Smarter cities in a connected continent

Neelie Kroes – Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Mobile 360 Connected Europe conference (GSMA)/ Brussels

Smart cities mean better urban services, less waste, and citizens empowered to make a difference. This is about improving the lives of millions of Europeans, building a stronger society, and making better use of all our resources.

ICT, digital technology, has a big role to play here. It can boost productivity, make services more efficient, and stimulate new ideas and innovations. In pretty much every economic sector.

Mobile devices put all the information you need right into the palm of your hand. So you can spot the traffic or check up on your electricity bill whenever, wherever.

But citizens don’t just have to be receivers of information, or passive consumers. They can also become creators, actively developing their own solutions.

Indeed a study out this week suggests the European app economy generates billions in revenue, is worth hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that innovation doesn’t just come from governments or large companies; it comes from a whole creative cottage industry of small start-ups. People able to identify their own needs and innovate to take control.

And that’s why smart city apps and tools don’t just enlighten people, but engage them, and enable them to make a difference.

But you know all this; you know all of these benefits. That’s why you’re here today. So let me set out five ways we can support this innovation. Support this ecosystem, to make our cities smarter, our citizens more empowered, our lives more prosperous.

The first thing we need – and the absolute prerequisite for all the rest – is connectivity. Broadband networks that are reliable, fast and pervasive. With telecoms companies that can smash barriers and think big, planning and investing even across borders and offering Europeans more choices. With services that can cross borders without losing quality, or facing high bureaucracy and cost.

Smart cities need that connectivity; our people need it; our economy is absolutely crying out for it. That is why, next week, I am putting forward plans to make Europe the connected continent, with a dynamic, unified telecommunications market.

Like with new consumer choices to make roaming charges in Europe a thing of the past. With better rules for spectrum, to make more of it available faster, and more consistently. And with new rules on WiFi, meaning more competition and more ways to log on wirelessly – making constant connectivity a reality.

Second, to innovate, we need to work together. And so we have launched a European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities.

That is a new kind of Partnership: working at the intersection of the three sectors: energy, transport and ICT. A fertile area where we see huge potential for innovation, demand and dynamism.

This isn’t easy; it’s a tough problem. There are barriers to innovation, historical boundaries between sectors, and not to mention vested interests. And it’s also a complex challenge: involving many different actors, each with a role to play. At different levels, in different countries, from sectors public and private. The Partnership is all about getting together to compare experiences, share successes, and overcome those challenges. It’s an approach that, in the area of healthcare, is already helping millions of Europeans.

For our Partnership on Smart Cities, we are only at the beginning, collecting valuable input; we will set out more detailed plans later this year, and start to implement in the next. I hope many of you will take part – if you are not already.

Because I know that working together, we can find those solutions. And there are many outcomes where everyone wins – whether it’s from sharing infrastructure, sharing data, or simply sharing expertise.

Third, we are supporting open data. The information from open public administrations is a rich fuel for innovation. The benefits are there for all to see: as citizens can enjoy new creative apps and services. Our economy can enjoy a new stimulus. And even public administrations themselves can benefit, better able to serve their citizens and base policies on sound evidence. Now our new rules are in place I’d like to see all kinds of administration absorb that philosophy; and embrace the idea of “open data by default”.

Fourth, I know the key to real innovation and growth: it lies with our entrepreneurs and startups. And I want to give them the tools and resources they need.

Just earlier this week I launched the Future Internet lab. Led by industry, this is a major investment in generic technology. Focusing not on specific applications: but on the building blocks essential to creating new ideas.

And as of this week, that Lab is open. Technology that is accessible, free and state-of the-art. In areas from healthcare to transport, from media to manufacturing – or for whatever creative app you can think of.

That’s something that you can turn into real results, real jobs, and real innovation. European platforms helping European innovation in European cities.

And finally: even as we roll out the latest networks, I know we also need to look ahead. To invest in researching the next generation of networks: 5G. Technology to support all the demands of smart cities. All the intelligent objects and devices now emerging from your creative minds. Offering faster and faster access, for more and more effective services.

When I spoke to the Mobile World Congress in February, I called for Europe to move faster on 5G. I am delighted with the rapid and positive response from industry.

And we are now ready to agree a Public Private Partnership on strategic research for 5G, worth hundreds of millions of euros.

The next generation of communications will look different .Not just people communicating with people, but people with objects, and objectives with each other. And those things will converge, especially in our smartest cities. 5G will need to reflect those trends right from the start.

One last thing. The increasing use of ICT cannot be to the detriment of the environment. Increasing mobile communication, and data centre use has pushed up energy consumption sharply.

The GSMA has already made some good progress in addressing this issue. Thank you: I encourage you to continue. Most importantly, I’d like to align with the standards for environmental impact of ICT developed recently.

And so Smart Cities will be involved not only in defining the uses for 5G, but also in testing and developing them as they become available. I look forward to a rich cooperation as we work together on that.

Smart cities offer us a lot of chances. My job isn’t to come up with those innovations. But it is to support them — and give you the environment for success. Whether it is forums for you to share experiences, resources to stimulate innovation, or the fast networks that underpin smart cities, now and in the future. That is my dream for a connected continent. And I hope we can achieve it together. Thank you.


Source: European Commission Press Room