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Today approximately half the world’s population lives in cities. This proportion will probably rise to more than 70% by 2050. It is therefore important to focus on the infrastructure that is necessary to keep our ever-growing cities functioning. A ‘Smart City’ is a city that makes use of information and communication technology (ICT) to ensure that the infrastructure and facilities are interactive and efficient. That is how a Smart City prepares itself for the future.

Author / translator Aliki Giannakopoulou

Today approximately half the world’s population lives in cities. This proportion will probably rise to more than 70% by 2050. It is therefore important to focus on the infrastructure that is necessary to keep our ever-growing cities functioning. A ‘Smart City’ is a city that makes use of information and communication technology (ICT) to ensure that the infrastructure and facilities are interactive and efficient. That is how a Smart City prepares itself for the future. Amsterdam is one of the front runners in Europe when it comes to the Smart City concept. The city focuses on matters such as cooperation between local authorities and businesses, resident participation, and new technology to ensure a strong economy and an intelligently organised city that is geared to the future. How important is it for cities to be ‘smart’? Do residents think it is important for their city to function efficiently? Does a smart city benefit everyone, or only a small group? How much does it cost residents to make their city smart?

Created 22 May 2013
Last edited 28 June 2018
Topics Politics, Risks & security, Technology

Policy positions

Policy position 1

The city needs to work closely both with businesses and residents on the Smart City concept in which ICT and technology are equally important. Since cooperation is central to the concept, plans are based on the needs of users. This means that the Smart City will be perfectly laid out and equipped to meet the needs of users, it will be user-friendly and will gain a broad support base.

Policy position 2

The city needs to invest in ICT and technology so that it can continue to meet the needs of its residents. But there are snags; it is important to guarantee people’s privacy and the security of the network. The local authority must take on the responsibility for this, focus on it and invest in it. Then the needs of users (residents and businesses) can be identified, and forms of cooperation considered.

Policy position 3

A Smart City approach is not necessary. The ‘old’ city with traditional solutions for traffic, education, energy, government and business functions perfectly well. It is a risk for cities to rely on ICT and technology; there is no safety net when systems fail. In addition, costly security measures are needed to protect against cyber attacks and hackers. Digital information also involves major risks to people’s privacy.

Policy position 4

A Smart City approach is geared only to highly educated people who know about ICT and technology. The approach excludes many groups of people, such as the less well educated and the elderly, who cannot keep up with all the new development. The municipal authority should not therefore invest enormous sums of money in the Smart City concept, but in matters that are important and accessible for everyone.

Story cards


Hans became paralysed after an accident and is now in a wheelchair. He can no longer drive a car, and is entitled to 450 kilometres of special transport each year. He is happy with the facilities he has for organising things from home. He can organise almost everything online. He heard that he will soon be able to have contact with his specialist via a fast Internet connection. This means he doesn’t have to use his kilometre allowance to travel to appointments with his specialist. He can use it for pleasure outings instead.

Hans de Jong

John is head of the police. A few months ago, a system was introduced whereby information from the Accident & Emergency departments of local hospitals is passed on to the police. When John hears that someone has arrived at a hospital with a crime-related injury, he can dispatch a patrol car straight away to investigate. The police arrive at the scene quickly and can prevent tense situations from escalating. Since this system was introduced, the number of crime-related hospital admissions has fallen by 42%.

John Dumas

Jantine is a courier in the Amsterdam delivery area. Delivering packages in the city centre is a real challenge. There are always delays due to roadworks, and parking is difficult. She would like it if she could receive information while she is en route about available parking spaces and traffic delays. She can then take a different route and deliver the packages more quickly.

Jantine van Laar

Dick runs a small company that provides innovative ICT services. As his city is making money available to small local businesses, he can invest in his company. As a result, his one-man business has expanded and he now employs 3 people.

Dick Buchel

Martine lives in the centre of Amsterdam and doesn’t have a car. She will be moving house soon. Martine’s friends don’t have cars either, and her family don’t live nearby. Renting a car is expensive, and there isn’t a rental company near her home. She has heard about the WeGo car-sharing project. She can see online whether there is a car available nearby, and she’ll receive a text message with the code for unlocking the car. It is cheap and easy for her to rent a car.

Martine Kelder

Fred is a waste collector in Amsterdam. Big Belly Compact bins will soon be introduced in the city. These bins have an inbuilt waste compactor, so five times fewer waste collections are required. The municipal authority is also looking into how it can make the dustbin lorries more efficient in terms of logistics. This is better for the environment, and fewer personnel are needed. Fred is afraid that he will lose his job.

Fred Kohl

Carolien lives in the Nieuw-West area of Amsterdam. In her neighbourhood an experiment is being carried out with a ’smart grid’. A smart grid generates energy locally and coordinates supply and demand locally. Carolien is very much in favour of this initiative and wants to generate sustainable energy in her home. Unfortunately she lives in a first-floor flat, so she doesn’t have a roof for solar panels. Carolien is really frustrated because she can’t take advantage of the attractive subsidies.

Carolien van Breemen

Francien works for the Amsterdam municipal authority. She is familiar with the Smart City project and thinks it is a good initiative. But as so many different departments are working together on the project, more consultation is needed, organisational structures are more complex, and costs have to be allocated between the departments. This involves an enormous amount of administration, and her workload has increased. Francien is expecting a baby and would like to work fewer hours. But that doesn’t seem to be possible now.

Francien Bertens

Tom always keeps up with the news. He increasingly hears about companies and banks that have been hacked. He is worried that his money is at risk. There are also plans to digitise medical records so that doctors and pharmacies can access them online. He is worried about his privacy. Wherever he is, his location can be traced through GPS, Google Maps and mobile telephones.

Tom Smith

Mies is 74 years old and does not have a computer, Internet or a smartphone. She does not need or want these things either. But in today’s world it seems that information is only provided digitally, she doesn’t receive bank statements as often, there is no longer a telephone directory, and the train-timetable book is becoming more expensive. Mies feels excluded.

Mies Bos

Dirk works in a community centre in Amsterdam. Last year, the municipal authority reduced the subsidy by half. As a result, the community centre has to discontinue some of its activities. There is no more money for the 5-euro meal that’s served every evening for the needy. Dirk sees that the city is investing in fast Internet connections and websites. He thinks that the municipal authority is losing touch with its citizens and has no idea about what people really need.

Dirk Groentjes


No control

In a Smart City, people have no control over what happens. Everything is controlled by technology.

Obliged to learn

If a city is to remain smart, many people need to be re-educated.

Conscious consuming

How people behave is just as important as the latest gadgets. Cycle more often, and when it’s cold, put on a warm jumper.

Free and independent

People don’t want a pre-programmed city; they want to find their own way.


Smart Cities run the risk of becoming too far removed from the real world and the real problems that occur in it.

Mixed feelings

Technology can liberate people, but it can also take away freedoms.

No money = no progress

Almost every country in Europe is in crisis. As a result, the concept of the Smart City has become an unrealisable dream.


The increasing use of technology means that people no longer think for themselves.

Safety = costly

In order for residents to feel safe and secure in a Smart City, expensive measures are needed to protect privacy and the network.

Cutting back

If money is invested in a Smart City, it is not available for other purposes. This means that cutbacks have to be made on aspects that will affect the weaker members of society.

Long term

The development of a Smart City requires a long-term plan. This is difficult for cities because, in the Netherlands, new city councils are elected every four years.

We app!

Digital communication is important because, as a result, people are in touch much more often and regularly. It connects people.

Too fast to keep up

Technology advances so fast that it is difficult for people to keep pace with developments, especially the elderly and the less well educated.


In a Smart City, the people themselves are ‘in control’. They determine which of their needs will be met and when.

Less manpower

A Smart City can save a great deal of money by deploying technology where people would normally be employed.

Fresh air

The air in a Smart City is cleaner.

Chat with the doctor online

In a Smart City, contact between doctors and patients takes place online. This is a good thing for people who are confined to the home. Plus, it makes an enormous difference to healthcare costs, especially in an ageing society.


Contact between people is important. This is lost when people rely on digital applications.


In a Smart City, local enterprise and the creativity of residents are stimulated, which benefits employment and the economy.

That’s the limit!

Shouldn’t we put a limit on the number of residents in a city, instead of trying to find costly solutions for improving infrastructure?

The bigger, the better

Cities generate the largest proportion of economic growth, so it is important that they expand. In order to keep them liveable, they need to be structured and laid out differently.

Loyalty to the city

In order to retain highly educated people, a city must regard innovativeness, mobility and technology as priorities.


In a Smart City, people have a greater awareness of their behaviour because they are continually seeking creative ways to do things more efficiently.

All the time in the world

In a Smart City, people have more leisure time thanks to all the time-saving solutions.


In a Smart City, all people do is sit at their computer and look at their telephone display.

Safety first

People in a Smart City feel safer.

Big Brother

In a Smart City you’re being watched all the time: where you are, where you’re going and how much energy you consume.

24 hours in a day

In a Smart City, people can decide what time they start and finish work, so flows of people are more evenly distributed over the day. Apart from this, services (e.g. doctors) are also accessible in the evenings.

Not exactly attractive

All those wind turbines and solar panels spoil the historic cityscape.


Flexible working doesn’t work in practice. Colleagues can no longer coordinate their work with each other (contactability, meetings)

All for one

Why should everyone have to pay for a super-fast fibre-optic network when only a few people will use it?

Young and old

A Smart City is for young people; the elderly don’t have a need for it at all.

Attention for the environment

In a Smart City there is more space for nature and more attention for the environment. That is important for future generations.

Clever four-wheelers

New cars are becoming more energy-efficient and emitting less CO2. Electric cars emit no CO2 at all, certainly when they are powered by green electricity.

Supply and demand

The term smart grid is used to describe the technology whereby the electricity grid can balance supply and demand locally, including remote monitoring and control. This is done by reducing the price when demand is low or supply is high.

To measure is to know

Households that have a ‘smart meter’ that provides feedback on their energy consumption make energy savings of 8.5% on average.

From Wi-Fi to Li-Fi

In the future it will be possible to send large amounts of data via LED bulbs. This technology (Li-Fi) is still being developed.

Smart technology

The application of smart technology in electricity networks, transport, logistics, buildings and industry can lead to a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions worldwide by 2020.

Billions of mobile phones

In 2011 there were 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world. The figure for India was 607 million. In India, 366 million people had access to a private toilet.


Research has shown that the use of ICT (in buildings, industry, transport and smart electricity networks) has the potential to generate savings of 600 billion euros worldwide for the public and private sectors.

CO2 emissions

Efforts are being made worldwide to achieve 50% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050. In Europe the cost of developing and implementing technology for CO2 reduction is estimated at 2.9 trillion euros.


In the future, 80% of economic growth will occur in the cities. The top 600 urban areas generate 60% of the gross domestic product.

Energy consumers

Cities account for 60-80% of the world’s annual energy needs.


Connectivity company Cisco estimates that smart cities using ICT can make energy savings of 30% over 20 years.

Super fast

IJburg residents have access to the world’s fastest public fibre-optic network: up and down speeds of 500 Mb/s are possible on the network.

Nice and close

People in the Netherlands live 14 kilometres on average from their place of work. Half of commuting trips are made by car.

Smart buildings

A Smart Building concept is the approach used in buildings that use sensors to analyse energy consumption. It operates the system automatically to reduce consumption with out affecting comfort.


When people charge their electric cars at home or at the office, it can overload the electricity grid. The loloo is a smart charging point that prevents this because it communicates with the smart meter in the user’s home.

2020 areas

Amsterdam Zuidoost is a 2020 area: an area where CO2 emissions must be reduced by 40% by 2020. In order to achieve this, IKEA is replacing all its lighting with LED, and the Academic Medical Center (AMC) is developing a plan for 35,000m2 of solar panels on its roof.


Amsterdam’s car-sharing project is called Car2Go and has 300 electric Smarts. Smarts do not emit any CO2. At the end of 2012, Car2go welcomed its 10,000th customer and there are more than 7,500 rentals per week.

Just need to charge up

Amsterdam Electric is a municipal organisation that stimulates the use of electric transport in Amsterdam. Results: 248 public charging points installed in 2012, with 99,129 charging sessions in 2012. That’s 271 sessions per day!


Amsterdam’s city lighting is not on all night long. More than half the lighting is switched off at midnight. Since 2012 this has generated energy savings of 576,000 kWh per year.

Where am I?

Illuminated traffic signs are becoming less and less necessary. Navigation systems and smartphones provide information about roads. In the future, social media and smartphones will also replace illuminated signs.

Let your light shine

Lighting in the city of Amsterdam consumes 50 million kWh. This is less than one per cent of the city’s total electricity consumption.

The sky at night

Research has shown that light levels in the centre of Amsterdam are 40 times brighter than natural starlight. Researchers counted 70 stars above Dam square, but saw 1,200 above the Wadden Islands and the Veluwe national park.

Lights out, please!

In France from July 2013, shops and offices must switch off their lights at night. With this measure, the government aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 250,000 tonnes, and reduce the number of kWh by an amount equal to the annual consumption of 750,000 homes.

Guinea pigs

The Living Lab is a concept that is often used in Smart Cities. It tests new technology in real environments (a city or neighbourhood) with real users.


In Amsterdam, Smart City plans and projects are developed and implemented within a platform of municipal bodies, businesses and residents working together.

Concrete microbes

Dutch microbiologists have invented a concrete that can repair itself. Cracks are filled by bacteria in the cement that produce calcium carbonate when they come into contact with rainwater.

Amsterdam – world city

With more than 400,000 households, Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands. All these households together are responsible for 33% of the city’s total CO2 emissions.

Open government

Amsterdam is focusing on open data sources for government information. This gives residents insight and the opportunity to make informed choices. This is called e-democracy.


The Amsterdam municipal authority wants to provide businesses with info that will enable people move more effectively. For example: sending information about parking spaces or traffic hold-ups to telephone companies, who can then transmit it to their subscribers.

Internet for everyone

In order to make information widely available to all residents, the Amsterdam municipal authority is focusing on providing a good Wi-Fi network in the city.


The infrastructures that are important for a Smart City are: fibre-optic and broadband Internet, a smart electricity network and open data. ICT is found in all infrastructures.

Behave yourself

Energy consumption in similar households can vary by as much as half. This is not due to technology, but to people behaving responsibly towards the environment.

Back to basics

Research in various cities has shown that, if the basic facilities and utilities are in order, people do not place any extra value on a more efficient city.

Up on the roof

Currently, 2,500 homes in Amsterdam use electricity from solar panels. This number must increase to 270,000 by 2040. Amsterdam has a total roof surface area of 11 km2 that is suitable for solar panels.

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