Amsterdam leads the way in becoming a Smart City

Written by Elena Collins on 8 January 2013

At the World Smart Cities Forum in Barcelona 2012, the city of Amsterdam won the World Smart Cities Awards for its Open Data Program for transport and mobility. The award, created to find the best projects and innovative cities, enhances the development of the cities of the future, where good living conditions, innovation, creativity and an efficient government are priorities. The winning Dutch scheme aims to improve the accessibility of Amsterdam.

DIVV, Amsterdam’s department for Infrastructure, Traffic and Transportation, won the award for its innovative products and services in the field of mobility. Since March 2012, DIVV has made available all its data on traffic and transportation to interested parties. Public data ranges from parking availability, taxi stands and cycle paths, as well as, live traffic updates are available on main roads across the city.

The data provided has allowed developers and entrepreneurs to create apps to improve the flow of people across the Dutch capital, giving Amsterdammers new insights and the chance to make decisions based upon actual facts and figures. Type of apps include Bike like a local, an app devised for tourists to help them to cycle across the city, Appening Amsterdam, a device to find out where to go on a night out and Drive Carefully, an app which alerts you if you are driving near a school.

Amsterdam is at the forefront of getting smarter from the bottom-up. Whilst new top-down projects such as Masdar City and Songdo, compete to become the ultimate smart city, Amsterdam has put together a “smart-city platform”: A combination of institutions and infrastructure that helps businesses and citizens develop and test green projects. 
Amsterdam Smart City website is full of schemes that have been adopted. Spanning from a sustainable platform that allows neighbours and friends to safely rent their cars to each other to sustainable neighbourhood where more than 500 home were provided with smart meters that should enable the residents to become more aware of their energy use. 

Masdar City

In comparison to top-down venture, Masdar, designed by international architecture firm Foster and Partners, aims to be the first, zero-carbon, zero-waste city. Once completed the site will be six square km with a transport system across the city running entirely underground. The city, which will ultimately become home to 40,000 people, is estimated to cost between US$18.7bn and $19.8bn. The final completion is scheduled to occur between 2020 and 2025, being delayed by a combination of the economic crisis and by a lack of people and businesses wanting to move there. It is far to early to say whether this scheme will be a success or failure but Amsterdam has demonstrated that a bottom-up approach produces cheaper, quicker outcomes where the citizens can benefit.

Amsterdam is not the only European city to be living a smarter lifestyle. Copenhagen regularly wins top prize in rankings for its approach. Famous for its high rates of cycling commuters, close to 40%, and their green credentials are world class. Copenhagen ranked number one in Europe on the Siemens Greenest City Index and number one in my Smart Environment ranking as well. Copenhagen has a bold target of becoming the first major capital city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 to rival the manmade city of Masdar. 

Other European cities such as Stockholm also has strong green credentials ranking number two in Europe on the Siemens index whilst Vienna also has embraced open data with 168 data sets available to the public.

All this implies that smart cities that have grown bottom-up are the way forward. Masdar City may sound and look impressive but the World Smart Cities Awards demonstrates that cities are already adopting policies in becoming sustainable. This begs the question, is it really worth the money and time to build a smart city from scratch when any city can become smart and resilient?

Categories: Technology, Transport, Amsterdam