WeCity: how data sharing contributes to creating smart and sustainable cities

the Data Sharing Coalition

Our cities face major challenges. How can they remain liveable and accessible while their population continues to grow and the pressure on the environment increases day by day? Various organisations, ranging from market parties, governments, and research institutions to citizens’ initiatives try to come up with smart solutions for complex spatial, environmental and infrastructural challenges. WeCity believes it can take on the role as an intermediary that can stimulate cooperation between all parties and thereby make our cities smarter and more sustainable. We spoke with Arjen Hof, CTO and co-founder of WeCity about their mission and solution.

How data is used to make smart solutions

As a result of digitisation and new technology, large amounts of data are produced every day. According to Arjen, making that data available more effectively can make an important contribution to solving the major challenges cities face. “Take, for example, optimising the process of waste collection. Why does a garbage truck have to drive past all the underground garbage containers every single week if only half of them are full? Sensor technology can ensure that the route to be followed by that garbage truck is set more intelligently, so that it only drives past the containers that really need to be emptied. The solution could even become smarter by combining other data sources, such as weather information, events, or road constructions.” There are countless other examples of smart solutions. “The ‘smart lamppost’ could be a good example,” says Arjen. “This lamppost could not only provide light, but can also function as a charging point for a car, measure air quality or detect vehicles through sensor technology. Besides, it reduces the number of individual assets in the street. However, it needs electricity and connectivity.”

How to stimulate large-scale use of smart solutions

Unfortunately, we still rarely see these kinds of solutions in practice. According to Arjen, an important reason is a lack of trust. “Collaborations in the field of smart solutions are difficult to scale and often end after creating a proof of concept or after finishing a small-scale pilot. This has many reasons. I generally see that organisations question whether their data can be shared in a safe and reliable manner. Besides, as smart solutions often consist of combined solutions of multiple organisations, collaboration itself is difficult. Providers end up in endless discussions about accountability, costs, and maintenance.” According to Arjen, to stimulate the large-scale use of smart solutions, an intermediary is needed. “WeCity wants to take on that role,” Arjen explains: “Our goal is to provide consumers the very much needed trust to combine multiple solutions from different providers in a safe and reliable way. Therefore, providers that join WeCity must meet assessment criteria that build on existing (inter)national agreements, standards, and certifications, with regards to data (sharing), data models and beyond (e.g. ISO). By doing that, we help help to create an open ecosystem that is built on trust and freedom of choice. With WeCity Service Management, we ensure that all providers that work together within WeCity adhere to the agreements made. As a neutral and independent party – we do not own the solutions, nor do we own the data that the solutions process – we can take care of the highly needed governance of these collaborations.”

Our WeCity Urban Platform helps providers to connect and provide access to each other’s data sources. However, it also provides other parties varying from the government, research institutions to startups access to this data – under control of the owner of the data – to develop new innovations based on these data. To further stimulate the large-scale use of smart solutions, WeCity tries to bring supply and demand closer together by developing the WeCity Catalogue, which showcases the various providers of smart solutions and all standards they meet. Together with these providers, WeCity also seeks cooperation with, for example, the government and universities. Arjen: “Snuffelfiets is a good example of a project in which we collaborate with among others the province of Utrecht, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the University of Utrecht, and a mobile sensor provider. The mobile sensor is placed on a bicycle and can measure particulate matter to assess air quality. Research based on these measurements could provide insights into how, for example, the traffic flow in cities can be improved. Moreover, based on this research the government can develop new policies to, for example, create or change bicycle routes. In the end, a smart city is about how to make data usable, involve people, and create a strong learning and collaborative community that can face the urban challenges of today and tomorrow.”

About the author

The Data Sharing Coalition is an open and growing, international initiative in which a large variety of organisations collaborate on unlocking the value of cross-sectoral data sharing, under control of the entitled party. By enabling interoperability between data sharing initiatives and strengthening individual initiatives, cross-sectoral data sharing can be achieved. The initiative started in January 2020, after the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy invited the market to seek cooperation in pursuit of cross-sectoral data sharing. The Data Sharing Coalition welcomes organisations that support our goal and want to accelerate together. 

This article was originally published by the Data Sharing Coalition. Access the original here.

WeCity: how data sharing contributes to creating smart and sustainable cities
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2021, the Data Sharing Coalition

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