Making Amsterdam (even) smarter

An initiative known as Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) is working on tech-driven solutions to the city’s most pressing urban challenges, including mobility and the transition to renewable energy. As explained by Ger Baron, the Chief Technology Officer of the City of Amsterdam and the head of ASC, the ASC provides the connectivity, energy and data necessary for start-ups and entrepreneurs to develop their solutions. With about 100 partners, including businesses, local authorities, research institutes and the city’s own residents, they are currently working on more than 90 innovative projects.

An example is the collaboration with the Amsterdam ArenA stadium, where real-time traffic information data will help improve mobility. Other projects focus on energy-saving lighting, public WiFi and even a self-steering garbage-collection boat to keep the city’s canals clean. Amsterdam aspires to have the best energy system of all the world’s capitals, and this ambition will benefit from its existing ecosystem of companies that combine their expertise in areas such as IT, electronics and energy.

Amsterdam's Knowledge Mile

Amsterdam’s Wibautstraat is known as the Knowledge Mile, because it has more students than any other street in the city. This dense concentration of students can help connect the creativity and technology of tomorrow with the urban challenges of today. And Amsterdam’s Knowledge Mile is about to get even smarter: Matthijs ten Berge, director of the Amsterdam Creative Industries Network (ACIN), plans to turn this two-kilometre stretch of road into an ‘applied research ecosystem’, a living laboratory where urban issues can be tackled. 

The ACIN acts as an interface between the area’s industries, government bodies and educational organisations. One example is the Refugee Company, a startup that connects refugees with jobs, giving them a chance to work as they await their legal status. The project has already helped set up a cheese factory in one refugee camp. Another collaboration, with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, is the Amstelhuis, a home for able-bodied seniors. This privately run facility provides affordable rental apartments, and residents are encouraged to become more independent, for example via lessons on using an iPad, Skype or the Dutch train system.

Mastering the science of water

Another example of the city as a living lab is the new consortium known as Amsterdam Water Science, which brings together two university communities, local water authorities and businesses. Together they innovate in the field of water science, and Amsterdam and its water-rich environment serve as a testing ground for the group’s research and education. Dr Elco Koks, for example, has been looking into the effects of extreme weather events on the Port of Amsterdam. His work considers a wide variety of ‘what if’ scenarios, which may also be of use to other regions and cities, as well as across different businesses, such as oil companies and data centres.


First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Douglas Heingartner