Mobility, climate goals, sustainable development and an ageing population – cities and municipalities today are facing major challenges. That's why more and more local administrations are opting for a Smart City approach, where they deploy new technologies to be able to implement better policies. The cities of Herentals, Harelbeke and Roeselare explain why they are determined to move towards being Smart Cities.
Roeselare, Herentals and Harelbeke are making good progress on their way to becoming Smart Cities
Smart bike parks in Roeselare
"The real cities for the future are busy looking at improving residents' comfort by making use of a smart combination of technology and data. That's how you can leverage information. For example, you know what happens with the traffic, you know the water level and you can even monitor certain health factors for your residents. By linking all this information together, new insights can be gained and lead to new solutions that you probably wouldn't have thought of before", explains Kris Declercq, mayor of Roeselare.
"Traffic safety and mobility are usually residents' main concerns, and not only in Roeselare. We're glad that we started working with Realdolmen some time ago to define smart bike park locations, as the data enables us to create a customized policy that makes both traffic safety for bikes as well as new controls in the traffic management plan possible. We also want to go further with this in future, because we can use the data in a smart way to change the directions of streets at different times of the day", says Kris Declercq.
A collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach is essential
"The city of Herentals has only just got started with Smart City applications. As a small city, we believe that a collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach is essential to achieving success. Compared to large cities, we don't have the option of hiring specialist Smart City experts or developing this specialized knowledge in-house. That's why we work in small project teams across multiple departments, such as ICT, Mobility and Local Economy. Using network organizations such as Smart Cities Vlaanderen (in Flanders), we can make contact with a variety of vendors who we regard as our Smart City partners and advisers. As an experienced Smart City partner, Realdolmen has a well-defined, mature vision of the challenges posed and opportunities offered by a Smart City. While many start-ups focus on the latest, most innovative applications or hardware, Realdolmen also wants to develop its clients' Smart City data infrastructure, so that all the (future) Smart City applications will be able to communicate and integrate with each other. In this way, they are building the foundations for successful projects, both now and in the future, independent of any specific hardware vendors", says Cédric Smet, ICT Project Manager at the City of Herentals.
Harelbeke wants to bring data into its policies
"Until now, many decisions have been reached based on assumptions as we don't have any numbers available, or at least not in any legible form. We need to change this; we need to unlock our data and make it available for policy-making. Mobility is a hot topic for many administrations, and Harelbeke is no exception. We're focusing on traffic surveys (Abacus), raising awareness (High-five) and environmental measurements; these IoT solutions generate plenty of data. We're currently working on a solution to cover the whole flow, from creating the data, through an Azure link to our data warehouse, to its visualization in Microsoft Power BI. Here we rely on Microsoft SQL, SSIS and Power BI to centralize the data from our various platforms, and we're building consolidated dashboards and smart apps across that", says Frederik Hellyn, ICT Manager for the City of Harelbeke.