The European Parliament has just published a report mapping Smart Cities in the European Union. This is an attempt to identify the number of ‘smart cities’ and their activities across Europe. As usual, this report is confusing, weighty and difficult to summarize or remove excerpts. But defines a smart city as “a city looking to solve public problems through technologies developed and implemented on the basis of multi-stakeholder partnerships”.
This is one aspect that is intended to be a more concrete definition describing in detail the types of actions and areas of intervention, which are now more recognizable:
Interestingly, smart city is defined in this study as any city that has developed activities in these areas. It is a broad definition and it is not surprising that in 468 cities of about 100,000 inhabitants 240 ‘smart cities’ (about half) are identified. Larger cities tend to be capable of being smarter than smaller ones.
But there are some issues related to the methodology used by investigators to identify these cities and their activities. They used published information, the cities own Web pages as well as information, if any, of EU-funded projects, specifically for the Smart Cities theme. They themselves recognize that there is information that might have been ignored, referring to cities, for example, that are not adept at advertising and communicating or even sharing their work.
The researchers analyzed different types of actions and concluded that the actions related to ‘environment’ and ‘mobility’ are the most common with 33% and 21% of smart initiatives, respectively.
But the study quickly changes from this extended number of cities, to a restricted group of 37 cities and then 20 cities are analyzed in detail in each of the stages until, finally, reaching a more detailed observation of 6 cities which have the highest ‘smart city’ activity.
The report was submitted to the Commission in order to issue recommendations. The rapporteurs found that most of the initiatives in the smart cities are not mature – and so recognize that there is a ‘source’ of activity that needs to be planned and programmed across Europe in this area.
The key factors behind successful Smart Cities have also been identified, such as: inspirational leadership; an inclusive approach to avoid biases; and the need for specialized management dedicated to the theme to implement initiatives.
A key concern of the Commission and its partners, expressed in this Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership study is the need to identify scalable solutions. The report concludes that the goal of scalability/dissemination would be more appropriate if:
- The potential to expand the scale of existing projects (by adding partnerships or areas) or duplicating projects in other areas could be strengthened by a strong administration, sustainable sponsoring and an ideal mix of clusters.
- Citizens play an important role in “Smart Neighborhoods” and in ‘participation platforms’ initiatives, therefore they should have strategic roles in the development and execution.
- The participation of a private company (ideally national or a member country) as a key element in parallel with the city authorities and local businesses can provide an institutional basis to increase the scale. However, there is also the risk of excessive accumulation of market dominance in these specific companies.
- Cooperation is needed between cities to create Smart Cities common platforms for large-scale development and testing.
The report calls for more research and data, the establishment of a European Platform for Smart City as well as the establishment of well-defined rules and measures to increase the support from the European Commission for the Smart Cities and Communities.
This is a willful report, an attempt to summarize the smart city activity in the EU and it has some flaws. But it starts by measuring the amount of activity taking place and the relative immaturity of the concept and what it needs to evolve. It also recognized the need for new investments by cities, national governments and the EU itself in this area.
It’s not fair to address the quality of the entire document in such a short space and with few words, nor is it intended to make an exhaustive summary of the same, thus it is advisable to read the text by clicking on this link.