How are European cities turning smart to not only recover from the COVID-19 pandemic but also to ensure a cleaner, safer future for citizens?
Cities across Europe are going more digital as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most cities leveraging technology in different ways to reduce the risk of infection and drive energy efficiency.
As citizens emphasise a need for cleaner, safer living environments, governments are upping the ante on smart deployments.
Connected infrastructure has supported the city’s post-pandemic recovery.
A decrease in traffic and shift from public transport to other modes of transport, such as private car and bicycle were noted through the sensor systems that were installed several years ago.
Copenhagen has many sensors deployed to monitor air quality and ensure operational traffic management, however, the analytics tools needed to be upgraded to manage the increased amounts of data and support the city’s long-term evaluation goals.
Environmental ambitions have been crystalised in Copenhagen especially after reduced air pollution due to the traffic-related consequences of the lockdown. The city experiences 400 fatalities per year from air pollution, and in order to reach climate neutrality by 2025, less traffic and better-managed traffic is a must.
The city is working on a city-wide mobility plan to make traffic islands in residential areas decrease through-going traffic. More sensors will be connected through the central traffic management system and data communications equipment, and analytics tools will be improved upon.
Spain is combatting similar challenges around mobility, pollution reduction, transport and public space management. As the government increasingly focuses on improving the quality of life for people and ensuring safety, a notable shift in policy is taking place.
Due to COVID, public transport is at an all-time low. Spain wants to rebuild trust through increasing transport options. However, in order to prepare accordingly, data is needed to understand who travels when and where.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seen as the answer to managing public space and mobility. For example, in June 2020, AI monitored traffic to and from the beach in Barcelona, giving the city an idea of how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Spain is prioritising its long-term strategy to deploy AI instruments and actions to measure data, as digitalised cities are demonstrating a quicker COVID recovery path.
Smart street lighting was used on the streets of London during the pandemic, which allowed the city to dim the lights on quiet streets remotely. This saved money, carbon tax, and energy and allowed quick decisions to be made from a distance concerning street management. The solution worked in parallel with the London transport strategy, which is designed to make roads more pedestrian-friendly.
Internal control systems allowed monitoring of street, air quality, transport and river safety data. However, these solutions need to be scaled up, a development that requires an increased budget. Local authorities are due for restructuring, which will allow COVID-19 recovery to be prioritised and budgets to be pooled.
Paris experienced a strict lockdown during the pandemic with only rapid response teams allowed on site. Street light and traffic cabinets with Itron devices allowed remote management, a solution that will continue in the long term.
Recently, Paris built 50 kilometres of bicycle lanes to provide an alternative to the subway during the pandemic. Data suggest this temporary development has proven popular as a mode of transport and the city will now implement multi-modal sensors to collect more data and understand how people want to travel.
Using sensors to track pedestrians was also useful during the pandemic, to note attendance in city parks, how to regulate people entering and exiting, and at what time.
Paris innovation zones are also currently being used to trial new technology, study recycling, water management, and mobility.
Itron Utility Week’s first EMEA regional conference ( 16-17 March 2021) covered a variety of topics from distributed intelligence and smart cities to EV acceleration and grid modernisation.
Register to listen to these sessions, which are available on demand.