‘We’re now into connecting geospatial data policy and smart cities’

‘We’re now into connecting geospatial data policy and smart cities’


TemenoujkaRob van de Velde
Director, Geonovum
The Netherlands

Geonovum has been mandated to come up with a 5-year roadmap for the Smart City requirements to the geospatial data infrastructure in Netherlands. Geospatial World talks to its Director, Rob van de Velde, to know more.

What is a ‘smart’ city to you?

Smart city is the movement towards high developed society where citizens use more and more technology to make their life easier and more comfortable. It’s an ecosystem driven by smart citizens, smart governance and innovative private sectors that offer smart services and technology that make life easier. I think the power of citizens is what drives a smart city. It’s all about the citizens. Government agencies and city council want to get smarter so they know the problems on the street and how to solve them faster to serve the citizens. And now there are more and more smart technology and services partners in the market. It’s an ongoing process but I think we’re at the door step of a really exciting thing.

What are the game changers in smart city initiative?

We’re getting more open data. The idea is we’re in an open society where typical data on energy, waste production, traffic, etc is open so everybody has a certain access to traffic data, the routing of public transport, the number of cars on the street, construction barriers, and others. The other one is the breakthrough of location-based services because for citizens, his own environment is what counts, it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the other side. So when LBS is able to turn the data into information related to one’s location, that’s a crucial development. I think LBS are now matured, there are so many apps using GPS. That’s another game changer. The third one is the ongoing potential and uses of sensors, where we can measure everything at low cost. We can inform the municipality about waste on the street just by using camera as a sensor. Sensors are getting more and more integrated in our everyday life. Soon we’re expecting low-cost sensors for air quality, noise, temperature, water quality, etc.

How big is the role of private sectors in developing a smart city?

Currently, it’s the private sector who is knocking on the government door with their technology solutions. Both large and small companies often come with technological ideas which envision the idea of smart city. So they’re an important driver as they’re with the ideas. Although it will be too early to have a robust public-private-partnership model, private sectors have shown great innovation to support our smart city programme.

For example, Philips, a Dutch technology company specializes in lighting, invented a technology to adapt street lights to indicate situations on the street. This is currently done in Eindhoven in an area with a lot of bars and cafes where students love to hang out at night. What Philips does is that the street lights change colour when there’s too much noise and complaints. So this is smart lighting and it is invented by Philips. Now City of Eindhoven and Philips have a joint project to do this.

Does the ongoing economic crisis have any effect on Netherland’s smart city initiative?

I don’t think so. The main driver of a smart city is the citizens who like to be smart. They like to know where’s the traffic jam and what’s going on in their area. Everybody owns a smart phone. The technology drive is so strong that it’s not affected by economic crisis. The internet of everything and sensors are the drivers, not economic growth. This will continue everywhere. Every month there will be new sensors or GPS technology that would be cheaper. So this is why I expect this is not strongly affected by economy.

On the other hand, budget from the government will be under pressure. The government needs to invest in authoritative data and data security. This could be harmed by the economic crisis. But there are a lot of players who does not rely on government funds.

Do you think citizens are playing their role?

Dutch are inquisitive and critical in nature. For example, there’re many Dutch citizens who has their own weather station. They buy and do their own measurement. They’ll be like thousands of people measuring and when you collect these data, you can do all kinds of analysis like the hotspots in the city. There will be people who are going to produce their own electricity using solar panel, and they publish their solar panel production on the internet. This is going on and on. So citizens have the economic power to buy things and do a lot of things themselves.

I understand Geonovum created an inventory of applications that are developed based on smart city concept in Netherlands. How does the findings help smart city agenda in the country?

We found 100 apps related to smart traffic, smart energy, smart waste etc. where location-based services are included. 60% of the respondents said they have the best practices, 30% said it’s just a proof of concept and the rest said it’s just an idea. So we need to think about moving from the idea to best practices. And in many cases the apps are local, i.e. only for one city. So we could understand the market maturation and that’s important in our agenda.

Which are the smartest cities in Netherlands?

In Netherlands, cities have their own ‘smart’ initiatives and issues. For example, Eindhoven is ‘smart’ in terms of leisure and safety. The Hague is trying to develop a ‘smart’ concept of summer days in the beach. During summer there are thousands of people going to the beach so they want to support all the tourist through smart traffic management, parking spaces, etc. Amsterdam has a well-known smart city program relating to energy, public participation and supporting smart citizens initiatives. While in Nijmegen, the issue is environment and public participation. There’s a new bridge recently completed in Nijmegen, which attracts more traffic to the area. The municipality wants to provide citizens in the affected area with sensors to measure noise and carbon monoxide. The experiment is to show the value of doing this together as a community and now they’re exploring ways to put all the measurements together online.

These days, geospatial data is flowing in multiple directions; between individuals, businesses, government agencies, and also across cities and countries. Is there any data policy in place to ensure interoperability and authenticity?

You cannot speak of one data policy, that’d be too complex. From government side, open data is the policy. It is being more and more implemented. For example, traffic data is an open data in Netherlands. I can go to the website of the national traffic agency and check how many cars passed by in front of my office today, what are the velocities, etc.

There is a geospatial information policy in Netherlands that has already been there for 10 years. We have a system of key registers for topography, buildings, addresses, cadastre, cables and pipelines, soil and subsurface.. And there is the INSPIRE directive, which targets on the open access of many more key data on the environment.

And we’re now into the connection of this geospatial data-infrastructure and smart cities. When we want to continue smart cities, what is needed in relation to this geospatial data infrastructure. What are the data we’re missing, what are the standards requirement, what is the reliability, pricing issues, etc. These are now the agenda. We’re trying to connect this. That’s the reason why Geonovum is involved in this smart city concept. To connect geospatial information and geospatial policy to smart cities. By the end of the year, we will present a roadmap for geospatial data in Netherlands as we aim to be one smart city with smart citizen, smart companies, smart government and what are the consequences of that to our geospatial data infrastructure.

Geonovum organizes ‘Living Lab – making sense for society’, a joint programme for national agencies like Rijkswaterstaat RIVM, TNO and also the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Economic Affairs and four cities – Eindhoven, The Hague, Nijmegen and Zwolle. The Living Lab community will meet in every two months to present experiences, issues, solutions to what we can do when we combine all the data, what is the role of geospatial, what is the open data issue, what’s the privacy issue and so on. On 25th September, we have a meeting in Eindhoven, all day, where people from Eindhoven will showcase their issues. There will also be a few international speakers. This event is open for public participation.