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The city of Eindhoven promotes a smart society

The next Dutch city that I would like to focus on after Amsterdam and ‘s-Hertogenbosch  is Eindhoven.

This is the city where Philips started its business some 150 years ago. And they developed this from light bulbs to some of the most sophisticated electronic devices in the world. But, as is the case for so many of those old blue-chip companies, Philips had great difficulties with the transformation to the new digital environment.

They have downsized quite a lot, but at the same time the city has been able to retain a significant part of the original experience and expertise, and among other things that has resulted in a large number of small and mid-sized companies in the field of electronics. More recently a focused attention is being given to innovation hubs for smart cities and the Technical University of Eindhoven is playing a key role in this development.  Not surprisingly considering its heritage Philips itself is also a leader in the field of smart lighting.

The city is also the birthplace of the DAF company, which, while initially it also manufactured private cars, is best-known for its trucks. These trucks are now among the most sophisticated digital vehicles in the world. They are all centrally monitored worldwide on a range of safety, driving and technical issues; not unlike what is happening in the airline industry. This transport legacy is also taken forward as the city is leading the Netherlands in the area of smart transport.

Key overall smart city developments that need to be mentioned here are ‘Brainport’ and Smart City Helmond.

Originally an initiative of the University of Eindhoven, Brainport has grown into a collaborative of several levels of government as well as many private businesses. It is all about using technology to facilitate the growth of a smart society.

Brainport is very active in Smart City Helmond. Here they are involved in the development of what they claim to be the smartest suburb in the world. An area of 85 hectares is set aside for 1,000 houses, shops and businesses where new technologies in relation to sustainability, transport, healthcare and safety are being implemented from the very start, with plenty of room for experimentation. This smart suburb – called Brandevoort – is just outside the city centre, which is also forcing the group to ensure an integration of green- and brownfield issues.

Key infrastructure here includes a fibre optic network and in this respect they benefit from an early start in this field – close to 20 years ago. Obviously this physical infrastructure is essential for the digital developments that are the key in the development of smart cities, suburbs and societies.

The city is also very much aware of the need to ensure that it will be one of those modern cities where people want to live, and of the need to compete with other mid-size cities, as well as with the four large cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht).

Only by making their city attractive will they be able to achieve that. An interesting project here is its entertainment area, known as Stratumseind. In previous decades this area had become a problem point in the city. They have largely solved the basic infrastructure problems but are now moving towards the next stage – how to make it so attractive that more people come to the area: in other words creating an attractive entertainment area, in both a social and a business sense.

For this purpose they have set up Living Lab Stratumseind. This is concentrated on IoT and big data technologies, not just for safety but very much to gather data, mapping overall people movements, noise levels, traffic activities, etc. One of the outcomes is a measuring of the atmosphere, as this is a key factor in an attractive entertainment precinct. The data can also be used by businesses and will guide them in making decisions in relation to new investments in venues, infrastructure, events and so on.

They have developed their big data rules and guidelines in collaboration with Amsterdam, with the aim of creating an open data policy while still ensuring privacy and data safety.

Back to some of their leadership projects …….

In relation to smart mobility, the city already has the largest fleet of e-buses (43 in total) and this is giving them a good basis for further developments in smart public transport. Because of its focus the city is, together with Amsterdam, the lead city in the country for private e-cars and the use of car and bike sharing. This development is also making it possible for the city to change its developments in relation to the planning  of private and public parking – something that will also be investigated in the smart suburb project mentioned above, as well as in some of the redevelopment projects that are taking place in the city centre (old Philips factories).

With the redevelopment of the area around the train station the city will use smart traffic technology. This will increase the appeal of public transport and as a result will decrease the number of cars driving to the station.

In relation to street lighting, a few months ago sensors were placed on six street lights at Brandevoort. These sensors measure air quality and noise. The municipality of Helmond participates in this project to experiment with data collection of noise and air in a neighbourhood. The city is actively looking for citizens and organisations to participate in this project and is open for new, innovative ideas and suggestions.

Back to the heading of this article …… smart society. In a project labelled AIREAS – a community of citizens , private businesses and universities are working together to create a liveable and healthy society. This includes environmental issues (in particular air quality). They use data that, for example, is being collected in the IoT projects. This is made available and interpreted via their website and as such is available to all citizens. Active citizens also have access to the raw data and the city hopes that its involvement in these processes will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these projects.

Paul Budde