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Copenhagen, Striving To Be Carbon Neutral: The Intelligence of Networked Things

The connected digital platform for cities developed by Cisco and TDC, the Danish phone company, reflects the status of local lighting, parking, air quality, and waste management systems at the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab (DOLL) located just outside Copenhagen. Credit: Bas Boorsma

Copenhagen, DenmarkCopenhagen, with its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, has the most ambitious climate plan of any Western capital city. One new weapon in its campaign is digitalization.

According to Bas Boorsma, Cisco’s Director of Internet of Things and City Digitization for Northern Europe, digitalization refers to how our social and economic lives, as well as the core processes of our organizations, are influenced by network design; digital technologies; and the organizational structures, values, rules, and expectations they induce. “My academic guess,” he says, “is that there is no way we can achieve our climate goals without the Internet of Things.”

A historian by training, Boorsma is by inclination an apostle of network connectivity. He is excited by the opportunities to put all this power to work for humanity and climate protection. Boorsma believes digitalization could not only accelerate Copenhagen’s transition to clean energy but could also have positive economic impacts, such as saving the city money and creating thousands of new jobs.

Using the New Vocabulary

City leaders, too, believe digitalization could be a boon to Copenhagen. With appropriate software and analytical capabilities, “smart city technology” will allow the city to monitor and analyze the urban environment and urban conditions.

Screenshot of the Smart+Connected Digital Platform (S+CDP) for cities, providing the real-time status of lighting, parking, air quality, and waste management systems in the area of DOLL. Credit: Bas Boorsma

The technology will be able to monitor traffic and transport systems, street lighting, parking availability, traffic flow, air quality, and soil conditions, as well as the performance of transit, waste management, and security systems.

A digital dashboard capable of displaying readouts created by Cisco’s Smart+Connected Digital Platform (S+CDP) can now show the status of street lights, parking availability, and air quality for part of western Copenhagen. Over time, digitalization is likely to make a growing contribution to the city’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Along the way to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, Copenhagen is serving as an incubator for companies working on smart city technology, an enterprise projected to be worth $400 billion a year globally by 2020.

Within the realm of digitalization, Bas Boorsma’s mandate is to develop relevant applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) for Copenhagen. The IoT can be defined as the system of interconnections between objects and the Internet.

Lighthouse Copenhagen

Currently, Boorsma leads Cisco’s city engagement team in Northern Europe and supports the company’s portfolio of global smart city “lighthouse” projects. In this capacity, he helps cities to implement IoT strategies that affect the efficiency of their energy, water, waste management, transport, health, and public safety systems.

Bas Boorsma, Cisco’s Director, Internet of Things and City Digitization for Northern Europe. Credit: Bas Boorsma

“The reason that we wanted to work with the city of Copenhagen,” Boorsma said, “is that Copenhagen is so focused on its climate agenda. We believe and understand that the Internet of Things is a critical ingredient to the resilient and sustainable community of tomorrow.”

A Living Lab

Since signing an memorandum of understanding with the Mayor of Copenhagen in 2014, Cisco has delivered on smart lighting strategies, smart parking, digital air quality sensing, smart waste management, mobility monitoring, and soil water saturation sensing.

Cisco crunched the numbers in Copenhagen to determine where the IoT had the potential to produce the greatest economic return and concluded that improvements in traffic flow would deliver large economic gains to the city.

Based on this study, Cisco is now Bottom of Form

working on parking sensor technology by deploying its S+CDP for parts of Copenhagen and other cities where street data from sensors mounted on lamp posts are converged, visualized, and analyzed, and will eventually be used for management decision making.

Crossing Boundaries

To gain maximum value from the service that Cisco offers, a city must have leadership that thinks across departments and across IoT partners, namely, the utilities, service providers, IT companies, construction companies, and architects.

The idea is not to just narrowly deploy digitalization in one field or in a siloed system. Successful digitalization operates horizontally across departments and sectors to reach many societal stakeholders. “Success,” Boorsma says, “requires the involvement of all.”

Getting Across the Finish Line

We can achieve the first 50 percent of a metropolis’ climate goals using traditional means, Boorsma contends. “But then,” he says, “you’re going to get stuck, and it’s very difficult to achieve that final 50 percent.”

To get the last 50 percent, Boorsma argues that we have to create a paradigm shift by moving from the older, centralized ways of self-organization and replace them with “a totally distributed pattern for human conduct.”

An open-air digital dashboard display in Central Copenhagen providing read-outs of street air quality monitoring devices. Credit: Bas Boorsma

The quest for the benefits the IoT can provide has prompted Copenhagen to join forces with Antwerp and Helsinki in a multimillion-dollar, European Union-funded competition. Known as Select4Cities (www.select4cities.ed), the goal is to stimulate the design, research, and development of a data-driven, Internet of Everything (IoE) platform for European cities.

Sponsors of the contest hope it will help to overcome some of the barriers still hindering IoE progress. These include a lack of common standards, a fragmented marketplace, and the need for that test platform for validating and introducing new IoE solutions.