Amsterdam Smart city

Posted on March, 01 2012


Puts "Smart City" front and center

With the Smart City project, Amsterdam has transformed itself into a laboratory of innovation for sustainable urban development. With 16 different projects the city has explored methods for making infrastructure more green, finding ways to reach the ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2025, and making the city's own operations carbon neutral by 2015. It is the most ambitious project to emerge from the recent global “smart city” trend.

Keywords: Smart City, innovation, energy savings, smart grid, collaboration

The term "smart city" is the latest buzzword in urban development, giving sustainability measures and information and communications technology (ICT) central roles in future planning. The smart city concept is based on the idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by means of fundamental changes in urban infrastructure. These changes could include: smart transformation of how cities deliver services, how residents’ work, how mobility is delivered, buildings are used, and even how quality of life is approached.

No city has yet embraced the smart city concept quite as thoroughly as Amsterdam. Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) is a unique collaborative effort between authorities, companies, academic institutions, and residents. ASC’s goal is to show how energy can be saved in a city by developing and testing "smart" solutions which can subsequently be implemented on a large scale, thus acting as an "accelerator" for climate and energy programmes.

ASC was founded in 2009 by the network organisation Amsterdam Innovation Motor (AIM) and Liander, the regional electricity grid operator, in collaboration with city authorities in Amsterdam. The project has gradually evolved into a network of companies and organisations that by 2011 had grown to 70 companies, including IBM, Accenture and Cisco.

Many smart solutions
The 16 projects were sorted under the headings Working, Living, Mobility and Public Space.
  • Three projects got more than 1,200 residents to test various energy saving technologies, including so-called smart grids and smart meters (see also Austin). Smart grids save energy by the more efficient use of electricity; creates new possibilities for monitoring and adjusting electricity consumption; and pave the way for more local electricity production, from solar panels, for example.
  • An additional four projects focused on streamlining energy consumption in buildings: office buildings, public monuments, swimming pools, as well as in public buildings through an online system of public control of energy use.
  • Renewable energy sources were tested in three projects: collective financing of seven wind farms, 3,000 solar panels in a business district, and installation of fuel cells in an 18th-century building.
  • By means of energy savings competitions, two projects targeted lifestyle transformation. In Smart Challenge, employees from 11 companies matched their energy-saving lifestyles against each other at home as well as the workplace, with the help of the Wattcher programme. In a children’s educational project, six schools competed against each other to see which one could save the most energy.
  • Two projects were about transport. As part of the programme for becoming one of the most sustainable European ports by 2020, 195 charging points for ships were installed in the port. Also, a new type of smart charging point for electrical cars has been installed in the city.
  • In the Zonspot project, solar-power-driven hotspots were installed to facilitate outdoor work with laptops in open spaces.
  • In the Climate Street project, businesses in one particular street were engaged to find energy effective solutions and experiment with climate-smart shopping.

The results of the projects
An evaluation in 2011 showed that the 16 projects on average achieved energy savings of about 13%. According to a modest estimate, a scaling-up of the 16 projects would contribute to 7% of the reduction in carbon emissions that are required for Amsterdam to meet its climate goals. Amsterdam is now continuing Smart City with new projects and new partners (including KPN, the Netherlands's largest internet service provider) with the ambition of scaling up the most successful projects.

Other green projects
Amsterdam Smart City is just one part of the city's green policy actions, also including:
  • A comprehensive programme for launching an electrification of vehicle traffic - including canal boats - with the help of investments, regulations, and subsidies, with the target of 10,000 electric cars by 2015. A car-pooling programme for electric cars is already underway (see also Amsterdam).
  • A plan to invest €200 million in a smart electrical grid. Amsterdam is planning to found a green energy company to help reach the goal for a third of the city’s energy to come from local sources of renewable energy by 2025.
  • The energy company Nuon saves energy by using sea water for air-conditioning in office buildings.
  • Since 2009, the authorities are experimenting with openness and civic dialogue, through the new platform Amsterdam Opent, where they challenge the public to make suggestions around issues such as how the city can help residents to start producing their own energy.
Amsterdam is one of the leading ICT cities in Europe, starting the "Green IT Initiative" in 2008, and signing the Green Digital Charter in 2010 (see also Manchester).

Smart Cities and companies
In recent years, several large companies, including IBM, Siemens and Cisco, embarked on collaborative projects with cities associated with Smart Grids and Smart Cities. In IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge program, which began in 2010, cities receive a grant of around $400,000, as well as free consultation regarding smart solutions to problems in health, education, security, social services, transport, communications, management, energy, and public services.

Together with San Francisco and Seoul, Amsterdam is one of the founders of the Cisco project Connected Urban Development (CUD), which began in 2006. The objective of the project is to use ICT to promote innovative change in urban infrastructures for the reduction of emissions in greenhouse gases. Birmingham, Hamburg, Lisbon, and Madrid joined up in 2008. In 2010, CUD launched the SMART 2020 initiative: Cities and Regions, together with the non-profit consulting firm The Climate Group. This aims to build a global industry platform for “IT in the Sustainable City” by bringing cities, corporations and NGO’s together under the leadership of The Climate Group.

In 2011 the EU also launched the Smart Cities and Communities initiative, the aim of which is to promote ICT-based energy saving projects. In the first stage, the EU is contributing an €80 million package to the programme.

Amsterdam Smart City,

Amsterdam Smart City, Smart Stories 2011,

I Amsterdam, Portal to Amsterdam,

Connected Urban Development,

IBM, City Forward,

Mark Scott, "Amsterdam as Smart City: Going Green, Fast", Bloomberg Business Week, March 13 2009,

European Commission, “Launch Conference of the Smart Cities and Communities Initiative”, June 21 2011,

Key data are retrieved from the UN World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

Amsterdam ARCAM
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Map Amsterdam Smart city