According to Agoria, the Belgian Technology Federation, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers by 2020. But how far have we come in Belgium with this? And what is the purpose of smart cities for society?
What exactly is a Smart City?
A Smart City uses Internet of Things, data and analytics to improve the quality of life and comfort of its citizens. and to optimise urban processes and services while respecting economic, social and sustainable aspects. According to a study by the Smart City Institute, Belgian municipalities and cities associate a smart city with a high level of digitisation. In addition, a smart city that is engaged in sustainable development.
It is striking that a national municipality does not attach the same importance to the same principles as an urban municipality. In Flanders, digitisation is the main priority, while inhabitants of the Brussels-Capital Region prefer to improve their quality of life.
The Belgian smart city landscape
In Belgium, we believe that there is still a lot to add to the smart city strategy. In a self-assessment, Belgian cities and municipalities give themselves a very low score. To be more specific: 3.5/10 (Flanders), 4/10 (Brussels), and 3.7 (Wallonia). The Belgium government has to play an essential role in the introduction of a Smart City.
There is political support in half of the Belgian municipalities, but further improvements are still needed. This is mainly the case in Wallonia and Brussels.
The focus points in each region seem to differ. Antwerp, for example, excels in smart mobility, while East and West Flanders and Limburg do well in the field of smart governance. Currently, only the provinces of Antwerp, East Flanders and West Flanders receive European subsidies for their smart city projects. The other provinces can manage with regional subsidies or their own funding.
The benefits for Belgium
Urbanisation presents us with many challenges, such as mobility, climate change and CO2 pollution. A smart city tries to anticipate these challenges by means of IOT techniques and analytics.
- For example, smart traffic lights can record traffic data at an intersection. And then use AI to make a predictive analysis of how the intersection can be optimized in terms of traffic and environment.
- Although our Belgian cities and towns already contribute to the whole Smart City story, there is still a lot of untapped potential. In Belgium, for example, very little (2.3%) is opted for smart light fittings when replacing a street lamp. For the Netherlands and France, this percentage is already 10 and 7 percent respectively.
- Smart lampposts are connected to the internet. The digitisation of these lighting poles will give the city or municipality an overview of its entire lighting network. The amount of data that such a lamppost collects is impressive; data about your real electricity consumption, the number of lighting hours per lamp, the overview of the maintenance work that the lamppost has ever undergone.
- The data can also be used for predictive purposes. For example, the city council can use these traffic data to make an estimate of exactly when they will have to repair that lamppost again. It is crucial to anticipate this in advance, because no lighting on the road can lead to an accident. In addition, the connected lamps can also be integrated with other smart city applications at certain locations in the city or municipality.