The city of Amsterdam has long been known for its canals, cafés, and bicycling culture. In recent years, though, it’s also become known as a model for what it takes to become a “smart city,” utilizing information technology to improve city services.
In April 2016, Amsterdam won Europe’s Capital of Innovation award by the European Commission. This €950,000 prize will help the city scale up innovation efforts to improve the way people live and businesses work.
A new case study by looks at the steps Amsterdam has taken since 2009 to become a smart city innovator and the insights the city’s experience presents into the complexities facing city managers. The case study is titled “Data-Driven City Management.”
Many major cities recognize the opportunity to improve urban life with data analytics, and some are exploring how to use data to develop more integrated services and a more sustainable footprint. Pioneering cities in the smart city movement include Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and Dublin, as well as Amsterdam. Data integration presents great opportunities, of course, but the challenge is that city managers must collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders — in both the public sector and private sector — to achieve those goals.
Among the findings of the case study:
Private-sector data is a critical part of changing policy. The Amsterdam Smart City initiative encompasses projects across eight categories: smart mobility, smart living, smart society, smart areas, smart economy, big and open data, infrastructure, and living labs. Many of these projects involve stakeholders outside of government. For example, the city has begun using GPS data from an Amsterdam-based navigation software and technology provider to help manage traffic flow in real time. This private sector input improves upon traffic management models that were built on data from 2011. Those models needed revamping because in 2016, the city has 25% fewer cars and 100% more scooters than it did in 2011.
Smart cities need chief technology officers. Data and analytics are crucial features of Amsterdam’s initiative, and Amsterdam appointed its first CTO to coordinate its data work in 2004. Ger Baron took the post after spending six years running the Amsterdam Smart City initiative and its predecessor organization.
Cities need to manage expectations. Publicity around the Internet of Things and big data has created expectations that smart city initiatives will produce fast breakthroughs — commutes cut in half, easy access to parking spots, significant energy savings. The reality is that cities like Amsterdam haven’t seen such rapid change. CTO Baron said that companies that come to Amsterdam, for instance, expect to find data that’s structured, but he says there are many steps that have take place before that’s the case (“we don’t even know how many bridges we have,” he notes).
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