IOT Convention in Mechelen – Antwerp is a smart city

In June 21, 2017
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Second IOT Convention on Thursday 15 June 2017 In Mechelen. Convention targeted potential partners and clients who want to invest in new IoT projects and startups and marketers and tech-savvy who want to stay updated with the latest trends.  The lectures were shown simultaneously in different rooms by the type of lecture:  IOT Enablers, Smart Cities, Smart Living and Drones. I wanted to know more about the market itself and how can IOT be used in cities and managed to found out more about new projects for the City of Antwerp.

IoT, People & Public spaces

One of the best lectures was from Peter Ballon from IMEC company. When we are designing our digital service we are designing how the physical-virtual link works. Ballon mentioned Eindhoven Smart City project in which they changed the classic lighting to mood lighting in parts of the city with high crime rates which decreased the number of attacks and affected people behaviour.

Capturing the data implies redesigning the physical look of the city itself. Here he mentions Paris, that more than 60% of public space is reserved for vehicles. With help of parking management and cars management, it’s possible to free up a lot of that public space.

Street furniture, logistic infrastructure the networks we are seeing a redesign of that and most of all we are given the opportunity to redesign the customer experience, the citizen’s experience. We can nudge them in right direction by making sure they are using data, loyalty points, virtual cards. We can stimulate them to spend more time in the city and to discover all kinds of free time activities.

Big challenge ahead in redesigning the city in IoT age

We should think about when is public space successful, when do you feel good about public space, when does public space work. When we design our new IoT-based services we should make sure that we don’t forget that we don’t instrumentalize public space and where it simply matters of achieving one specific personal goal like I need to get to a certain place, at the right time- fast. Secondly, when is public space successful? When there is a certain readability. When we think about redesigning our digital public space we should think about not just novelty but also about readability. What is happening, what is the logic behind this, how can people orient themselves, how to give them a sense of direction. In a successful public space, we have privacy but at the same time visibility. When we go to physical-digital public space we should make sure that both of these aspects are combined. In public space it always matter of design, designing environment and on the other giving enough freedom to citizens to create their own user experience. Design and user experience sometimes clash but they need to go hand in hand. A lot of smart city projects forget to combine these two aspects.

Well functioning city, well-functioning public space is about both bindings with the people you know but also attracting and bridging people that you don’t know and interacting with them. That is the good mix that makes a positive experience.

Final thing to think about when we are redesigning our physical-virtual public space is that in any successful public environment there are things that are in our control, that are predictable (when I push the button I know that after one minute or half of the minute the light will turn into green) but also a lot of things that are beyond our control.

We should make sure we don’t risk to turn that positive balance between control and serendipity upside down. When people lose control over what happens when they perform an action, the interface disappears, there are no buttons anymore, there is just this IoT system that changes things without me in control and on the other hand it does not allow me this moment of happy coincidence when I find something.  At the end of the lecture, Balln states that people from Antwerp are in need for smarter highways and smarter streets.

Smart City project for city of Antwerp starting this summer

Based on a lecture from Peter Ballon I wanted to explore what is going on in the City of Antwerp and are they doing something to make their streets smarter. It turns out they are.

On one of the levels was partners boot and I managed to have a talk with Antwerp-based startup Rombit. They are involved in a various  IOT projects and one that intrigued me was connected with the city of Antwerp.

Rombit exists for 5 years now within the city of Antwerp. Their projects are mainly focused on IoT and they are interested in three areas: Smart Citys, Smart Industries and Smart Enterprises.

The main idea behind the concept is making our streets smarter. So if you want to move/relocate to another address within the Antwerp you need some space in front of the door to get a lot of your stuff inside of your van so you can move it to another place. In Antwerp is that even more difficult than usual since it is crowded with cars parked on the streets. So you need a parking ban to make sure that there is a space in front of your house where you can park the van and reload the stuff from the van.

New concept where everyone has to reserve or request their own parking bands on a digital platform and only then can they get parking ban that would be approved. So nobody can just place their own signs like today. But instead, the signs will be placed by the city. There is a service that will check all requests that come in via the platform and will approve or disapprove the request.

Signs are digital and entire chain of events is digital, which means that only somebody that has a correct smartphone app which are people that will place the signs, can put the dates on the sign from where the request happens. Nobody can change it except for the city. Also, there is a GPS, a module accelerometer, if somebody decides to move it to another place that is not possible because we can track that sign, is not at the position it should be. There is an alarm in there, so if you try to move it can go up and start beeping.

In the first phase of the project, they created the platform. In the second phase, they created a new and improved version of this product.  The third phase is the realisation of the project. This summer will first 300 signs be replaced with this new digital versions. And then towards the end of this year 4000. So all the signs.

From the drone village

Besides for team building activities and fun indoors, drones are massively used for aerial photography, Inspection mapping and construction in Antwerp. They can scan progress in building bridges or. It is possible to monitor progress in different stages. An interesting part of drones are infrared thermal cameras which help to find lakes or other natural resources, It can be used to detect gas and other hazardous materials. Price for that kind of drone in Belgium costs 10.000 euros. More about the offer and specifications find on AERIAL SOLUTIONS  website.

AETOS DRONES startup provides fast and efficient inspection of all technical installation by flying 360 around an object. They assist in inspection to the actual repair phase. With their drone is going to be used for inspection of Doel Nuclear power station in Antwerp.


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