Smart City Initiatives

Leading examples of smart cities across the globe

Amsterdam’s Smart City: Ambitious Goals, Collaborative Innovation

The aim of Amsterdam’s 10-year-old smart city initiative is a high quality of living, sustainable economic development, and efficient use of natural resources. Evolving projects include open data platforms, smart grids, smart housing, distributed energy storage, smart mobility, and improved connectivity.

Amsterdam’s smart city promotes partnerships between authorities, businesses, research bodies, and citizens, who jointly initiate and lead smart city projects—this model has come to be known as Smart City 3.0. Amsterdam manages over 70 smart city projects with more than 100 partners.

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Ambitious Goals, Open Data

In 2009, Amsterdam was one of the first European cities to launch a smart city program, with the goal of improving its economy, environment, government, living, and mobility.

Amsterdam created an open database uniting 12,000 data sets from all 32 city districts, with data including addresses, land value, healthcare, traffic, and education. The city pioneered the idea of open sourcing the data, making it openly available to citizens and innovators since 2012.

Amsterdam’s Smart City Platform: Managing Smart City Innovation

Utrechtsestraat avenue is an example of a collaborative project, in which the city and local companies joined to make the avenue more energy efficient. They used technologies like energy-efficient LED lighting, waste reduction, and recyclable tram stops and succeeded in reducing energy use on the street by 10%.

Learn More about smart city initiatives in our guide: Singapore Smart City: A Holistic Transformation

Smart City Projects

Amsterdam built the Amsterdam Smart City (ASC), a platform for managing smart city projects and sharing data. Projects in ASC are divided into seven areas:

Infrastructure and Technology

Amsterdam invested heavily early on in an underlying infrastructure to support smart city projects and is continuing to develop its smart infrastructure.

  • Internet traffic: Eleven out of fifteen transatlantic data cables pass through or are connected with Amsterdam. AMS-IX is the second biggest internet exchange point on the globe.
  • IoT living lab: An area of 3,700 square meters equipped with IoT-enabled smart beacons. The beacons communicate via LoRaWan, a new machine-to-machine protocol, to transmit small packets of data over distances of up to three kilometers. Users can access data from the beacons using Bluetooth-enabled devices and use it to develop new smart city apps. The aim of the lab is to let startups and innovators test IoT solutions in real urban environments.
  • City alerts: A message exchange service between the police, fire department, and ambulance services. The system uses a color-coded alert system agreed between all emergency organizations and provides real-time operation instructions for rescuers.
  • Smart city lighting: The port of Amsterdam has dimmable LED lights that illuminate bike paths using solar and wind energy. Bicyclists can use an app to increase lighting, which automatically dims after they pass.

Smart Energy, Water, and Waste

Amsterdam is increasing its use of sustainable energy sources. The city is providing centrally controlled sustainable energy facilities, and also allowing citizens to produce and exchange energy between them.

  • GridFriends: A smart grid used for sharing energy. It stores and distributes power from sustainable energy sources according to demand.
  • Zonstation 1: Installation of solar panels on the roofs of metro stations.
  • Comfort cooling: a plant that uses the low temperature of the nearby river IJ for the cooling of buildings in the Amsterdam Houthaven district.

Smart Mobility

Many Amsterdam residents already use bicycles as a form of transportation. There is also an increase in the use of electric cars and car-sharing. Some examples include:

  • Vehicle2Grid: Vehicle-to-grid, a concept developed to use electric cars as backup power during outages, also provides solutions for storage of renewable electricity in the Netherlands.
  • Toogethr: A car-sharing platform that improves commuting to workplaces, and reduces congestion and emissions. It suggests optimal pairings of drivers and passengers.
  • Parkshuttle: An autonomous transportation platform that began in the early 2000s. There are currently six vehicles, which drive through five stations and carry approximately 2,500 people daily.

Circular City

The vision of a circular city states, that anything produced in the city should be reused within the city to produce new products or services, reducing waste and the cost of raw materials. Amsterdam has launched several projects to bring it closer to this vision.

  • Reuse of waste materials: Garbage is incinerated to generate electricity, while a portion of sewer water is transformed into natural gas.
  • CO2 smart grid: A network that uses CO2 to generate energy, reducing the use of raw materials of fossil origin.
  • Hemelswater: The company aims to make buildings in the city rainproof. They also intend to harness rainwater for the production of products like beer. Beer is brewed by catching water in large tanks before it reaches the sewers.
  • Bio-based street benches: Biocomposite is used to create street benches across the city. In the future, it will be used to create other city features like street signs.

Governance and Education

Amsterdam Chief Technology Office works together with all seven city departments to drive and facilitate smart city innovation, and encourage individuals in the private sector to develop smart city technology.

  • Smart entrepreneurial lab: A learning center that connects researchers and students with businesses so they can collaborate on projects aimed to improve life in the city.
  • Startupbootcamp: An accelerator working worldwide, which makes connections between smart city startups, investors, partners, and consultants, including a Startup in Residence program. Amsterdam is home to 921 startups.
  • Smart students: 20 students from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences are working on smart solutions for the Nieuw-West district, in collaboration with residents.

Citizen Participation

The city encourages its citizens to participate in innovations that will improve city life. Some initiatives include:

  • Smart citizens lab: Citizens can learn how to measure air quality and water conditions to take responsibility for their impact on the environment.
  • Rooftop revolution: A growing number of rooftops in the city are becoming green. This is beneficial for the ecosystem and enhances the city’s appearance.
  • Age-friendly: The city interviewed elderly citizens to learn how it can become more age-friendly.

Smart City Academy

Amsterdam is publishing information about smart city projects via a dedicated area on its website, and encouraging innovators to share their stories.

  • Sustainable storytelling: Raises awareness of projects like green rooftops, using videos and storytelling.
  • Futureteams: A collaboration between students and businesses. Students gain experience and solve real-world problems faced by businesses.

Learn More about smart city initiatives in our guide: Columbus Smart City: Technology In Support Of Social Opportunity

Amsterdam as a Model for Smart City 3.0

Smart City 1.0 was the initial deployment of smart technology like sensors and big data platforms, and Smart City 2.0 involved the rollout of practical solutions that impact the lives of citizens. Smart City 3.0 is a further evolution in which citizens and private organizations actively participate in creating and expanding smart city solutions.

Amsterdam’s smart city is a model for the smart city 3.0 paradigm. It was designed from the outset to be co-created by citizens, and the city facilitates smart projects led collaboratively by communities, businesses, and residents.

This is based on the realization that citizens can often identify requirements and provide solutions faster and more effectively than administrators. At the same time, leadership by the city government and investment in core projects that provide infrastructure for the smart city are critical to success. Amsterdam’s smart city will continue to thrive and develop if it maintains this delicate balance between public participation and thoughtful municipal facilitation.