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“Picture the city as a giant, shared smartphone!”

Digitalisation and smart cities make our lives easier; however, for a city to be truly smart requires a common platform and coherent digital services.

Many cities offer their residents a variety of digital services, whether that be eServices or connected litter bins and parking controls. Although Swedish cities are becoming increasingly digitalised, taking the next step towards a smart city demands that municipalities work in a more structured manner to collect data and make it available. Municipalities need an open, common platform that can be shared by all of their departments, with various digital services working in unison. If, in addition, all Swedish towns and cities use the same platform framework, it will be easy to transfer services between them, and the country’s 290 municipalities will avoid the need to reinvent the wheel. 

Taking parking controls as an example, the common platform will be able to use data collected from parked cars and link it to other types of service such as a visualisation offering motorists an overview of available parking spaces in the vicinity.

“This would allow motorists to avoid driving around in search of a parking space. Perhaps in future they will even be able to book a parking space, while the collected data can also be used to analyse which parking spaces have the highest levels of use at various times of the day or year. However, if other providers are to be able to create new services based on this data, an open and common platform is needed. Parking providers must then make their data available,” says Claus Popp Larsen, head of Urban Life at RISE, who continues:

“Picture the city as a giant, shared smartphone!”

Smart cities promote democracy

One of the benefits of digitalised, smart cities is that they streamline the urban environment to provide residents with more and better services, as in the parking example above. There is however also a democratic aspect; society becomes more transparent if data is available to all and more people are able to participate in urban design.

“Inhabitants can become more active in a variety of processes. Suppose that the municipality decides to build a new city district – residents can walk through a virtual 3D representation and have their say in influencing the design of the new district.”

RISE offers recommendations to municipalities

RISE has recently completed the project "Mapping Urban Platforms" as part of the IoT Sweden innovation programme. The project was financed by Vinnova, and RISE has prepared recommendations on how municipalities and their suppliers can work with common platforms.

“In part the recommendations deal with the platform interface, as well as how they should work with data through a common platform. As an example, it is important that providers share their data, which may in turn be used for an entirely different purpose,” says Claus Popp Larsen, who goes on to explain that his own vision for the city of the future is a digital, smart society in which technology assists people, although only as an unseen background presence.

“Although the technology should make life easier for the city, its inhabitants and suppliers, there is no need for the residents of a city to see the technology; it should be there in the background making life easier for us, completely automatically and without us having to think about it. Today, we are all far too focused on gadgets and technology,” concludes Claus Popp Larsen.