How public data is making European cities smarter

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Ten medium-sized European cities—including Bruges, Delft and Mechelen—have partnered up with Cambridge Cleantech to develop solutions for urban environment challenges revolving around one main concept: open data. The multi-million-euro project will use open data to help tech start-ups make these cities smarter by connecting citizens, public service providers, innovators and experts. Here’s how these cities are looking at public service information in a new way, tapping into a market estimated to have a €300 billion value to tackle issues from parking to air quality.— Bruno De Man 


Cities Serving as Real-Life Labs 

One of Europe’s leading cleantech communities, Cambridge Cleantech, brings together members like French electric utility company Engie and digital innovation company Gitova to support innovative projects that have a positive effect in Cambridge and the UK, as well as across Europe. During the four-year Smart Cities Innovation Framework Implementation (SCIFI) project, Cambridge Cleantech will help manage a portion of the €3 to €5 million budget dedicated to open data innovation in the public sector.

“We’re delighted to be part of this exceptional partnership, which cements Cambridge Cleantech’s role as a path-finder in applications of Smart City technology. It’s an exciting and fast-growing area which is transforming the way we live, work and interact with our environment,” explains Sam Goodall, International Projects Manager at Cambridge Cleantech.

Mechelen, a city in the province of Antwerp, Belgium, will lead the way as 10 cities from across Europe come together to draft pilot schemes using publicly available data to improve parking, monitor air quality, optimize traffic flow, and encourage energy efficient vehicles and buildings.

The idea behind the project is that cities are data suppliers and users, therefore they are “ideally positioned as launching customers for innovative products and services.” By creating a framework for collaboration between partner cities, this project will encourage the creation of Smart City products and services, from apps to software. Opening up public data is key for this project to succeed, but it’s not necessarily a guarantee for the creation of smart city solutions. What sets SCIFI apart, however, is how the project works with a demand-driven approach that “unlocks appropriate datasets and engages with the regional marketplace…helping cities guide the innovation market toward data-based solutions that serve their needs.

By bringing together medium-sized cities to tackle urban issues in real-life laboratories, this innovative open data plan is improving the quality of life for these cities while encouraging the growth of new products and services that can be applied to Smart City challenges around the world.