Amsterdam as testing ground

Cisco’s presence in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area offers many advantages. The world’s largest manufacturer of online network systems manages all its Western European operations from here, but it also sees the region as an ideal testing ground for future ICT applications – particularly when it comes to sustainable solutions.

“Clearly, we need a major rethink when it comes to the way our urban areas are run,” says Bas Boorsma of Cisco’s Connected Urban Development (CUD) programme, an ambitious project run in collaboration with the city governments of San Francisco, Seoul and Amsterdam. Boorsma points out that two-thirds of the global population will soon be living in cities. Without new solutions for transport and other problems, “the system will quite literally grind to a halt.”

Ideal lab

Cisco believes that its smart web-based ICT applications can help, by allowing people to work together more intensively on a remote basis, without having to physically meet. The company is developing and coordinating many of its experimental CUD activities from Amsterdam.

“This is an ideal laboratory to test our ideas,” says Boorsma. While sharing the problems of other major urban conglomerations, he adds, the Amsterdam Area has “the greatest broadband connectivity and second-highest Internet connection density in the world. “ These factors, aided by the large local IT and telecom sector, enable large-scale and affordable experiments with high-quality data transport.

Former US President Bill Clinton laid the groundwork for the project as part of his Global Initiative. Clinton asked Cisco’s CEO John Chambers to help find solutions to the problems currently threatening cities. “Our main goal was to draw up a comprehensive blueprint, identifying how ICT can be applied to keep tomorrow’s cities liveable and healthy,” says Boorsma. The plan targets inefficient energy, transport and passenger flows.

Smart work

The approach has already yielded concrete results in Almere. Last year, the Smart Work Center, a joint initiative of Cisco and local government, opened with the objective of reducing commuting. Tools such as the interactive conferencing system Telepresence reduce the need to travel. Another three such centres will open shortly in the Amsterdam Area.

Another initiative is the development of an eco map for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, along the lines of one made for San Francisco. The information gained will support innovative regional projects. Meanwhile the Ageing Well programme applies ICT to the issues raised by tomorrow’s older urban population. According to Bas Boorsma, Amsterdam is “an incredibly inspiring place to think about the cities of the future.”

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