Flemish Minister Homans makes 1 million euros available for smart cities

Flemish minister for Public Governance Liesbeth Homans (N-VA), responsible for Urban Policy, launches the Smart Flanders program. This program will support the 13 central cities and the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels (VGC) in their development into smart cities. To make this possible, a project grant of 1.000.000 euros will be awarded to imec, the world’s leading research and innovation center in the field of nanoelectronics and digital technology. The program will run until the end of 2019. “Smart cities are cities that use open data and the latest solutions in IT to tackle problems like congestion and parking issues, improve air quality, digitally inform their citizens, etc.”, says Minister Homans.

In a smart city, city administrations, companies, research institutions and citizens’ initiatives create joint solutions for urban challenges. This can involve reducing congestion, creating a sustainable distribution of goods to and from the inner city, improving air quality, promoting health, ensuring an optimal parking policy, eliminating the barriers for disadvantaged groups etc.

High quality open data linked to the newest possibilities in IT (like the Internet of Things, which links sensors, cameras…) offer strong opportunities to help tackle these challenges. The Smart Flanders project is committed to the standardization of smart city data. By using the same formats for all players involved, it will be possible for private (app) developers to develop city applications that can be used in any city.

“We are on the eve of the great breakthrough of the Smart City. With imec, Flanders has a top research center with all the necessary technical expertise - even more so since its recent fusion with iMinds. Our cities are already investing in numerous initiatives. As the Flemish Government, we aim to help push forward this collaboration and coordination on city and Flemish level. The first Smart in the City Award (spring 2016) already marked the first step. We have the opportunity to place Flanders at the lead of the Smart Cities movement, but only if we join forces. The Smart Flanders program and imec will support the 13 central cities in making their smart city data available according to the newest European standards and formats, so that everyone can then use this data to develop smart applications,” says Minister Homans.

In a first phase of the support program, imec will help the cities and the VGC to become Open and Agile Smart Cities (OASC cities). This international initiative ensures the use of standardized data. With this support, the cities will learn how to open up their data in a high-quality way, recognized throughout Europe via an open data charter. By doing this, all city players will have an equal base to use the data and create urban solutions. This also means they will always be able to use the newest IT solutions without becoming dependent of certain platforms or third parties.

In a second phase, all cities will jointly select urban needs to solve with the help of certain data sets. This will result in 1 to 2 pilot projects per year, where smart city datasets are opened up and cities will collaborate and learn from each other. In a third phase, cities will also be able to use the ‘City of Things’ testbed in Antwerp. With this 100% realistic living lab, city authorities and urban participants can develop, test and optimize products and services with a positive effect on citizens.

Prof Dr. Pieter Ballon, (imec-smit, VUB) and author of the book ‘Smart cities, hoe technologie onze steden leefbaar houdt en slimmer maakt’ will coordinate this program for the coming years.