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What is Smart City doing for the climate?

02 December 2019

At the elections in October 2018, and then in May 2019, the inhabitants of Brussels sent a clear message about their priorities. We saw a “green wave” in both the communal and regional authorities: climate change is finally a priority in political agendas.

Written by Céline Vanderborght, Smart City Manager of the Brussels-Capital Region

In its Statement of Regional Policy (“Déclaration de Politique Régionale” (“DPR”), the Brussels-Capital Region makes environmentalism a major part of its legislature with the following title:  a Region that considers its social and economic development as part of a benchmark environmental transition for 2050 (“DPR”). The Smart City is also a major part of this statement, and is the theme of an entire chapter

How can we connect these Smart City ambitions and this requirement to make the environmental transition? Firstly, there is a very clear focus on artificial intelligence and policy on open data.  

Artificial intelligence and data must allow the territories to: 
  • Select the most appropriate projects, the ones that are in line with our environmental transition goals 
  • Constantly improve and monitor the existing projects and the policies implemented with the same goals in mind 
  • Innovate and offer new solutions 
The objective of the Government is to support artificial intelligence to serve the ecological transition and the economy (e.g. better management of mobility, transport efficiency, pollution peak forecasts, etc.)“. At the same time, the Government will support an open data policy for public data, with a view to developing solutions for society (e-health, mobility, administration etc.) (“DPR”). 

Regarding data, the Region has set the foundations of an ambitious, transversal, and coordinated policy based on 3 measures

1. Know your data

Build and maintain a map of all of the general data of the infrastructure and users in the Brussels-Capital Region. 

In particular, the implementation of the cartography must allow us to establish a governance for the data at the level of the Region, and to respect the “Only Once” principle which prohibits administrations from asking for identification information again, which citizens or companies have already provided to another administration.
  • To implement this initial measure, Brussels can use the services integrator Fidus, the website, the network of Data Officers, and the new data service of BRIC. 

2. Offer a unique platform that brings together data and projects

As there are many initiatives that have been identified, it is obvious that there must be a single platform that makes it possible to share and process the available data, and the existing applications and services with all of the public and private stakeholders that are interested. And to make it easier to use the solutions again, government procurement contracts must promote the publication of applications and data with open source licences.  

The government statement also reiterates the need to have this platform: To improve the quality, performance, and interactiveness of public services, the Government will develop a public platform to host all of the applications related to the Smart City, whether they are government or citizens’ initiatives, and to increase the interoperability and the exchange of data for the city and its inhabitants (“DPR”).
  • The ultimate objective is to put together all of the current Open Data, IoT, and API Gateway data in the same location. It would be completely possible to extend the scope of this future platform to enable the publication of projects led by citizens and the private sector. To this end, Brussels can use the Smart City Office and the website

3. Develop a Smart Grid network

Connectivity is very important for both sending the collected data to applications that process them to provide services and information to end users. The deployment of 5G in the near future, which will comply with the precautionary principle and take place after an assessment concerning its impact in terms of the environment, public health, economic effectiveness, data security, and data privacy (DPR), will encourage the development of services that consume large amounts of data and the gradual implementation of smart grids. In particular, these smart grids will be used to optimise the provision of electricity to consumers with two-way digital communication.  
  • The Brussels-Capital Region has it own optical fibre network (IRISnet), which gives it a significant advantage and is a major lever for implementing “smart” solutions such as optimizing the use of buildings and improving mobility. 
I would like to conclude by highlighting an additional point that connects the Smart City and the ecological transition: “green IT”. 

Indeed, the presently neglected dimension of the sustainable management of new technologies which are themselves major consumers of energy, will take centre stage in the coming years: rare earth metals in devices, use of bandwidth, the expansion of video images, the concept of digital sobriety, and the increased use of low tech. 
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