Smart City Reykjavík

After traveling through France and the Netherlands (see previous blogs) we are now in Iceland.

Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 350,000 and an area of 103,000 square kilometres – mainly tundra –  making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. This city and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population.

Reykjavík is in southwestern Iceland, Its latitude is 64°08′ N, making it the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state. With a population of around 123,300 (and over 216,940 in the Capital Region), it is the heart of Iceland’s cultural, economic and governmental activity, and a popular tourist destination (around 1.5 million annually or more than 3 times its own population).

Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which, according to Ingólfur Arnarson, was established in AD 874. Until the 19th century, there was no urban development in the country. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades, as it transformed into a regional, and later national, centre of commerce, population and governmental activities. Until the 20th century it was the poorest country in Europe, it is now the wealthiest in the world. It is also among the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world. With the exception of transport the country’s energy use is 100% renewable (hydro and geothermal). It is planning to export electricity to the UK.

In Iceland we travelled by motorhome, following many of the famous Sagas of Icelanders, also known as family sagas. These are prose narratives largely based on historical events that mostly took place in Iceland in the 9th, 10th and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age.

They are focused on history, especially genealogical and family history. They reflect the struggle and conflict that arose within the societies of the early generations of Icelandic settlers.

Eventually many of Icelandic sagas were recorded, mostly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Most of the authors, or rather recorders, of these sagas are unknown. We followed the sagas on our trip around this fascinating island.

While it was late spring the temperature hardly ever got into double digits; it was mainly very windy but we also had a few days of sunshine. What saved us – tem notperature wise – were the many hot springs around the country. We thoroughly enjoyed this wild and adventurous wonderland of volcanos, geysers, glaciers, hot springs, lava fields and other stunning scenery.

But now to business 😊

Iceland’s smart city policy aims at using information, communications and telecommunications technology to improve the quality of life in a sustainable way. They have projects in place that gather and combine data from different databases related to the infrastructure of the city, and uses it to improve services, quality of life and environment.

They provide to the minute national weather information in relation to wind, gusts, temperature, snow and other road conditions gathered from weather stations around the country and displayed in near real time on road signs, apps and websites. It is critical for travellers to at least twice a day check this information as it can have a significant effect on travel planning (we could not drive for one day because of wind conditions).

Other data based projects include: more efficient transport, improved internal operations, increased environmental awareness and better use of energy. Below is an overview of some of the key projects:

  • Straetó – this is a public transportation app for city buses in the greater Reykjavík area. It has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times. More importantly, the app has attracted new customers to use the buses.
  • The Land Information System of the Reykjavík Area (LUKR) – to give you a flavour of the Icelandic language, this is an abbreviation for Landupplýsingakerfi Reykjavíkur This is a joint GIS-system of the technical departments of the city of Reykjavik and the state-owned telecommunications company. It includes the entire public utilities systems in Reykjavik, such as cold water, hot/geothermal water, electricity, telecommunication, sewage, buildings, street kerbs, street centrelines, parcel boundaries, coastal lines with lakes and rivers, contour lines etc. The project was started in 1988. The LUKR-system covers the Reykjavik municipality area of 270 km2, including an urban area of 45 km2. As well as this six smaller surrounding municipalities are included in the GIS-system, and also, partly, their public utilities systems.
  • ON Power – this is a leading power company that produces electricity, mainly by harnessing geothermal energy, for more than half of the population of Iceland. The company is a world leader in the utilisation of geothermal energy, and produces electricity and geothermal water heating. Renewable power sources account for more than 70% of the total primary energy consumption in Iceland, far more than anywhere else in the world. The city’s district heating utility is the largest geothermal district heating utility in the world.
  • Better Reykjavík – this is an online consultation forum where citizens are given the chance to present their ideas on issues regarding services and operations of the City of Reykjavík. Anyone can view the open forum and registered users who approve the terms of participation can participate in the forum.

A few more interesting bits and pieces.

is also the most connected country in the world with over 95% of the people connected to broadband, furthermore nearly every restaurant, hotel, camping, public space and shopping centre in the country provides free WiFi access (most without the need for passwords).

The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative from 2010 provides the greatest protection of press freedom anywhere in the world.

The country is also one of the highest spenders on R&D per capita in the world (3.11% of GDP with a target of 4% by 2020). This is boosting developments in the digital economy, smart cities, smart energy, software development and in gaming technologies.

For those interested here is my Iceland album:

Paul Budde


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