,,It all starts with a vision. What kind of city we want to be? A real smart city is smart at each field. ‘ Smart City Manager Brian Benjamin of the City The Hague talks about the ambition and vision of Smart City The Hague. Host of the Smart & Safe City Event 2017.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven. A lot of Dutch cities are ‘smart’. Why is your approach so special?
There are different aspects. First The Hague is the international city of peace and justice. Therefore the principles of privacy and security were from the beginning part of our smart city strategy. Security by design.
The second component is our focus on the economy. We all know that the pressure on cities of the future is rising. How we ensure that the city of tomorrow is still attractive, liveable and accessible? Technology can play an important role to achieve this.’
The Hague started a bit late with the smart city development. When we started we asked ourselves: What is a smart city? What are other cities doing? We noticed pretty quickly that there were a lot of innovative projects going on but the real profit for society was not that clear. This was rather disappointing. So we decided to do things differently and to start with a more structural way of developing our smart city.
In your opinion, what are nice smart solutions?
I really like digital parking. It combines everything. Technology, service, more revenues. The service for the visitor is improved, you don’t need a parking meter, the city gets more revenue from parking and behind the new system is a new logistics technology.
Smart cities are not only about self-driven cars and drones, it is often much more about the development around us. Another example is Albert, the online service of the retailer Albert Heijn. You order the groceries online and they are delivered to your home. Again with an impressive logistic innovation behind it.’’
What are the most impressive projects in The Hague, we should keep an eye on?
I am expecting a lot of the Living Lab Scheveningen. If you really want to achieve your goals within the smart city agenda you have to start with a vision. What do you want with the city? So we made a vision, a strategy. Where are we going? How are we going to use new energy, social media, mobile communication, big data in our policies? In Living Lab Scheveningen, all these fields come together.
We were also keen on the co-operation with companies. The problem of smart city projects is often how to finance them. We do not believe in the old system where local government starts a tender for big projects. That is not the way to become smart.
Another nice project is Izi. A project for the development of smart houses, which are life circle proof. The amount of elderly people in our city will keep on growing rapidly in the future, so together with different partners we made a program. Urban labs where we together with de Haagse Hogeschool, our university for applied science, experiment with new ‘care-infrastructure’ in the neighbourhood, based on participation of the community.
We also work together with the housing association to apply new technologies in buildings to make them more ‘elderly proof’. We even made even a house, where people can experience how new innovations work and – more importantly – how they feel.
The Hague also made a Smart City Guide for the public space?
Yes, also our municipal services have to be ready for innovation. So we put a lot of work and energy to achieve that. When something in our public space has to be changed we have to think first. Can it be replaced on a smart or more sustainable way? In our digital smart guide, all kinds of innovative solutions – for example a waste bin with sensors – can be found.
In which areas is still much to gain?
,,A smart city is smart in so many ways”. In The Hague we use six universal theme’s:
- Smart Governance, about the relationship between state and civilians. About being transparant and more democratic.
- Smart Economy, the economy is changing rapidly, so should also our ways to attract companies. What kind of companies we would like to have in The Hague?
- Smart Mobility, think of the new kinds of transport and data driven logistic processes.
- Smart Living, about sustainable and smart building.
- Smart Environment, different energy sources, our climate agenda.
- Smart Citizens, every city has human capital, how we make search we are also an inclusive city?
Key is that the city is the initiator. It stimulates and inspires. The biggest obstacle to overcome is the mentality. People have to start doing things different than they are used to. That will be our biggest challenge.
What can we expect of the Smart and Safe City Event?
,,There are a lot of conferences about this topic. But this time in The Hague we want to involve the city and let people hear, see and experience the smart city.”