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Europe’s Smart City Initiative Links Energy, Transportation, & IT

Eric Woods — July 25, 2012

The European Commission has launched a new funding program that will help drive smart city innovation through the closer integration of energy, transportation and IT.  The Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC) extends the Smart Cities and Communities Initiative that was launched in 2011.

The initiative already has funding for 2012 of €81 million ($100 million), and the initial demonstration projects will focus on transportation and energy.  With the launch of the new partnership, the budget for 2013 has been increased to €365 million ($450 million), and IT has been added to energy and transportation.  Significantly, every demonstration project financed under the scheme will now have to combine all three sectors.

The accompanying communication from the Commission highlights the specific challenges facing European cities.  New building represents only around 1% of housing stock, and less than 10% of vehicle stock is newly registered each year.  So there’s limited opportunity for greenfield development in cities and the adoption of new technologies is slow.  It’s therefore essential that European cities find cost-effective, repeatable, and pragmatic solutions if they are to meet their environmental goals and drive economic growth.

The Commission rightly sees the integration of technologies across sectors as one area in which this can be achieved.  If the smart city concept is to be more than a veneer of hype over business-as-usual, it needs to drive new ways of connecting different aspects of city operations.  Without such a holistic view we will continue to build technology stovepipes and fail to realize the real potential of new IT platforms and new ways of using data.

It’s also encouraging to see the EU putting transportation at the heart of its smart city agenda.  In our recent Pike Research webinar, Smart Cities and the Future of Transportation, Lisa Jerram and I explored why transportation is so important to the smart city vision.  Clean, smart transportation is crucial to meeting the three core objectives of the smart city: sustainability, economic development, and citizen well-being.

We were joined on the webinar by Arturo Corbi Vallejo from Schneider Electric.  Arturo detailed Schneider Electric’s SmartMobility Integrated City Management (ICM) solution, based on the company’s new smart city platform.  SmartMobility ICM is another example of suppliers that are developing integrated, platform-based solutions for city operations.  Schneider Electric’s approach is one of the first examples of a smart city platform concept to emerge from an infrastructure provider rather than from the IT world.

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