and the results monitored annually by the Commission.

Councillor Benassi closed the event by pointing out two key words from the virtual meeting: "ambition" and "synergy". These words are also front and centre in the recently signed ‘Carbon Neutrality Parma’ Alliance between the Emilia Romagna Region, the Province of Parma, the Municipality of Parma, Parma University and other local stakeholders.

This article is translated and shortened from Italian, find the original here

Rotterdam wins UNESCO Netexplo award for its RUGGEDISED-supported ‘datasphere’

21 April 2021

The City of Rotterdam was recognized with an award at the UNESCO Netexplo Linking Cities Forum in the ‘Datasphere’ Category with the jury highlighting how "Rotterdam is a digital pioneer city on the national and European stage.” 

When accepting the award, Deputy Mayor for Economy Roos Vermeij said:

“It is a great confirmation that we as a city are on the right track. The ambition is for Rotterdam to be a digital model city by 2025. A city that is at the forefront of the use of digital solutions for social, physical and economic challenges. Digitization helps us to achieve our ambitious goals in the field of sustainability, circularity and inclusivity.”

RUGGEDISED was explicitly mentioned in the explanation of the award to Rotterdam and is used to illustrate how the Urban Data Platform of the city constitutes the backbone of Rotterdam’s digital transformation.

RUGGEDISED’s Project Coordinator Albert Engels, from the City of Rotterdam, explains: 

“The digital journey of Rotterdam is constantly evolving and is a product of great partnerships. We stay connected within the municipality, with our citizens, businesses and research, and with other dedicated cities and initiatives all throughout Europe, for example through RUGGEDISED,” he says.    

Dive deeper into the award: 

Watch the ‘acceptance video’ from Rotterdam below


Open Urban Data Platforms can support smarter cities

14 January 2021

A new report from the Erasmus University Rotterdam that studies how eighty cities are organizing data assets using state-of-the-art data platforms, highlights the possible benefits cities can reap by establishing urban data platforms.

The report which aspires to support cities in their implementation of Urban Data Platforms has been published by the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics, the flagship centre of excellence on data, AI and digitalization belonging to the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The report studies more than eighty European Cities and recommendations are given on how to develop city platforms capable of connecting city data assets and essential information via urban digital twins for city management and innovation.

The underlying study was funded by the Horizon 2020 project RUGGEDISED and supported by the European Commission’s Smart Cities Marketplace. It details the multitude of paths a city can take to build a platform capable of enabling integrated data flows via open standards within and across city systems. The developed platform will therefore ensure interoperability among platforms and data sources and create one marketplace for city data assets, in which varying types of data can be combined as a basis for new value creation.

Dr Marcel van Oosterhout, Associate Executive Director at the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytic and Expert in Urban Data Platforms, explains:

“This report can guide policymakers and business innovators in designing and building digital platforms of great benefit to their cities. A mature, resilient and trusted Urban Data Platform can support policy-making, be the basis for citizen engagement, and provide a platform for triple helix collaboration and startups to innovate based on data”.

While compiling data for the report, Erasmus University Rotterdam was supported by a wider community of Smart Cities funded by Horizon 2020, known as “Lighthouses” and by RUGGEDISED project cities Rotterdam, Glasgow and Umeå. Drawing on the extensive experience of these cities and engagement with 80+ practitioners via a questionnaire and case studies, the report is potentially the most extensive publication to date on publicly-funded urban data platforms. It can be found on the website.

On January 29, 10:00-11:30 CET, the report will be presented at a webinar on Urban Data Platforms hosted by ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability and the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics. Also in attendance will be representatives from Umeå, Rotterdam, and London, who will share insights from Horizon 2020 projects, as well as representatives from Hafen University, who will represent their work in the Action Fund. You can sign up at

Umeå smart solution nominated for ‘Design of the year’ at London Design Museum

26 October 2020

The Station of Being, an innovative bus station at Umeå University created as part of the EU funded RUGGEDISED project, has been nominated for the Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 award, which is presented by the London Design Museum. The Station of Being is one of three nominees in the transport category.

- This is really big. Just being nominated for such a great award is a feather in the cap, both for those who have worked with the stop's creation and design, but also for Umeå municipality, that want to invest in this type of innovative and innovative solutions, says Carina Aschan, development strategist at Umeå municipality and City Coordinator of the RUGGEDISED project.

The London Design Museum writes, among other things, that the Station of Being with its welcoming and de-stressing environment encourages travellers to use public transport more often. The stop's smart roof uses light and sound to tell travellers when a bus is approaching and each bus line has its own unique sound. The wooden pods hanging down from the roof rotate automatically to protect travellers from the weather and to create opportunities for human interaction.

The ‘Station of Being’ was inaugurated a year ago and is deemed to have functioned well since. The innovate design, in which audio and light intermingle combined with the separation of waiting zone and boarding zone enables a faster boarding and thus contributes to saving energy for the electric buses in the oftentimes cold climate.

The bus stop, which is part of the RUGGEDISED project, was designed by the Dutch designer Rombout Frieling in collaboration with the research institute RISE, Umeå.

The Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 competition will be decided by a voting procedure that runs until 10 November. A prize jury then decides who will be the winners in the various categories, as well as the winners of the competition as a whole.

Carina Aschan says that the Station of Being attracts a lot of attention in the municipality's international network. There have been several booked visits from cities around Europe, including representatives of the RUGGEDISED Fellow city of Gdansk in Poland, which already visited to find inspiration for the development of their public transportation network.

Jeroen Peeters, senior design researcher at RISE Sweden, who worked on the development of Station of Being, believes that the London Design Museum is right in its assessment.

- The award jury really confirms the image we ourselves have that the design gives the traveller time to just be and that it provides protection from the weather and wind, while giving a face to the modern and sustainable public transport of the future, says Jeroen Peeters.

Read more about the award nomination

Vote for the Smart Solution ‘Station of Being’.

Smart Cities celebrate the European Mobility Week with the hashtag #WeMoveSmart

7 September 2020

On the occasion of the next EU Mobility Week, taking place from the 16th to the 22nd of September, 17 smart cities projects launch a virtual flash mob #WeMoveSmart to raise the issue of sustainable mobility in cities. The transport sector is one of the main causes of air pollution in urban areas and shifting to green mobility is fundamental to guarantee a good quality of life to cities’ inhabitants. The European Mobility week, whose theme this year is “Zero-emission mobility for all”, is the perfect occasion to raise awareness on this important topic.

That’s why the smart cities launch an appeal: “Show us your green way to move around. Take pictures, videos and write short stories on your urban green routes and share them on social media during the EU Mobility Week along with the hashtag #WeMoveSmart”. Feet, bike, e-vehicles, but also public transport are the many ways to reduce emissions and traffic congestions.

The 17 Smart City projects are funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme and help implement a wide variety of smart mobility solutions in more than 100 cities, in addition to working on other urban energy areas.

“Cities are at the frontline of the energy transition and the push towards more sustainable urban mobility is strongly supported by the European Commission. With this campaign as part of the Mobility Week, the projects are sharing their smart solutions for cities, private industry and citizens to be inspired by,” says  Jens Bartholmes, Policy Officer in the European Commission and its focal point for the large Smart City projects.

During the European Mobility Week the smart cities projects will also share cards featuring the innovative solutions that they are implementing to ensure the transition to a more sustainable future for urban transport, to reduce car-use and transport emissions. Solutions include the creation of public electric transport infrastructures, development of vehicle to grid technologies, public smart lamp post to charge electric vehicles, smart traffic prediction systems, solar-powered e-ink displays in multimodal hubs and much more.

So, what are you waiting for? Share your #WeMoveSmart pictures, videos and stories on your social media channels.

The Horizon 2020 European Lighthouse projects which launched #WeMoveSmart are:

  • Atelier
  • +CityxChange
  • GrowSmarter
  • IRIS
  • MAtchUP
  • MySMARTLife
  • Sharing Cities
  • SmartEnCity
  • Smarter Together
  • Triangulum

In addition, they were supported by the European projects ASTRABAT and DRIVEMODE, developing a new Lithium Battery for electric vehicles and integrated modular distributed drivetrain for electric and hybrid vehicles, respectively.

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.

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:


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