Smart cities

What are smart cities?

A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business. 

A smart city goes beyond the use of digital technologies for better resource use and less emissions. It means smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration, safer public spaces and meeting the needs of an ageing population.

Smart Cities Marketplace

The Smart Cities Marketplace was created by merging two former platforms, the “Marketplace of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC Marketplace)” and the “Smart Cities Information System (SCIS)”.

It is a major market-changing undertaking that aims to bring cities, industries, SMEs, investors, banks, researchers and many other smart city actors together.

The Smart Cities Marketplace has many followers from all over Europe and beyond, many of which have signed up as a member.

Their common aims are to improve citizens’ quality of life, increase the competitiveness of European cities and industry as well as to reach European energy and climate targets.


The Marketplace’s main areas of cross-cutting operation include:

  • sustainable urban mobility
  • sustainable districts and built environment
  • integrated infrastructures and processes in energy, information and communication technologies and transport
  • citizen focus
  • policy and regulation
  • integrated planning and management
  • knowledge sharing
  • baselines, performance indicators and metrics
  • open data governance
  • standards
  • business models, procurement and funding

The Smart Cities Marketplace’s operations are structured by its integrated Explore-Shape-Deal Matchmaking process, purposefully geared towards the knowledge exchange on, the capacity building support for and the development, implementation, replication and upscaling of Smart City solutions. It is organised in three phases building on each other:

  1. Explore – See and learn what’s next:
    This phase enables access to the collected Smart Cities knowledge, including that of  linked projects and initiatives. It is a continuous process that helps keeping the overview of which solutions and best practices have already been successfully implemented and creating ideas for own projects.
  2. Shape – Shape project and action plans:
    Once a vision for a project has been developed this phase helps to shape that idea into a solid bankable project, which is fit to attract public and private investors. This phase will also enable a structured dialogue between all key stakeholders involved.
  3. Deal – Create relations and opportunities:
    The third and last phase enables a one-to-one exchange between project promoters and members of the financing community to ultimately close deals and finance projects.


Digital platform

If you are active in the area of smart cities you are cordially welcome to join the Smart Cities Marketplace at

In case you do not have an EU account, yet, you will need to create one. It is free of charge and gives access to many more EU websites and services.

Feel free to join any of the Action Clusters or Initiatives covering the areas above (and more) should you want to become involved in concrete actions.

On the Smart Cities Marketplace website you can find a wealth of news, projects, insights, stories, guidance and more.

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AUTOS U.S. traffic deaths reached a 16-year high in 2021, according to government estimates

More people died on U.S. roadways last year than any year since 2005, according to new data released Tuesday by federal vehicle safety officials.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, estimates 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. The deaths include pedestrians, cyclists and others who may have died during a crash.


Fatalities from multivehicle crashes and those on urban roadways both rose 16%, according to the agency, the largest year-over-year increases for incident-specific data. Other notable increases included: fatalities of those 65 years or older, up 14%; pedestrian deaths, up 13%; and fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck, up 13%.


In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the situation “a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together.”

Buttigieg said the Biden administration is taking “critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend,” citing the the agency’s previously announced National Roadway Safety Strategy and Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The NHTSA estimates traffic deaths rose in 2021 in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The higher number of fatalities corresponded with an increase in miles driven on U.S. roadways compared with 2020. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled in 2021 increased by about 325 billion miles, or about 11.2%, compared with 2020.

Despite the additional miles traveled, the fatality rate based on miles driven remained about the same from 2020. Estimates put the fatality rate for 2021 at 1.33 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared with 1.34 fatalities in 2020.

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Cities urged to act on private sensors in public spaces

Greater oversight is needed of sensors installed by commercial organisations in privately owned public spaces, according to a new report. It calls for cities to pay more attention to the likes of digital billboards, shopping centre cameras, retail Wi-Fi tracking, and automatic number plate recognition systems.

The When Billboards Stare Back report has been launched by UK innovation foundation Nesta and the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights with funding from the City of Amsterdam.

According to the authors Dr Tomislav Marsic, a consultant, and Katja Bego, Principal Researcher, Nesta: “This report seeks to raise awareness about a new quality of privacy infringements that take place, hidden in plain sight, in what is becoming known as the ‘digital public space.’

“The term seeks to highlight how physical public areas – town squares, pedestrian zones, shopping centres and bus stops – are increasingly subject to unfettered digitalisation, with commercial sensors tracking eye movements for feedback on digital advertisements, or cameras recognising faces in shopping centres.”

Cities themselves use a range of sensors to help reduce congestion, monitor pollution and manage waste but the report focuses on commercial sensors in privately owned public spaces (POPS) or ‘pseudo public spaces’, where it says there is less scrutiny.

“Privately owned spaces are much harder to regulate and much harder to control than publicly owned spaces,” commented Marsic during a panel discussion at the Public Spaces conference this week.

He added: “A lot of cities don’t know about this problem even though it’s clearly happening in their cities as well.”


The report argues that cities need more information on the sensors being deployed in POPS and what they are capturing, to maintain trust and ensure residents’ privacy is protected.

It highlights some potentially concerning examples such as advertisements that use eye tracking, a proposal for a digital billboard with cameras that would have ‘deep faked’ spectators’ faces onto a screen, and instances of debt collection companies using automatic number plate recognition to track individuals down.

While most cities don’t have the remit to ban or prohibit new sensors in POPS or enforce legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), they can use the powers that they do have to exert more control.

The Public London Charter, for example, sets out principles for how new public spaces including POPS should be operated. The principles apply as a condition of planning consent and require Data Protection Impact Assessments to be shared with the city. London also published an Emerging Technology Charter which is a voluntary initiative based on four principles that should be accommodated when deploying technology in the capital.

London’s Chief Digital Officer Theo Blackwell is quoted in the report as saying: “We’ve gone from a situation where…the rules were unclear, to a place where key questions have to be satisfied.”

Shifting power

In another example, Amsterdam introduced a mandatory sensor register which requires private companies, research institutions and government organisations to report sensors in public spaces. The information on how, where and what data is collected is displayed via an online map. Private sensors, such as smart video doorbells, and sensors for “investigation and public order” including police cameras are exempt. The obligation was part of a regulation update passed by the City Council.

During the panel, Amsterdam City Councillor Elisabeth IJmker said “transparency is a step” but further work is required in areas such as how residents can access their data from sensor owners.

“The power imbalance is still something we need to deal with,” she said.

The City of Leeds has implemented an Internet of Things supplier questionnaire which asks specific questions about connectivity, the type of data collected, and the provenance of components within IoT devices to ensure they are from trusted organisations.

The report urges local governments to use the levers at their disposal such as licensing and purchasing to set privacy conditions for POPS, and lobby for better enforcement of GDPR as well as a new requirement for Data Protection Impact Assessments to be submitted to local authorities and regulators for sensors in publicly accessible spaces.

“This would bring GDPR out of ‘online only’ and into the physical, offline world,” the report says.

The authors also call for cities to bring residents, civic society and businesses on board. Activists and media can help draw attention to issues and smaller businesses may benefit from co-operation to better address privacy implications. Driving privacy knowledge and responsibilities throughout city departments is another recommendation.

IJmker noted that cities themselves should also avoid a “technofix mindset.” Giving the example of video analytics for crowd monitoring, which has been used in Amsterdam, she said: “The real problem is not enough public space…we may forget that there’s a solution where we [could] remove some more parking spots and then we would have more public space.”

Image: Chingyunsong | 

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