On Friday 21 June, thirty participants at Smart City The Hague went on an excursion to Antwerp. On the agenda: a visit to Antwerp’s programmes for smart city innovations in The Beacon and a walk around the recently launched Smart Zone in central Antwerp’s Sint-Andries district. What is it about Antwerp that inspired these government officials and entrepreneurs from countries as far away as Curaçao and South Korea? We asked them directly.
Smart City The Hague
The Beacon: Antwerp’s hub for IoT and AI
Antwerp is buzzing with Internet of Things solutions and Artificial Intelligence to help life in the city run more smoothly; and all this comes together in one place: The Beacon, where the international delegation was given an introduction to Antwerp’s ecosystem for smart innovation. Each participant had specific questions and points of interest but there were a few prevailing themes, such as collaboration and legislation.
As Sascha Mercer, Senior Policy Advisor for the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary of Curaçao in The Netherlands, put it: “Like many countries, we are taking steps to become a Smart Nation and exploring opportunities within this context. Curaçao has recently established its own Digital Twin and is positioning itself to take a leading role in the Caribbean. It is the perfect setting for a Living Lab. What I found quite educative during this visit to Antwerp, were some of the ways the city has addressed matters of personal versus open data, privacy and the related legislation.”
Sang Kyu Cho from the Korean Architecture & Urban Research Institute adds: “Korea is working hard to launch its own smart city projects. Right now, we are accepting proposals for projects and looking into how we can create a space where people can experiment and come up with new concepts; basically, we need an incubator just like The Beacon. I’m inspired by the range of different innovations and expertise it has all under one roof.”
Smart Zone Sint-Andries
Last on the agenda for the delegation was a visit to the Smart Zone in Sint-Andries, a neighbourhood where the City of Antwerp experiments with smart sensors and cameras to improve the life of residents and passers-by. Technologies that are successfully tested here could then go on to be used for the whole city. This part of the visit was of particular interest to many of the international visitors. “Having been in this field for some time, I know about the challenges cities face when it comes to infrastructures for smart solutions”, said Andrea Ranalli, who works as an advisor for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Italian division in Rome. “Antwerp’s Smart Zone is intriguing because it really aims to benefit the residents. You need a sandbox to try things out in a real-life context, to see what citizens really need and want to use. I look forward to seeing the data from this experiment in a few years’ time.”
City of Amsterdam employee Jerry Sluisdom agreed: “For me, the issue of smart technology is first and foremost about what makes a real difference in people’s lives, and there’s only one way to find that out: you have to test it in the real world. I’m impressed with what Antwerp is doing in that regard, especially how they collaborate with public and private stakeholders in the Smart Zone.”