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Small and Smart–Scandinavian Medium-Sized Cities Approach to IoT

Illustration: © IoT For All

Lund, a relatively small city of 82,000 residents in the southwest of Sweden, is only 15 minutes drive from the regional capital Malmö, directly connected by the longest European bridge with Copenhagen. Instead of being absorbed and emptied by these two big neighbors, Lund developed an interesting approach to IoT public usability.

Before going further, it needs to be mentioned that Lund is the home to one of the biggest and oldest universities in the country, and created a huge tech cluster, among others accentuated by the presence of Sony Mobile headquarters. Further, the population is fairly well-educated and tech-friendly. Numerous significant usable innovations actually come from Lund: tetra-Pak carton, ink-jet printer, or even a fingerprint reader.

Focus on Specific Public Policies

The city has created a public entity named Future by Lund which will lead the deployment of IoT throughout the area. Its operation targets only four public domains:

  • cycle data
  • critical infrastructure monitoring
  • efficient and safe urban cultivation 
  • user-managed waste management

Aware of its relatively small size and means, focusing on specific matters helps lead the innovations in a meaningful way. None is chosen randomly, the citizens of this region are used to cycling because of the flat typography and being painstaking with waste recycling (this is true for all Scandinavia).

Real Open Data Framework

Managed by the Lund based Swedish company Sensative, the IoT network, mostly operating on LoRa, is free to use by all individuals or companies for testing any ideas as long as it’s in a pre-commercial phase.

By giving the citizens and the business sector open access to a great amount of data both parties have better possibilities in developing new solutions. Open data is also a unique way to involve innovative businesses in the research of smart city projects. (source).

This is particularly relevant for cities like Lund, where a large number of residents are highly educated and cosmopolitan students. This kind of call for projects easily finds feedback among the city residents who are able to provide meaningful proposals. By enabling people to try, test, using trial and error methods, the system allows for the creation of new concepts and business models, not only for the big entities but also for the elderly or a group of students.

A Virtuous Cycle

Now, since the projects can be born in the mind of individuals, their development is later supported by the local economy.

As the Lund region (Skane) is far more agricultural than the rest of Sweden,  due to its distinctive geography, one of the first applications will naturally be related to smart farming. Easily set up by a Lund based company Sensefarm. This is an example of a very good virtuous cycle with:

  • a limited public budget spending
  • better implication of the citizens in their city
  • some fairly good case studies for the local SMEs, turn to international growth 
  • improvement in the interconnection of all the local actors (public, private, individuals)

The implemented dynamic leads to a reinforced sense of the enhancement of the city by its inhabitants, who see IoT as part of the public service and not as a cold, distant and incomprehensible technology.

The Importance of International Collaboration

This initiative is present in all big cities of Scandinavia, that collaborate through an organization called Nordic Smart Cities. In each of them, the data gathered is shared and available to anyone who has a project, through simple authorization.

The scale of collaboration is important to maximize its efficiency.  Indeed, the members of the Nordic Smart Cities (located in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland) are facing similar issues and have a common culture. Let’s take the waste management, for example; it’s likely that the efforts made in these countries will be more easily adopted by their population than in Latin countries like France, Italy, or Spain.

The international benchmark is obviously a real source of progress, but implementing solutions “copy-paste” from Asian cities in continental Europe would ignore the enormous cultural differences, which in the end can lead to very unwanted results.

Conclusion

A smart metropolis, like London or Amsterdam, is so powerful in terms of finance, economic sectors, so we expect much more from them. Therefore, I consider the initiatives of smaller towns more appealing, as they are able to capitalize on their local assets because the system they create is paradoxically more replicable and engages their citizens.

This bottom-up way, starting from the roots of the pain points, ensures that the innovations developed will actually be used and creates positive externalities politically and economically.

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