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Moving from a linear to a circular economy means minimising the waste and pollution by reducing, recycling and reusing. The City of Amsterdam aims to redesign twenty product- or material chains. The implementation of material reuse strategies has the potential to create a value of €85 million per year within the construction sector and €150 million per year with more efficient organic residual streams. Amsterdam set up an innovation program on the circular economy; www.amsterdamsmartcity.com/circularamsterdam. By converting waste into electricity, urban heating and construction materials, the Amsterdam Electricity Company generates 900 kWh per 1000 kg of waste. 75% of the sewage system is separated for waste and rain water and the silt which remains after treating waste water is converted into natural gas. Share your innovative concepts and ideas on circular economy here.
Join our speed date and engage with 3 great speakers at the first in-person Smart Energy Community meetup on October 11th!
Topics Smart Energy Community October 11:
Home Energy Management Systems in practice
Now that we are installing more and more heat pumps and EV chargers in homes, there is more and more need for energy management. How does this work? How to deal with cyber security and what role do protocols play? ElaadNL developed its own showcase house where this is put into practice. Arjan Wargers of Flexiblepower Alliance Network & ElaadNL discusses the lessons learned.
Power pitch ATEPS: Energy and storage
ATEPS develops, builds and supplies systems based on batteries that store energy. Jos Theuns (ATEPS) explains how they make storage of sustainable energy accessible, safe and attractive through smarter management of electrical energy. Due to the modular construction of ATEPS systems, they are suitable for both small and larger customers.
Power pitch withthegrid: Teleport
How do you connect PV, wind, battery, EV chargers and heat pumps without losing your mind in all protocols and without cloud lock-in? Paul Mignot (Withthegrid) discusses their new innovation Teleport. This gives customers maximum insights and control over their assets in minutes.
Speed dating, networking & visit demonstration house
In the second half, connecting with other professionals is central. During these speed dating sessions, you will get to know fellow innovators, share project ideas and explore opportunities for collaboration. There will be ample opportunity for discussion after the meeting. At the same time, you can take a tour of ElaadNL's new demonstration home for smart energy services, where various smart devices are optimised for home energy management.
That was the main question we talked about September 14 at the FuW Forum in Zurich. Sharing learnings and exchanging ideas and experiences is of great value. To learn from each other, align and get inspired. That is why Amsterdam Smart City hosts a lot of international groups in our Smart City Lab and sometimes visits interesting international conferences to share our story.
The FuW Forum in Zurich had a very interesting line-up with speakers from all over the world. It was an honour for me to give an inspirational key note on behalf of Amsterdam Smart City. The message I wanted to get across: "Don't overestimate technology. Smart technology offers great opportunities but to make it work we have to make a whole ecosystem work. And that means cooperate, listen to each other, help each other, fail, learn, adapt, try different perspectives.....All so called 'soft' skills that we need to combine with a world of bits and bytes. That is where the real challenge lies. To overcome these issues a world in transition needs an independent and neutral place, where changemakers can meet interact and start working together.” An exciting message to bring being at Google headquarters. But I was glad to hear that most speakers and participants saw smart technology as a means to an end instead of a goal in itself.
Below some interesting quotes of other speakers:
Prem Ramaswami – Google
"We invented the technology of cars to move from A to B and now we spend most of the time standing still in the traffic – 42% of the cities are parking lots."
Ute Schneider - Technical University Wien
"We only start moving, when it really hurts"
Silke C. - Fraunhofer Gesellschaft
“At the moment, data is not fully exploited, the data is distributed everywhere and cannot be brought together, there is a lack of trust – that is why a European governance is now being built."
Salomé Mall - Smart City Lab Basel
"The real estate industry is not mobile, it needs innovation to bridge the next crisis."
Markus Schläpfer - ETH Zurich
"If we measure and understand human flows, we can use this for transport, infrastructure and the use of modern technologies.”
And Audrey Tang, Taiwan's Digital Minister
"With the first Ministry of Digital Affairs we encourage the digital collaborative democracy between government and people - we must trust each other going into future live.”
The primary reason to renovate buildings is to improve indoor climate quality and reduce environmental impact. This can be extremely effective, as 75% of buildings' CO2 emissions are released during the use phase. However, using non-renewable materials during renovation can be entirely counter-productive.
Check out this article to learn about bio-based materials in the renovation, and the obstacles to bio-based innovation.
Summer is my favourite season in Amsterdam! There are so many things to do, it’s sometimes hard to choose where to go. To make your lives a bit easier, I curated a list of smart city exhibitions, activities and experiences from our partners and community. Zigzag across the city and experience the future of the energy systems, water management and food in urban areas. Enjoy!
1. Energy Junkies exhibition at Nemo The Studio
Our dependence on fossil fuels and the effects of our energy consumption on climate change are the focus of NEMO’s new exhibition for adults: Energy Junkies. NEMO invites you to explore the decisions that will determine our future. How would you transform our energy addiction into a healthy habit? Create your own carbon diet, choose the right medicines from the climate pharmacy and dream about a world where we are cured of our energy addiction. Visit Energy Junkies at NEMO’s Studio, the off-site location for adults on the Marineterrein in Amsterdam.
Energy Junkies is open from Wednesday – Sunday, from 12:00 – 17:30 until July 2023. Costs are € 7,50
2. Interactive installation Senses of Amsterdam at OBA Slotermeer
The municipality of Amsterdam is using more and more new technologies to make the city more liveable and safe. But what do these sensors actually measure? And what happens with the data they collect? What does this mean for the people of Amsterdam? The installation Senses of Amsterdam informs visitors about how sensors make Amsterdam a smarter city, what measurements are taken and how data is collected. The interactive installation by the Responsible Sensing Lab is currently exhibited at the public library (OBA) in Slotermeer.
Visit the interactive installation Senses of Amsterdam daily until 25 September 2022.
3. Study excursion about trends and innovations in Amsterdam’s cycling infrastructure
Yes, the Dutch and their bikes are inseparable! And Amsterdam is often cited as the cycling capital of the world. Are you interested in how Amsterdam is innovating in the areas of cycling and urban mobility? Join the study excursion organised by the Urban Cycling Institute and Bicycle User Experience (BUX). The two-hour excursion (by bicycle, of course!) brings you to key locations exemplifying Amsterdam’s innovative approach to cycling infrastructure and policy. You will meet internationally-oriented cycling experts and become part of a larger network of the Urban Cycling Institute and Bicycle User Experience (BUX).
The study excursions take place on Saturdays, August 13, 20 and 27 from 16:00 – 18:00. Costs are € 50,00 per person.
4. Exhibition Fluid Matter in the Architecture Centre of Amsterdam (ARCAM)
The Amsterdam water system regulates water levels and quality in one of Europe’s most densely populated areas. Due to the urban growth and climate change, the system will be increasingly strained in the future. This means that different design choices have to be made, but this situation also offers opportunities for new ways of dealing with water. What choices do we have? How can we design with the water? In the interactive exhibition Fluid Matter, you will discover this complex water system through scale models of four urban districts of Amsterdam: Houthavens/Haven-Stad, North/Schoonschip, City Centre/Kattenburg and IJburg/IJmeer.
Visit the Exhibition Fluid Matter from Tuesday – Sunday (13:00-17:00) until November 2022. Costs are € 4,00.
5. Johan Cruijff ArenA Innovation Tour
Take a tour into the world of innovations at the Johan Cruijff ArenA! With thousands of visitors during large events, the home of Ajax becomes a small smart city. Already recognized as one of the most sustainable stadiums in the world, the Johan Cruijff ArenA is also one of Amsterdam’s premier living labs for energy, mobility, security, and visitor experience innovations. The Johan Cruijff ArenA offers private tours showcasing innovative approaches and solutions for the stadium of tomorrow, ideal for team building events and (inter)national delegation visits.
The Johan Cruijff ArenA’s Innovation Tours last ~45minutes and can be booked by sending a request to email@example.com with “Innovation Tour” in the subject line. Costs are €24,38 excl. VAT per person, with minimum of 20 persons per group.
6. Floriade Expo 2022, Almere
Once every ten years, all the horticultural greats gather during the Floriade. Experts from all over the world come together to present green solutions that make our cities more enjoyable, beautiful and sustainable. With the theme of ‘Growing Green Cities’, more than 400 national and international participants showcase their latest green innovations, solutions and applications. From state-of-the-art solar roof tiles to amazing vertical façade gardens and from the best ways to grow tomatoes to the latest pruning techniques. You can see, taste and experience it all at Floriade in Almere.
The Floriade ) is open daily until 9 October 2022 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit their website. Costs are € 29,00.
7. Exhibition Makers of Noord by Waag
From large goods to small workshops, makers have always been an important part of Amsterdam Noord. Scattered throughout the district you will find individual makers and collectives, craftsmen and creative entrepreneurs. Their future in the city is under pressure, partly due to gentrification. On the other hand, the city heavily depends on these makers to cope with the energy transition and the enormous demand for housing. The good news is that many makers are still located in Amsterdam, and in particular in Noord. Who are these makers of Noord, what do they make, and how does this contribute to the city, the neighbourhood, and our lives? Get to know different makers from Noord and listen to their inspiring stories about re-use, sustainability and traditional craftsmanship.
The Makers of Noord exhibition can be visited in Museum Amsterdam Noord from Thursday – Sunday from 13:00 – 17:00 until August 27. Costs are €4,00.
Looking for more inspiring smart city events and experiences in and around Amsterdam? You can find them on the events and experiences pages on our platform! So do you have other tips for inspiring smart city activities not to be missed this summer? Share them with the community in the comments!
For the sixteenth edition of our Demo Days, we were finally able to meet offline again since the start of the pandemic. This meant: old-school post-its instead of filling online Miro boards. The Circular & Digital Demo Day was hosted at one of our partners’ locations, the Digital Society School at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. From reducing illegal drones in the city to reusing materials through a digital material database, in this article you’ll read all about circular & digital projects our partners are working on.
About our Demo Days
The Demo Days are one of the tools we use to stimulate innovation and encourage connection between our partners and community. The purpose of the Demo Days is to present the progress of various innovation projects, ask for help, share dilemmas and involve more partners to take these projects to the next level. More information about the Demo Days can be found here.
Demo Day: Circular & Digital
Reducing (illegal) drones in the city - Daan Groenink (municipality of Amsterdam)
In Amsterdam, and in many other places in the Netherlands, is not allowed to fly drones. But despite the regulations, many drones are still flown illegally over Amsterdam. Daan Groenink from the municipality of Amsterdam invited the participants to reflect on how the city of Amsterdam can reduce (illegal) drone usage with as little enforcement as possible. Many creative interventions were discussed, such as awareness campaigns, making beautiful drone images public, and renting out drones as an experience.
Subsidy scheme for circular chain cooperation - Suzanne van den Noort en Maartje Molenaar (province of Noord-Holland)
The province of North Holland wants to be 100% circular by 2050. To achieve this, an action agenda has been drawn up for 2021-2025 with strategic and operational goals. The province of North Holland initiated the ‘Circular Economy Subsidy Scheme’ to accelerate the circular transition. The province of North Holland already thought about how this subsidy scheme should work. In this session, the participants gave their feedback. One of the key take outs from the working session was: keep it simple. You want to know that the money is well spent and therefore the conditions of the subsidy scheme should be clear.
Digital material database – Mark van der Putten (municipality of Amsterdam)
The City of Amsterdam is developing a digital material database for the necessary exchange of information to enable the reuse of materials from projects. Projects can use this database to report their available materials or to reserve materials. In this way, a street can be paved with tiles from an old project. The municipality of Amsterdam asked for input from the Amsterdam Smart City network on what to keep in mind while developing a digital material database. During the session, the participants discussed topics such as data governance, data ownership and the advantages of a SAAS solution compared to a self-built database. The municipality of Amsterdam will continue to research how the material database could be used and what the stakeholders think of it during 6 pilot projects.
Want to join the next Demo Day?
Are you working on an innovative project that could use some input? Or are you preparing for an inspiring event that needs a spotlight? Our next Demo Day takes place on the 11th of October. If it fits within our themes (circular, mobility, energy and digital), sent a message to Sophie via firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know in the comments. We are happy to talk with you to find out if it's a match!
Would you like to participate in the next Demo Day and share your thoughts on our partners’ innovative projects? As soon as the program for the next Demo Day is determined, we will share it on the platform and give you the opportunity to join as participant.
Curious to mobility & energy projects? Read more about it in the recap of Demo Day Mobility & Energy.
Photo: Myrthe Polman
The first Circularity Gap Report for the Built Environment in The Netherlands has launched!
The Netherlands has set an ambitious goal: a circular building sector by 2050. However, the built environment in the Netherlands is a massive motor for downcycling. Only 8% of the total material consumption comes from secondary materials.
This report by Metabolic, C-creators, Goldschmeding Foundation and Circle Economy shows new insights and specific actions for businesses, policymakers, urban planners and labour unions to accelerate circularity in the sector.
Get the overview from the summary in Dutch or download the full report in English below.
Reused materials are an important element of circular construction. The more re-used components and recycled materials we use, the fewer virgin materials we need, and the lower our environmental impact. To do so effectively, the supply of reused components and recycled materials should influence the building’s design.
Learn more in the article below.
How can a modern multinational company transition its value chain to preserve nature and biodiversity rather than deplete it?
Metabolic, WWF-France and the Science-Based Targets Network have worked with Bel to understand what areas to target and where the most positive impacts on biodiversity could be made.
Bel will share their best practices, helping other companies to see which methods work overtime. Together with SBTN, we invite more companies to join the effort.
Vacancy alert! The Metabolic Built Environment Team is looking for a Project Manager!
If you have a passion for circular construction, strong experience in project management, and a keen sense for relationship building, please do check out our vacancy and apply.
Do you know someone who would suit this role? Please share it with your network.
Based on years of research and project work, Metabolic identified six key areas where they'd like to have the greatest impact.
Successfully transitioning these six systems will likely address over 90% of the global negative environmental and humanitarian impacts.
Last year, Metabolic focused on four of them. Their impact report highlights some projects they are particularly proud of.
Check it out in the link below.
On June 14 and 21 the 16th edition of our Demo Days will take place. This will be the first Demo Days on location (will be announced soon) since COVID-19. Our themes for these upcoming Demo Days are:
14 June: Energy & Mobility
21 June: Circular & Digital
What are the Amsterdam Smart City Demo Days?
The Demo Days are one of the tools we use to stimulate innovation and encourage connection between our partners and community. The purpose of the Demo Days is to present the progress of various innovation projects to each other, ask for help, share dilemmas and involve more partners in a project to take these projects to the next level. In small groups we work on concrete questions.
We have created the Demo Days as a safe place for asking input from the network. A fresh perspective from another professional can be exactly what you need to move forward. You cannot work on a transition alone, which is why it’s important to involve others in your process. During these days, we also give the stage to community members to pitch projects and ask for input from our network.
That’s where you come in!
Not only are the Demo Days open for our community, but we offer you the opportunity to pitch your innovative initiative during the event. We want to involve our community more in the activities that we regularly organise, as you are an important part of the Amsterdam Smart City innovation ecosystem.
Are you working on an innovative project that could use some input? Or are you preparing for an inspiring event that needs a spotlight?
If it fits within our themes, sent a message to email@example.com or let us know in the comments. We would be happy to discuss if it's a match!
At the end of its production process, waste or “output” produced by one company can be reborn into a valuable raw material or “input” for another.
This process is called “Industrial symbiosis”.
Learn more about it in the link below.
One of the biggest challenges for the transition to cleaner energy systems is the vast amount of critical metals required. But where do those metals come from, and what technologies are they needed for?
The Industries Team at Metabolic explored these questions and proposed circular strategies to reduce the critical metals demand significantly. Find out more about the project in the link below.
The energy transition is in full swing. Besides manpower, it requires a lot of materials, products and infrastructure. Windmills, solar panels, batteries and water pumps contribute fully to this transition, but are still hardly purchased, produced or reused in a circular manner. With the global economy changing and the shortages of raw materials growing, it’s important to look at the materials we use in the energy transition. How can we limit the negative impact of these materials needed for the energy transition?
It's clear that this question is on the minds of several partners. For example, at the Transition Days 2021, the Province of North Holland suggested that a knowledge agenda should be drawn up. In the meantime, our partners AMS Institute and the City of Amsterdam have started a project aimed at the reuse of solar panels in Amsterdam-Southeast and linked this with social issues. Next to that, the companies Pontiflex and Cenex Netherlands (in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences) are focusing on the reuse of wind turbine components in new bridge structures and EV batteries.
On March 17, Amsterdam Smart City organized a work session during the Demoday Circular & Energy so our partners could discuss their input and vision on the importance of a circular energy transition. Some think it's important to have an ''integrated approach to circularity and energy'', others seek further ''stimulus that enables circular reuse of materials''. But if we want to scale up the energy transition circularly, what obstacles and opportunities do we see together? The challenges and obstacles are mapped for the different physical products via the digital tool Miro. Check out the English version of the Miro board here.
The key challenges raised by the participants:
1. Not all procurement procedures allow for circular material use or are limited to steel and concrete. Or requirements and criteria do not match.
2. Local and regional logistics in relation to transport and labor costs.
3. The business case: often a low financial return and therefore less attractive to the market. Practice shows that to be able to experiment, subsidy or other funding is needed.
4. Laws, regulations and certification of circular products stand in the way. Often the same norms and standards must be applied as for new products.
5. Education to encourage a new generation of students to work more with biobased and circular materials in projects
Now that the obstacles are visible, the challenge is to find a common approach. Through a follow-up session, Amsterdam Smart City will invite the partners again to think about the next steps. In the end we need each other to take the circular energy transition one step further.
If you have any thoughts on this topic or have a related question for us, please let us know in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 22nd and penultimate episode in the *Better cities: The contribution of digital technology-*series will discuss two ambitious ‘smart city’plans of two governments and the associated risks.
Recently, the European Commission launched a 100-city plan, the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities. One hundred European cities that aspire to be climate neutral by 2030 (you read that correctly) can register and count on supplemental funding. I immediately thought of another 100-city plan, India's Smart City Mission. In 2015, Prime Minister Modi announced that in six years 100 Indian cities would become 'smart'. The official term of the project has now ended, and I will examine below whether this goal has been achieved, I discuss the two plans and then explain why I call both of them a leap forward. At the end I will make a few suggestions for how the European mission can still learn from the Indian one.
India's Smart City Mission
In India, 377 million people live in cities. In 15 years, 200 million will have been added. Already, traffic in Indian cities has come to a complete standstill, each year more than 600,000 people die from air pollution, half of the urban areas have no drinking water connection, waste collection is poor and only 3% of sewage is treated. The rest is discharged into surface water, which is also the main source of drinking water.
The Smart City Mission was intended to implement substantial improvements on all these problems in 100 cities, which together comprise 30% of the population. In the improvements digital technology had to play an important role.
The 100 cities were selected because of favorable prospects and the quality of the plans, which usually consisted of a long series of projects.
The regular city governing bodies were deemed incompetent to lead the projects. That is why management boards (‘special purpose vehicles’) have been appointed, operating under company law and led by a CEO, supported by international consultancy firms. All rights and duties of the City Council regarding the execution of the mission were delegated to the appointed boards, including the power to collect taxes! Not surprisingly, this decision has been challenged in many places. Several cities have withdrawn from 'the mission' for this reason.
To implement their projects, each city would receive $150 million over five consecutive years. This money should be seen as seed capital to be supplemented from additional sources such as public-private partnerships, commercial bank lending, external financing, loans, and foreign investment.
Area-oriented and pan-urban approach
The plans contain two components: an area-oriented and a pan-urban approach. The first aims at adapting, retrofitting or new construction and should relate to a wide range of 'smart services'. For example high-speed internet, waste facilities, parking facilities, energy-efficient buildings, but also replacement of slums by high-rise buildings. The slick 'architectural impressions' that circulated at the beginning of the planning period (see above) mainly concern the area-oriented approach.
The pan-urban approach includes at least one 'smart' facility for a larger part of the city. The choice is often made to improve the transport infrastructure, for example the construction of new roads and highways and the purchase of electric buses. No fewer than 70 cities have built a 'smart' control center based on the example of Rio de Janeiro, which I believe was rather premature.
Now that the official term of 'the mission' has ended, a first inventory can be made, although observers complain about a lack of transparency about the results. About half of all the 5000 projects that have been started have not (yet) been completed and a significant part of the government funds have not yet been disbursed. This could still happen in the coming years. This is also because attracting external resources has lagged behind expectations. These funds came mainly from governments, and large technology companies. This has had an impact on the implementation of the plans.
The slow progress of most projects is partly because most of the population was barely aware of the mission and that city councils were not always cooperative either.
It was foreseen that half of the available resources would go to area-oriented projects; this eventually became 75-80%. As a result, on average only 4% of the inhabitants of the cities involved have benefited from 'the mission' and even then it is not clear what the benefits exactly entail. The city of New Delhi covers an area of almost 1500 km2, while the area concerned is only 2.2 km2: So you're not even going to have 100 smart cities. You're going to have 100 smart enclaves within cities around the country, said Shivani Chaudhry, director of the Housing and Land Rights Network.
It soon became clear that the mission would be no more than a drop in the ocean. Instead of $150 million, it would take $10 billion per city, $1000 billion in total, to address all ambitions, according to an official calculation. Deloitte was a little more modest, calculating the need for $150 billion in public money and $120 billion from private sources.
Type of projects
The many topics eligible for funding have resulted in a wide variety of projects. Only one city has put the quality of the environment first. Most cities have initiated projects in the areas of clean energy, improving electricity supply, reducing air pollution, construction of new roads, purchasing electric buses, waste disposal and sanitation. What is also lacking, is a focus on human rights, gender, and the interests of the poorest population groups.
In some places, it has been decided to clear slums and relocate residents to high-rise buildings on the outskirts of the city. Indian master architect Doshi warns that the urban vision behind the smart city plans will destroy the informality and diversity that is the cornerstone of the country's rural and urban society. He challenges planners to shift the emphasis to rural areas and to create sufficient choices and opportunities there.
The European Mission on Climate-neutral and Smart Cities
Cities produce more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and use more than 65% of total energy. In addition, cities in Europe only cover 4% of the total surface area and accommodate 75% of the population. The ecological footprint of the urban population is more than twice what it is entitled to, assuming a proportional distribution of the earth's resources.
On November 25, 2021, the European Commission called on European cities to express their interest in a new European mission on Climate-neutral and smart cities. The mission aims to have 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030, which will act as a model for all other European cities.
The sectors involved in this transformation process are the built environment, energy production and distribution, transport, waste management, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, forestry, and other land uses and large-scale deployment of digital technology. That is why the European Commission talks of a green and digital twin, or a simultaneous green and digital transformation.
Reaching the stated goal requires a new way of working and the participation of the urban population, hence the motto 100 climate neutral cities by 2030 - by and for the citizens.
According to the plan's authors, the main obstacle to climate transition is not a lack of climate-friendly and smart technology, but the inability to implement it. The current fragmented form of governance cannot bring about an ambitious climate transition. Crucial to the success of the mission is the involvement of citizens in their various roles as political actors, users, producers, consumers, or owners of buildings and means of transport.
The additional investment to achieve the mission is estimated at €96 billion for 100 European cities by 2030, with a net positive economic benefit to society of €25 billion that will increase further in the period thereafter. The European Commission will provide €360 million in seed funding.
The overwhelming amount of funding will have to come from banks, private equity, institutional investors, and from the public sector at the local, regional and national level.
What went wrong with the Indian Mission and its follow-up
The gap between ambitions and reality
Almost all comments on 'the mission' emphasize that three necessary conditions were not met from the start, namely a widely accepted governance model, adequate funding, and involvement of the population and local government. There was an unbridgeable gap between ambitions and available resources, with the contribution of external capital being grossly overestimated.
The biggest problem, however, is the gap between the mission's ambitions and the nature of the problems that India it faces: Cities are bursting at the seams because of the millions of poor people who flock to cities every year in search of work and a place to live that find them only in the growing slums. The priorities for which the country must find a solution are therefore: improving life in rural areas, improving housing in the cities, ensuring safe drinking water, waste disposal, sanitation, and purification of wastewater, good (bus) transport and less polluting car traffic. Urgently needed is a sustainable development model that addresses ecological problems, makes urbanization manageable, controls pollution and will use resources efficiently.
The 'Mission' is a leap forward, which does not tackle these problems at the root, but instead seeks a solution in 'smartification'. Policymakers were captivated by the promises made by IBM and other technology companies that ICT is the basis for solving most urban problems. A view that I objected in the third episode of this series. IC solutions have been concentrated in enclaves where businesses and prosperous citizens are welcomed. The Government of India Special Rapporteur on Housing therefore notes that the proposals submitted had a predominant focus on technology rather than prioritizing affordable housing and doubts the correctness of this choice.
Instead of emphasizing the role of digital technology, the focus should have been on equitable, inclusive, and sustainable living areas for all. Not the area-oriented but the pan-urban approach should have prevailed.
Several authors suggest future actions consistent with the above comments:
• Setting a longer time horizon, which is much more in line with the problems as they are felt locally.
• Decentralization, coupled with strengthening local government in combination with citizen participation.
• A more limited number of large-scale pan-urban projects. These projects should have an immediate impact on all 4000 Indian cities and the surrounding countryside.
• More attention for nature and the environment instead of cutting down trees to widen motorways.
• Training programs in the field of urbanization, partly to align urban development with Indian culture.
The European mission revisited
Europe and India are incomparable in many ways, but I do see similarities between the two missions.
With the proclamation of the 'mission', the Indian government wanted to show the ultimate – perhaps desperate – act of determination to confront the country's overwhelming problems. I therefore called this mission a flight forward in which the image of the 'smart city' was used as a catalyst. However, the country’s problems are out of proportion to this, and the other means employed.
It is plausible that the European Union Commission also wanted to take an ultimate act. After the publication of the ambitious European Green Deal, each national governments seems to be drawing its own plan. The ‘100 cities mission’ is perhaps intended as a 'booster', but here too the feasibility of this strategy is doubtful.
Smart and green
The European Union cherishes the image of a 'green and digital twin', a simultaneous green and digital transformation. Both the Government of India and the European Commission consider digital technology an integral part of developing climate neutral cities. I hope to have made it clear in the previous 21 episodes of this series that digital technology will certainly contribute. However, the reduction of greenhouse gases and digitization should not be seen as an extension of each other. Making a city climate neutral requires way more than (digital) technology. Moreover, suitable technology is still partly under development. It is often forgotten that technology is one of the causes of global warming. Using the image of green and smart twins will fuel the tension between the two, just like it happened in India. In that case, it remains to be seen where the priority will lie. In India it was 'smart'.
Funding of the Indian mission fell short; much is still unclear about funding of the European mission. It is highly questionable whether European states, already faced with strong opposition to the costs of 'climate', will be willing to channel extra resources to cities.
The European mission wants to be by and for the citizens. But the goal has already been established, namely becoming climate neutral by 2030. A new 'bottom-up' governmental approach would have been to investigate whether there are cities where a sufficiently large part of the population agrees with becoming climate neutral earlier than in 2050 and how much sooner that could be and next, leave it to these cities themselves to figure-out how to do this.
Can Europe still prevent its mission from failing like India's? I propose to look for in the same direction as India seems to be doing now:
• Opt for one unambiguous goal: Reducing greenhouse gases significantly earlier than 2050.
• Challenge a limited number of cities each to form a broad coalition of local stakeholders that share this ambition.
• Make extra resources available, but also ask the cities themselves to make part of the necessary investments.
• Stimulate universities and industry to provide a European response to Big Tech and to make connections with the 'European Green Deal'.
My e-book Smart City Tales contains several descriptions of intended and alleged smart cities, including the much-discussed Saudi Arabian Neom. The Dutch version is here.
The 21st episode of the Better cities – the contribution of digital technology-series is about priorities for digital healthcare, often referred to as eHealth.
The subject is broader than what will be discussed here. I won't talk about the degree of automation in surgery, the impressive equipment available to doctors, ranging from the high-tech chair at the dentist to the MRI scanner in hospitals, nor about researching microbes in air, water and sewerage that has exploded due to the covid pandemic. Even the relationship with the urban environment remains somewhat in the background. This simply does not play a prominent role when it comes to digitization in healthcare. The subject, on the other hand, lends itself well to illustrate ethical and social problems associated with digitization. As well as the solutions available in the meantime.
The challenge: saving costs and improving the quality of care
The Netherlands can be fortunate to be one of the countries with the best care in the world. However, there are still plenty of challenges, such as a greater focus on health instead of on disease, placing more responsibility for their own health on citizens, increasing the resilience of hospitals, paying attention to health for the poorer part of the population, whose number of healthy life years is significantly lower and, above all, limiting the increase of cost. Over the past 20 years, healthcare in the Netherlands has become 150% more expensive, not counting the costs of the pandemic. Annual healthcare costs now amount to € 100 billion, about 10% of GDP. Without intervention, this will rise to approximately €170 billion in 2040, mainly due to an aging population. In the meantime, healthcare costs are very unevenly distributed: 80% of healthcare costs go to 10% of the population.
The most important task facing the Netherlands and other rich countries is to use digitization primarily to reduce healthcare costs, while not forgetting the other challenges mentioned. This concerns a series of - often small - forms of digital care. According to McKinsey, savings of €18 billion by 2030 are within reach, if only with forms of digitization with proven effect. Most gains can be made by reducing the administrative burden and shifting costs to less specialized centers, to home treatment and to prevention.
There are more than 300,000 health sites and apps on the Internet, which provide comprehensive information about diseases, options for diagnosis and self-treatment. More and more medical data can also be viewed online. Often the information on apps is incomplete resulting in misdiagnosis. Doctors in the Netherlands especially recommend the website Thuisarts.nl, which they developed themselves.
Many apps use gamification, such as exercises to improve memory. A good example of digital social innovation is Mirrorable, a program to treat children with motor disorders because of brain injury. This program also enables contact between parents whose inputs continuously help to improve exercises.
Process automation in healthcare resembles in many respects automation elsewhere, such as personnel, logistics and financial management. More specific is the integrated electronic patient file. The Framework Act on Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare, adopted in 2021, obliges healthcare providers to exchange data electronically and prescribes standards. However, data exchange will be minimal and will only take place at a decentralized level to address privacy concerns. The complexity of the organization of health care and the constant discussions about the content of such a system were also immense obstacles. That's a pity because a central system lowers costs and increases quality. Meanwhile, new technological developments guarantee privacy with great certainty. For example, the use of federated (decentralized) forms of data storage combined with blockchain. TNO conducts groundbreaking research in this area. The institution applies the principles of federated learning along with the application of multi-party computation technology. These innovative technologies enable learning from sensitive data from multiple sources without sharing this data.
The recent eHealth monitor of the RIVM shows that by 2021 almost half of all doctors and nurses had had contact with patients with video calling, while this hardly happened in 2019. Incidentally, this concerns a relatively small group of patients. In the US there was an even larger increase, which has now been converted into a sharp decline. It seems that in the US primary health care is reinventing itself. Walgreens, the largest US drugstore chain, will begin offering primary care in 1000 of its stores. Apparently, in many cases, physical contact with a doctor is irreplaceable, even if (or perhaps because) the doctor is relatively anonymous.
Video calling is not only important for care provider, but also for informal caregivers, family and friends and help to combat loneliness. Virtual reality (metaverse!) will further expand the possibilities for this. TNO is also active here: The TNO media lab is developing a scalable communication platform in which the person involved (patient or client), using only an upright iPad, has the impression that the doctor, district nurse or visitor is sitting at the table or on the couch right in front.
The effectiveness of a remote consultation is of course served if the patient has already made a few observations him- or herself. 8% of patients with chronic conditions already do this. There is a growing range of self-tests available for, for example, fertility, urinary tract infections, kidney disorders and of course Covid-19. There are also home devices such as smart thermometers, mats that detect diabetic foot complications, and blood pressure meters; basically, everything that doctors often routinely do during a visit. The GGD AppStore provides an overview of relevant and reliable apps in the field of health.
Wearables, for example built into an i-watch, can collect part of the desired data, store it for a longer period and, if necessary, exchange it with the care provider.
More advanced are the mobile diagnosis boxes for emergency care by nurses on location, such as ambulances. With a fast Internet connection (5G), specialist care providers can watch if necessary.
A small but growing group of patients, doctors, and researchers with substantial financial support from Egon Musk sees the future mainly in chip implants. This would allow not only more complete diagnoses to be made, but also treatments to be carried out. Neuralink has developed a brain implant that improves communication with speech and hearing-impaired people. The Synchron brain implant helps people with brain disorders perform simple movements. For the time being, the resistance to brain implants is high.
Meanwhile, all these low-threshold amenities can lead us to become fixated on disease rather than on health. But what if we never had to worry about our health again? Instead, the local health center watches over our health thanks to wearables: Our data is continuously monitored and analyzed using artificial intelligence. They are compared with millions of diagnostic data from other patients. By comparing patterns, diseases can be predicted in good time, followed by automated suggestions for self-treatment or advice to consult a doctor. Until then, we have probably experienced nothing but vague complaints ourselves. Wouldn't that be an attractive prospect?
Helsinki is experimenting with a Health Benefit Analysis tool that anonymously examines patients' medical records to evaluate the care they have received so far. The central question here is can the municipality proactively approach people based on the health risk that has come to light because of this type of analysis?
Medics participating in a large-scale study by the University of Chicago and the company Verify were amazed at the accuracy with which algorithms were able to diagnose patients and predict diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. In a recent article, oncologist Samuel Volchenboom described that it is painful to note that the calculations came from Verify, a subsidiary of Alphabet, which not only used medical data (with patients’ consent), but also all other data that sister company Google already had stored about them. He adds that it is unacceptable that owning and using such valuable data becomes the province of only a few companies.
Perhaps even more problematic is that these predictions are based in part on patterns in the data that the researchers can't fully explain. It is therefore argued that the use of these types of algorithms should be banned. But how would a patient feel if such an algorithmic recommendation is the last straw? It is better to invest in more transparent artificial intelligence.
Implementing digital technology
Both many patients and healthcare professionals still have doubts about the added value of digital technology. The media reports new cases of data breaches and theft every day. Most people are not very confident that blockchain technology, among other things, can prevent this. Most medical specialists doubt whether ICT will reduce their workload. It is often thought of as some additional thing. Numerous small-scale pilot projects are taking place, which consume a lot of energy, but which are rarely scaled up. The supply of digital healthcare technologies exceeds their use.
Digital medicine will have to connect more than at present with the needs of health professionals and patients. In addition to concerns about privacy, the latter are especially afraid of further reductions in personal attention. The idea of a care robot is terrifying them. As should be the case with all forms of digitization, there is a need for a broadly supported vision and setting priorities based on that.
Against this background, a plea for even more medical technology in our part of the world, including e-health, is somewhat embarrassing. Growth in healthy years due to investment in health care in developing countries will far exceed the impact of the same investment in wealthy countries.
Nevertheless, it is desirable to continue deliberately on the chosen path, whereby expensive experiments for the benefit of a small group of patients have less priority in my opinion than investments in a healthy lifestyle, prevention, and self-reliance. Healthcare cannot and should not be taken over by robots; digitization and automation are mainly there to support and improve the work of the care provider and make it more satisficing and efficient.
One of the chapters in my e-book Future cities, always humane, smart if helpful, also deals with health care and offers examples of digital tools. In addition, it pays much more contextual information about the global health situation, particularly in cities. You can download by following the link below. The Dutch edition is here.
Niet langer hoef je jouw groente- en fruitafval weg te gooien, want samen maken we er lokaal waardevolle compost van, met Afval naar Oogst! Op 5 verschillende locaties in de stad kun je je nu aanmelden om GF-afval in te leveren. Op 23 april tijdens de kick-off leer je alle ins & outs. Zo maken we samen de cirkel rond. Composteer je mee?
Afval naar Oogst is ontsproten op buurttuin 'I can change the world with my two hands' waar nu meer dan 100 huishoudens hun GF-afval inleveren, dat wordt omgezet tot goede compost, voor nog betere oogst in de tuin! Het is de ambitie nog veel meer plekken te creëren voor lokale inzameling van groente- en fruitafval.
In the 19th episode of the Better cities - the contribution of digital technology-series, I address the question of how digital technology can help in the long road to a circular society.
The contribution of digital technology becomes most visible when viewed in conjunction with other policy instruments and actions. That is why in this episode Amsterdam is in the spotlight; this city has been pursuing a consistent circular policy from 2015 onwards.
Why is a circular economy necessary?
European countries together need an average of 2.9 copies of planet Earth to meet the needs for raw materials. But even one Earth has finite resources, and it is therefore obvious that more and more countries aim to be circular by 2050. The circular processing ladder contains a range of options with the lowest step recovery of energy from materials unsuitable for re-use and furthermore recycling, repurposing, remanufacturing, renovation, repair, reuse, reduction, reconsideration to rejection.
A circular economy is an economic and industrial system that eliminates waste and takes the reusability of products and raw materials and the regenerative capacity of natural resources as a starting point, minimizes value destruction in the total system and pursues value creation in every link of the system. In this context, the term cradle-to-cradle design is often referred to. This is done in terms of material flows and the preservation of values, so that in the long term there is no longer any need for an influx of virgin materials. Maersk has developed a cradle-to-cradle passport, a first for the shipping industry, consisting of a database of all ship components, including all the steel, for recycling, reuse and remanufacturing of new ships or their parts.
The Digital Sustainability-memorandum is considering digitization as an enabler on the way to a circular economy. A fourfold distinction is made in this regard: (1) the coordination of supply and demand of materials, (2) facilitating maintenance and repairs, (3) improving the production process, and (4) supporting partners in chain cooperation. Examples of all these options are discussed below.
Amsterdam and the realization of circular principles
Amsterdam's ambition is to use 50% less virgin raw materials by 2030 compared to the current situation. This goal is also very important for achieving its climate targets: 63% of the CO2 emissions for which the city is responsible come from products and materials that are produced abroad. The municipal government can only partly influence this steam. That is why the policy focuses on three areas where the city has most influence, namely food and organic residual flows, consumption and the built environment.
Amsterdam published its first policy plan Amsterdam Circular: Vision and roadmap for the city and regionin 2015. The emphasis was on organic waste and the built environment. It included 75 action points and its approach was positively evaluated in 2018 and a new report was published. It was decided to continue with the same emphasis with the addition of food and consumption. The addition of consumption was obvious, because Amsterdam had been making a strong case for the sharing economy for some time.
Shortly after the publication of the new report, Kate Raworth’s donut-principles made their entrance. Remarkably, none of the previous reports contain a reference to her work on the donut economics. In May 2019, the first fruit of the collaboration with Kate Raworth appeared, building on the report from the previous year. The collaboration resulted in a new report Building blocks for the new Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 strategy, involving many stakeholders from the sectors, food and organic residual flows, consumption, and construction. It resulted in 17 building blocks, named 'development directions'.
This report was based on the original 2012 publication on the donut economy. However, there turned out to be one pitfall. The original donut model was designed for global-level applications, which, according to Kate Raworth, cannot be directly traced to the urban level. The social implications of behavior in one city not only affect this city itself, but also the rest of the world. The same applies to the ecological aspects.
As a next step Kate Raworth invited representatives from Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Portland to join a task force and discover what a city-level donut model looks like. In each of these cities, dozens of officials and citizens participated in an interactive process. The result was a new model that uses four lenses to view urban activities: The first and second resemble the original lenses but applied at the city level, for example, the impact of local industry on local nature. The third is how activities in a certain city had a negative social impact on the rest of the world, think for example of clothing, produced under poor conditions. The fourth is the impact of local actions on nature worldwide.
These activities resulted in a new publication, The city donut for Amsterdam. It is an instrument for change that can be applied more broadly than to circular policy. In this publication, the new donut model is mainly used as a conceptual model. Instead of exact calculations, snapshots are collected as illustrations.
While city representatives were busy developing the urban donut model, the work towards the circular city continued unabated, resulting in the publication of the final circular strategy for the period 2020 – 2025 and the action plan for the period 2020 – 2021 at almost the same time. In terms of content, these plans are in line with the publication of the building blocks-report from 2019, including the application of the 'old' donut model from 2012.
In the following, I use both the strategy and the action plan to show the role of digital tools. At the end, I come back to the future role of the city donut.
Digital techniques in the circular strategy of Amsterdam 2020 – 2025
I align with the three value chains: food and organic residual flows, consumption and the built environment that are central to the strategy. Three ambitions are formulated for each of these three, further detailed in several action directions, each containing several projects, most with measurable results to attain in 2021. In addition, a couple of projects are described, that bare related to types of companies, institutions and the port. Finally, there are overarching projects, in which I will again pay attention to digitization, also because the role of the city donut will become visible here.
Below I briefly describe the three value chains, name the three ambitions for each, and give references to digital tools that will play a role within each of the three value chains.
Value chain food and organic residual flows
The municipality wants to combat food waste and reuse organic residual flows as much as possible. The role of regionally produced (plant-based) food will be strengthened in line with the Amsterdam food strategy. In realizing its objectives, the municipality participates in an extensive European project, Rumore.
The three ambitions are: (V1) Short food chains provide a robust, sustainable sensory system, (V2) Healthy and sustainable food for Amsterdammers and (V3) Food and organic residual flows.
Examples of digital tools
• GROWx vertical farm is a farm that aims to achieve maximum returns by applying artificial intelligence to the indoor cultivation of food crops, among other things.
• Restore is a measurement system and simulation model for Amsterdam and surrounding municipalities and companies that provides insight into the financial, ecological, and social effects of various forms of composting and bio-fermentation, including the use of biomass.
• The InstockMarket platform will map (surplus) food flows and - if possible - predict them so that the catering industry can anticipate this when purchasing. The data from this project will be linked to the circular economy data platform
• The Platform www.Vanamsterdamsevloer.nl makes all local food initiatives (including food events) visible and residents of Amsterdam can share news about food and urban agriculture.
Value chain consumer goods
The emphasis is on consumer goods that contribute substantially to the depletion of rare raw materials, their production is polluting and often takes place under poor working conditions. In addition, the impact on climate change is significant. The emphasis is on electronics, textiles, and furniture because repair is also possible in each of these cases.
Furthermore, a lot of profit can be made by good collection and reuse through sharing and exchange.
Here too, a multi-year research project funded by the European Commission is important. The Reflow project maps data on flows of materials and develops processes and technology to support their implementation.
The ambitions are :(C1) The municipality is setting a good example and will consume less; (C2) Together we make the most of what we have and (C3) Amsterdam makes the most of discarded products.
Examples of digital tools
• The municipality will develop digital tools within the (purchasing) systems that support civil officers in circular procurement.
• The West-district supports www.warewesten.nl. This website brings together the sustainable fashion addresses of Amsterdam-West.
• Using artificial intelligence, among other things, it is being investigated how the lifespan of various goods can be extended so that they do not end up with bulky waste. This can be used, for example, on the municipal website to offer the option of first offering goods for sale or for giving via existing online platforms before they are registered as bulky waste.
• Indirectly, it is worth noting that the municipality wants to make the use of ICT more sustainable by purchasing less equipment (for example through 'hardware as a service'), extending the lifespan of equipment and reducing its energy consumption.
Value chain built environment
This value chain was also chosen because the municipality has an important voice in what and where is built and in the development of the public space. The municipality itself is also a major user of buildings.
In terms of the built environment, circular construction can be achieved through large-scale reuse of construction waste. By ensuring that buildings can be used for more purposes, their demolition can be slowed down. Sustainable materials can also be used in the design of public spaces – from roads and bridges to playgrounds. In addition, consideration could be given to the climate-adaptive design of the city, resulting in cleaner air and dealing with increasing heat and rainfall.
The ambitions are: (G1): We do circular development together; (G2) The municipality sets a good example and uses circular criteria; (G3) We deal circularly with the existing city.
Examples of digital tools
• Introduction of large-scale application of material passports to have the most complete information possible on material use in all phases of the life cycle of buildings. This is linked to national plans, among other things by providing all materials with an OR code.
• Research into the possibilities of a (national) online materials marketplace. Such a marketplace will influence (local) material hubs, such as the Amstel III construction hub and the creation of circular business cases.
• Providing insight into the supply (demolition, renovation) and demand (new construction, renovation) of circular building materials and thus of circular material flows.
• Creating a digital twin of the public space and the subsurface to be able to furnish and maintain it functionally and circularly.
• Research in digital production due to the rapid development of digital production techniques and their applications, such as robots and 3D printing.
• Research into making the construction, equipment and water and energy consumption of data centers more sustainable.
• Research into which data about residents and users of buildings can be made public and which data should remain private.
The municipality could further simplify the process of permit applications by digitizing everything, enabling applicants to upload the necessary municipal data and construction drawings and calculating the BREAAM score. This applies to both new and renovated buildings.
Overarching theme: Data platform and monitor circular economy
On the road to a circular economy, a lot of data will become available and just as much data is needed to help citizens, companies, and institutions to make sustainable choices and to determine whether the goal of 100% circularity by 2050 is within reach. That is why a data platform and monitor is being developed. This numerically maps all material, recycle, residual and waste flows that enter, leave, and go around the city. This also makes it possible to calculate the impact on CO2 emissions. The data from the material passports and the materials marketplace are also integrated herein, if possible. The monitor also includes social aspects such as health, education, and equality. Relevant data will be open and accessible, so that it can be used for the development of new innovations and applications by the municipality and third parties, also to connect with other urban transitions.
The monitor connects to the four lenses of the city donut of Amsterdam and will collect the data that is currently missing to provide full quantitative insight. This also concerns the environmental impact of all materials that Amsterdam imports for its own consumption. Where the city donut is currently only a partially quantified, the monitor will continuously provide insight into whether the municipality is staying within the ecological preconditions or where it falls short with regard to the minimum social requirements.
Amsterdam's circular strategy and the resulting action agenda is ambitious and will inspire many other cities. Because many projects are small- and medium scaled, it is not yet possible to assess to what extent the strategy and action agenda help to achieve the targets (50% circularity in 2030 and 100% in 2050). Commitment to the development of the monitor is therefore crucial and the municipality will also have to keep an open eye on the parallel actions that citizens, the business community, the port and other institutions must take to achieve their share. After all, becoming circular encompasses much more than food and organic waste, consumption, and construction.
To document the process of the City of Amsterdam's adaptation of circular policy and the contribution of Kate Raworth, I have put together a brief dossier. This includes references to (copies of) all relevant reports and an indication of their content. This file can be downloaded by following the link below.:
Drie jaar lang werkten 9 partners aan het RESILIO project. Amsterdam is nu ruim 10.000m2 aan innovatieve, groene, waterbergende daken rijker!
Op 21 maart tijdens een WeMakeTheCityGreen event van Pakhuis de Zwijger presenteert RESILIO de onderzoeksresultaten. Daarna volgt een workshop waarin alle stappen van ambitie tot aanleg van blauw-groen in kaart worden gebracht. Welke hobbels en kansen kwamen we tegen tijdens de aanleg en realisatie? Reserveer hier voor de presentatie en hier voor de workshop.
The Metabolic Ventures arm has developed a Systemic Venture Framework to help entrepreneurs assess the potential of a venture to have large-scale, systemic impacts.
It acts as a qualitative lens to design, support, assess, and improve their systems.
How does it work? Take a look at the article linked below and share your thoughts.
If you are in the impact venture ecosystem and supporting the path of impact entrepreneurs, feel free to reach out to see any points of collaboration.
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