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Paving the way to greener city living

29 Oct 2021

Vinod Kumar

CEO, Vodafone Business

Last month, the European Commission launched its Five Missions, that aim to deliver solutions to some of our greatest global challenges.

The challenges outlined were cancer, adaptation to climate change, healthy oceans and waters, soil health and last, but not least, climate-neutral and smart cities.

Cities play a pivotal role in achieving climate neutrality by 2050, the goal of the European Green Deal, which is why the Mission involves delivering 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030 and using these cities to enable others to follow suit by 2050.

It’s a big task that will involve local authorities, citizens, businesses, and investors, as well as regional and national authorities, all coming together to work as one.

It will also require investment in the technology that can enable cleaner, greener urban spaces. With the power to transform transport systems, rapidly improve air quality, reduce disease risk, lower water consumption and solid wastage, the Internet of Things (IoT) is one such technology.

Is city living a thing of the past?

In 2018, the United Nations predicted that 68% of the world’s population would live in urban areas by the year 2050.

The headlines suggest that the new move to hybrid working, spurred on by the pandemic, has changed that prediction, but a recent survey by the London Assembly Housing Committee has found that many are still keen to live in the city.

It found that while 46% of Londoners are looking to move away, almost as many (43%) are keen to remain in the city[1]. And Bloomberg reported that it’s the same in the US – rather than decamping for the suburbs, city residents remain committed to cities.

However, they do want the problems of urban life addressed and are willing to embrace new policies and change their own behaviour to do so.

Tackling the urban jungle

As the density of cities increases, so does congestion, the demand for services and the need for efficient mobility. These issues need to be addressed and in an environmental and sustainable way.

IoT should be at the heart of these smart city strategies.

Similar to the benefits we see this technology bring to businesses, so too can it bring to cities, generating the data needed to measure, implement and optimise operations. Whether that’s measuring air quality, traffic flow, planning health services, waste collection, public transport or energy and food waste.

These insights can help people, authorities and policy makers react quicker to changing situations, better use resources and even predict outcomes, preparing for the world of tomorrow and creating new, more sustainable, data-driven models.

In Sevilla, we’re already working with the municipal government to monitor a range of services across our Smart Cities Platform.

The platform integrates a number of data sources and provides analytical capabilities to identify greater efficiency and higher quality services. For example, mobility data is used to adapt lighting needs and citizen mobility data is used to make changes to bus services, making the most of limited public transport resources.

Smarter transport

The Internet of Things is not only helping support existing transport ecosystems but it’s also creating entirely new ones, capturing the shift towards electrified and shared mobility.

With estimates saying the average European car is parked 92% of the time, it’s time to move to more practical models that meet the demands of citizens.

Shared mobility gives users short-term access to a vehicle, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, or other travel mode. Sharing transport in this way will improve access to services and reduce emissions and congestion.

Smartphones and mobile networks make this possible, but with IoT, assets like cars can be located, booked, unlocked, guided and monitored, providing owners the visibility they need to operate and maintain fleets.

Working with Unu in Berlin, we’ve removed the need for an ignition key. Instead, everything can be done via an app, so owners can share their electric scooter with family and friends remotely through their smart phone enabling a new form of mobility called “micro-sharing”.

Smart cities: the future of Europe

As cities become increasingly connected, IoT and data will be key in co-ordinating services and creating new ones.

New networks like 5G also have a role to play, and will support the transformation of our urban spaces. Through the move to autonomous vehicles, but also across industries such as healthcare and entertainment, as 5G gives us faster access to services via our mobile phones.

That is why, at Vodafone, we’re ready to stand together with Member States and empower cities to become true climate and digital leaders. By creating more access, mobility and flexibility, we can increase their competitiveness and help them attract the best talent and businesses.

Learn more about smart cities and our sustainability goals in Europe.


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