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The Dynamics of the Smart City

- August 2017

Smart parking technology in Barcelona, Spain, Smart Grid in Carros, France, and Smart Home in Cologne, Germany...: Smart Cities are developing across the European Union. Though very heterogeneous, Smart Cities aim at (i) supporting sustainable growth, (ii) improving the quality of life of citizens, and (iii) using efficiently natural resources. The development of Smart Cities requires extensive investment in infrastructure – notably in roads, buildings, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Smart Cities are developing at the crossroad of several public policy fields – such as data protection, environmental requirements and collaborative economy. To better grasp the Public Affairs implications of Smart Cities, Lighthouse Europe explores the six pillars of the Smart City. 

Photo credits: AP/Wong Maye-E

  • Smart Governance uses technological resources to improve the efficiency of the public services, in line with three principles: accountability, responsiveness, and transparency. The use of technologies allows for a participatory policy-making with cities like Paris (here) developing participatory budgets, which citizens can discuss and rate to through a platform.

  • A Smart Economy is first and foremost a knowledge economy, meaning that innovation and technologies are its most important driving forces. Based on the increase of human capital (knowledge, skills, and creativity), this “idea economy” can be organized by public authorities through clusters of stakeholders, with special support for start-ups and SMEs with eco-friendly projects and/or proposing to renew consumption patterns. In this regard, collaborative economy or blockchain platforms are part of the Smart Economy.

  • Smart Environment refers to the ability of the Smart City to both preserve nature and to build its resilience to climate change, to become as green and clean as possible. A Smart City has to manage its water and waste, improve its energy efficiency, support renewable energies, and give intensives towards a low-carbon environment. A concrete example is Smart Grids, which are for now mostly developed in eco-neighborhoods: the optimization of the electricity network thanks to users’ data can reduce energy consumption.

  • Smart Living refers mainly to home equipment and associated services. The spreading of domotic systems, notably through IoT, aims to increase the quality of life of the inhabitants of a Smart City. The development of such tools is inherent to the City's goal of becoming greener, cleaner, and more efficient as it can help, for example, monitoring the energy or water consumption of a house.

  • Smart Mobility focuses on the mobility of the citizens and not one of their vehicles. The balance between speed transports and the environment has to be resolved through the construction of intermodal infrastructures and a fair city planning. Public policies in favor of soft mobility, technologies in order to deal with traffic congestion, connected vehicles, and IoT developed to ease access to parking spaces are all part of the concept of Smart Mobility.

  • Last but not least, Smart Society is a crucial pillar of Smart City as it conditions all the other pillars. The integration of universities in other pillars is necessary to create Smart Society. This involvement goes hand in hand with the increase of lifelong learning for workers to develop the expertise needed in the development of the five other pillars.

Photo credits: Lighthouse Europe

As much as it seems there are only silver linings when depicting a Smart City, some underlying issues can arise from such an urban development. The Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) of the European Parliament (MEP) Dita Charanzová (ALDE, Czech Republic) pointed out that the Smart City is a field where the Member States need to act collectively now in order to avoid fragmentation of regulations and create a European level playing field.

The question has to be asked: who will have the ownership of the data produced by Smart Cities? The new General Data Protection Regulation, which will be applicable on the 25th of May 2018, propose a harmonized framework at the European level. The compliance of Smart Cities with this new piece of legislation needs to be assessed as its entry into force is in less time than a year. On the other hand, the e-Privacy Regulation, which applies to all electronic communications, is being currently revised. This text will apply to many devices used in Smart Cities, notably the IoTs as the regulation extends its scope “to current and future means of communication”. However, the e-Privacy Regulation doesn’t provide further rules on data retention.

Data retention will indeed be key as the technologies needed to develop Smart Cities, especially the IoT, will generate a massive amount of data, a.k.a. Big Data. Big Data will be crucial to further improve technologies such as Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. However, these subjects are just starting to be addressed by European legislators: the European Commission should be presenting proposal for cybersecurity, and notably to secure IoTs, next September. The use of these technologies in the Smart City will raise issues in the health and the environmental sectors as a snowball effect, beyond the management of data: the way medicine is practiced and how energy is produced will change.

Stakeholders of the Smart Cities across Europe have the opportunity to participate today in building rules and create the way cities will function in the future; it is time to grasp the dynamics of the Smart City!


By Mathilde Adjutor

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