City of Things

City of Things: discover today the possibilities of tomorrow’s smart cities

Bringing the Internet of Things – which uses the Internet to connect physical objects with each other and with us – to the City of Antwerp. This is what imec’s City of Things project is about.

Hundreds of smart sensors and wireless gateways positioned at carefully selected locations across streets and buildings will transform the city into a true living lab for the Internet of Things (IoT). The long-term objective is to connect thousands of Antwerp citizens with numerous innovative solutions that will considerably improve their quality of life – by positively impacting mobility and public safety in the city, among other things.

Large-scale testing ground

Experiments are traditionally carried out within a constrained and controlled research environment. In the context of the City of Things (CoT) project, however, the entire city is transformed into a testbed where data are collected and analyzed on a large scale.

Antwerp citizens, city officials, businesses and academic researchers are teaming up to examine Smart Cities’ potential – with digital IoT innovations providing an answer to urban challenges.

CoT research tracks include the development of new network technologies to efficiently connect sensors to the Internet, translating large amounts of data (from those sensors) into knowledge, and gathering and applying user insights to turn that knowledge into innovative products and services.

  • Testing new network technologies – By rolling out the Internet of Things across the entire city, CoT provides an ideal and realistic testing environment for new network technologies.
  • Big data mining provides a wealth of information – From measuring air quality to monitoring traffic flows and detecting car park occupancy levels: the CoT project provides a comprehensive open data platform for monitoring life in Antwerp in real time. By turning these data streams into valuable information, a wealth of knowledge is created that can be used by countless new applications.
  • Actively engaging the Antwerp citizens in the creation, testing and optimization of innovative processes, products and services – Developing, testing and scaling up digital innovations within a real-life environment (and with the help of citizens) is now possible, thanks to City of Things. To do so, the project leverages interactive user research (such as panel feedback and co-creation) and innovative business modelling within a real-life, large-scale setting.

City of Things is all about research ‘in the field’. By deploying IoT technologies, we want to further enhance the quality of life for citizens, while respecting people’s privacy.

In a second stage, it is our intention to open up the CoT infrastructure (to international) researchers, and position Antwerp as the 'smart city' par excellence. The scale on which we can conduct network, data and user tests – covering a surface of 80 square kilometers – and the thriving ecosystem of start-ups and SMEs that can use the CoT to test their services, make for a unique value proposition.

New applications for a smarter city

Within the context of the City of Things project, imec aims to bring together users, developers, entrepreneurs, government agencies and research institutes. Their common goal: to develop innovative products, services and business models that make the city a more enjoyable place to live and work. Examples include:

  • apps that monitor personal health parameters or air quality,
  • improved mapping and monitoring of social interactions and citizen initiatives,
  • mobility apps for monitoring traffic flows and detecting car park occupancy levels, or for flexibly adjusting travel routes in line with real-time traffic issues,
  • customized multimedia applications, interactive displays throughout the city.

A smart city is not a ready-made product. It results from concrete pilot projects in which city officials, companies, start-ups and citizens closely collaborate in order to tackle urgent mobility, security and livability issues. As such, cities become permanent living labs with an open infrastructure and open data by means of which innovative services and apps can be created and tested.

Enter the City of Things

Ready for a unique city trip? This video will guide you through the hidden alleys and laneways of our City of Things.


City of Things is a project developed by imec in partnership with the City of Antwerp.