By Ricky Cooper, Vice President, EMEA & APAC, Digital Realty
Across the region, cities are racing to make themselves ‘smarter’. Aiming to improve the future quality of life for their citizens, councils and governments are hard at work on a range of projects that will shape urban centres for decades to come.
These projects are taking many forms. Some focus on transportation strategies while others look at issues such as waste management, high-speed networks, commercial buildings, and housing. Together, the projects are supporting a larger vision – a platform for a smart city.
To work effectively, such a platform must connect all the components and projects that make up the overall smart city vision. These could be anything from sensor networks monitoring roads to green energy generation plants on rooftops.
Using the platform to share data between different systems means a smart city can become even smarter over time. Traffic control signals can change based on the number of cars on the road, buildings can alter power consumption based on weather patterns, and citizens can have ready access to information and government services.
To encourage the trend, the European Union established the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities. This initiative was designed to foster big ideas that could help large cities across the region reach their smart and green energy goals by 2020.
Some cities are setting their own objectives and timelines for creating smart ecosystems. For example, in Vienna, the city council is encouraging the creation of community-funded power plants. Solar panels located in solar power plants can be ‘purchased’ by residents with an agreed rent then paid back against their power bills. The city-owned energy provider Wien Energie has a goal of producing 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030.
Meanwhile, Barcelona has captured global attention with its BCN smart city and 22@Barcelona initiatives. The city is investing heavily in everything from transportation systems and public infrastructure to payment systems and health services. Part of the plan involves a push to encourage a shift to electric vehicles in the city. The Council is investing in electric taxis and buses and has established a network of 300 free public charging points for private cars.
At the same time, London is progressing with its Smart London Vision. This comprehensive plan tackles ways in which the city can cope with an estimated increase in its population of one million people during the next decade. Part of this plan involves innovative approaches to the use of energy in the city, such as re-using waste heat from underground shafts and electricity sub stations.
We can expect to see many more such initiatives being adopted by cities throughout Europe and around the world in coming years. As smart city platforms evolve, the promised benefits for citizens will become tangible.
The lifeblood of a smart city platform is data. From sensors, devices and citizens, this data is vital for the success and positive impact of all the interconnected systems.
Naturally, the vast amount of data generated by a smart city needs to be managed, stored, and processed within a digital centre ecosystem that is future proof and has access to low latency networks and robust cloud platforms. For this reason, purpose-built connectivity-rich data centres are an essential component within the platform of every smart city as they will support the myriad activities that go into taking a smart city from a concept to a reality.