Smart city infrastructure in Croatia
According to the popular definition, a Smart City is an urban development vision which integrates information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in order to manage a city’s assets. Among these assets are local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.
Smart cities take advantage of urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. Information and communication technology (ICT) enables municipal authorities to communicate with the citizens and the city infrastructure. They can directly monitor what is happening, how the city is changing, and how to improve the quality of life of the community. This is possible thanks to sensors integrated in complex monitoring systems which collect in real time data about people and their devices which gets consequently processed and analysed.
The collected intel is used to outline performance patterns and address inefficient use of the urban systems, services and infrastructure.
The implementation of six essential technologies is defining a contemporary city as “smart” and those are: smart energy, smart transportation, smart data, smart infrastructure, smart mobility and smart IoT devices.
Smart City initiatives in Croatia
The Embassy of Belgium in Croatia and the Belgian government agency Flanders Investment & Trade have published a detailed report about the Smart City sector in Croatia. According to the study, more than 40 out of a total of 128 cities in the country use smart solutions.
“EU smart infrastructure funds, such as smart lighting, cover up to 40% and up to 100% of the amount of investment needed to realize such projects. Therefore, it is important for cities to get acquainted with the conditions of availability and the prerequisites needed to fund EU funds to maximize their benefits to their citizens and to reduce their own investments to a minimum”, the report states.
One of the biggest problems is to separate town administration projects, as offices must be linked to each other. Their attempts must be connected to Internet of Things’s complete potential and generate synergy with the citizens’ involvement. Open platforms and open standards must be used. Cities need an open, adaptable, horizontal and expandable IP-based architecture (“Internet Protocol”), from a technological view.
There are several challenges to the Smart City sector in Croatia, according to the Belgian Report. Among them are: lack of coordination for the planned implementation of ICT projects; lack of legal regulations and guidelines; lack of local companies and professionals for the implementation of ICT projects; lack of innovative forms of governing; unfamiliarity of the local community with modern technical capabilities and low involvement of the local community; as well as lack of funding.
Development of the concept
The infrastructure of Smart Cities in Croatia is at an early stage of its development but is advancing rapidly. Approximately half of the country´s municipalities have already begun implementing one or more intelligent solution initiatives. A specialized Association of Cities in Croatia encourages the design of Smart City concepts and the increased use of EU resources for Smart City initiatives.
The leading Smart City in Croatia is Dubrovnik which is being modernized under a smart city strategy project called Smart City Dubrovnik 2020. The local development agency, DURA, coordinates approach suggesting the implementation of smart technologies in mobility and infrastructure, economic development, public administration management, and quality of life.
“Dubrovnik also has the first smart street in Croatia, developed in partnership with the local telecommunications company T-Com. The street has a multifunctional sensor network installed with public lighting, wireless high-speed Internet connection, cameras that monitor traffic violations, smart parking with contactless payments, and environmental conditions control”, Flanders Investment & Trade reports.
Contribution of the industrial sector
Smart cities are the new industry of the 21st century, the Agency claims. Developing real-world data-based intelligent alternatives is a fresh potential for worldwide marketing. There are usually several areas of activity outlined in relation to the smart city term: industry, education, participation, technical infrastructure, various “soft factors”. “In association with economy or jobs the term “Smart City” is used to describe a city with a “smart” industry. That implies especially industries in the fields of information and communication technologies (ICT) as well as other industries implementing ICT in their production processes”, Flanders Investment & Trade summarizes.
Many national businesses can be identified in the country, providing innovative alternatives for smart cities. Croatian Telecom (HT, Deutsche Telekom Group’s Croatian subsidiary), together with its strategic and local partners, is the leading organization in Croatia offering a comprehensive solution in the smart city concept, from a basic infrastructure level to fully developed applications, the study finds.
Croatia’s capital Zagreb also develops a large-scale Smart City project. Among the modernization initiatives, according to the Belgian report, are: a LED lighting project for converting city lights into smart LED technology that should be implemented by 2020; the establishment of an open data portal to consolidate local city services with municipal and public services; the implementation of a national ePolice project, which involves the establishment of an operations communication center in every Croatian city and equipping police officers with cameras, etc.
Zagreb seeks to foster start-up growth and to promote smart city solutions in other specific areas as well. For instance, the city carried out a Startup Factory contest for the tourism industry last year focusing on smart city alternatives. The ideas that City and Zagreb Holding will consider for realization can be given, commented on and evaluated by citizens. This guarantees the City Administration and the Zagreb Holding Company’s transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in serving people. There are numerous active programs initiated in order of making Zagreb “Smarter”, an example is the I-scope program - an interactive platform where mobility for elderly or physically challenged people is improved by personal supervision of the motion path, power usage is optimized, and noise nuisance is controlled.
Dubrovnik is the first Smart City Center to innovate, test, develop and sell a project developed by the Croatian Telecom. The Smart City transformation promotes sufficient energy and traffic safety for residents, tourists and residents.
“Modern magnetic parking sensors in 30 parking spaces monitor the availability of space. This is linked to an app so users can see where to park. Security in the city is enhanced due to a multisensory video monitors which record traffic violations, excessive speed, overcrowding, unauthorized use of the left traffic lanes and inappropriate parking”, the study shows.
The project involves a remotely monitored management scheme for public town lighting and regulation of lighting intensity and public lighting consumption depending on motion. Sensors are being mounted to monitor the quality of the air and other environmental parameters.
Work started with installing the most up-to-date magnetic parking sensors in 30 parking spaces, allowing riders to find out what the actual parking condition is. Informative parking screens with information about free lots will be situated above the highway sensors as well as in state garages, and in the first stage of the implementation they will contain data on locations that already have sensors. Users of smartphones can use an application that provide information on the actual occupancy status of all city parking infrastructure.
“The smart city project will provide free city-wide high speed Wi-Fi (50 Mbit /s). In addition, this project includes a system for remote-controlled public city lighting management and regulation of lighting intensity and consumption of public lighting depending on the movement of pedestrians and motor vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the lighting. When there is no traffic around, public lighting will function with decreased intensity, and if movement is detected, lighting intensity will increase. Also, many sensors will be installed that will monitor the air quality and other parameters that affect the environment”, the Belgian agency says. The information will be available to the academic and research community and public health institutions in the first phase, and it is planned that certain information will be made publicly available in an appropriate manner in the second phase of the project.
Split regularly hosts the SplitTech conference – an international forum on smart and sustainable technologies. “The Smart Parking App of the city of Split monitors free parking spaces and helps drivers navigate towards these spaces. The app also redirects traffic as to avoid traffic jams in the city centre. This app was recently praised at the “intertraffic” conference in Amsterdam. The city provides free WiFi to its residents and visitors on public beaches, in busses and in other public places”, the study further examines.
Koprivnica obtained the ISO certificate “37120: Sustainable development – indicators of city services and quality of life” by evaluating the quality of life factors in the city. With this, Koprivnica became the first town in the region to obtain it and the seventh town in Europe.
“Project certification for obtaining the certificate was carried out by the World Council on City Data (WCCD). From a total of 100 indicators in 17 areas relevant to cities, which are measured and analysed in the process of certification, Koprivnica has proved correct measurement of 46 basic and 48 additional indicators, which won the highest levels of certification – Platinum. The results were published on the WCCD website and allow the comparison of Koprivnica with other certified cities regardless of the size of the city and the area in which they are located – due to the methodology applied in certification”, the Embassy of Belgium in Croatia reports.
Cities that have acquired ISO 37120 accreditation can use the outcomes for evaluating urban facilities and quality of life in the town, prioritizing the town budget, improving citizens life‘ operational transparency, promoting ICT smart city alternatives, harmonizing government and private infrastructure investments and communicating with people who are conscious of continuous city administration’s efforts, work and services to improve the city’s quality of life.
“In cooperation with the utility company Croatian Telecom and other partners, Koprivnica certainly developing in the direction of smart city, which rationally manages its resources and brings better quality service to the citizens, which is confirmed by ISO certificate whose results serve better management of the community in the direction of smart solutions and sustainable development”, the report adds.
Electromobility in Koprivnica
Koprivnica became the leading city in Croatia in terms of electromobility with the Civitas Dynamo project. The project aims to address the absence of public transport, which is a prevalent issue for small towns, in relation to strategic planning.
“Special innovations are electric buses whose market and service bases are still underdeveloped in Croatia. Energy efficiency is particularly pronounced to the degree of electromagnetism where the city has already established car-sharing electric vehicles for city administration employees and businesses and developed the infrastructure for fast-moving electric vehicles in the city that were built in partnership with the HEP-ELEN program and are accessible to all citizens and visitors to the city.
Through the CBC Croatia-Hungary Bicycle Oasis project, a Public Bicycle System was established, including seven terminals with a total of 60 bicycles. One of the terminals is next to the railway station and makes an additional offer of public transport”, the Smart City sector report further states.
The implementation of the first experimental city bus line further decreased the lack of public transportation problem. The system is being further developed, adding new lines to the villages surrounding it, thus decreasing the need for private vehicle use.
Pleternica aims to become an energy-independent city by 2020 in terms of public needs.
That’s why the city invested in the construction of a small hydro power plant – a creative means to the utilization of renewable energy sources in the narrow local area of the existing natural resources of the Orljava River.
“A small hydro power plant of 220 kilowatts has been put into trial in early December 2012 and has been in full operation since March 2013. Last year, more than 965,000 kilowatts of electricity were produced and revenues of more than 806 000 were generated, covering 95% of the energy costs of public lighting in Pleternica and all the 37 settlements. These 95% cost savings are now the financial capital of Pleternica for other infrastructural and social cultural projects. The project’s result is the reduction of CO2 emissions, which in 2014 amounted to 362,9 t CO2. Thus, by the production of electricity from renewable sources, hydro power plants directly affect the reduction of environmental pollution”, the Belgian report says.
In February 2013, the City of Rijeka introduced the Startup Incubator for Youth with the objective of stimulating young people’s self-employment by realizing their own business ideas, increasing their employability skills and affecting the growth of entrepreneurial culture. “Young people in Startup have been provided with free mentorship and counselling assistance in setting up a business model and developing a business plan.
Start-ups in three generations had 122 users who worked through 47 teams as business idea providers and created a network of 27 mentors, experts and entrepreneurs ready to share their knowledge and experience. The fourth generation started the incubation process in early May 2015 and has 48 users organized in 16 teams”, the Belgian study says.
IT, mobile applications, energy, mobility/publishing, e-book publishing, tourism, marketing, recreation, biotechnology, medicine, manufacturing and hospitality are among the main fields teams created concepts in. To date, the members of the Incubator have opened five business entities and employed 25 individuals, including indirectly and directly self-employed people.
The city of Jastrebarsko initiated the E-roads Online project in the first half of 2014. The main goal of the initiative is to improve solving citizens’ problems in the daily work of local government and the establishment of a more efficient system for management and maintenance of non-classified roads.
“The system is designed in such a way that any authorized person having access to the system has the ability to report field problems in the area of traffic infrastructure or road maintenance by using a smart device that takes a picture or makes a video of a problem, which is then automatically recorded in the system by getting the ‘intervention’ tag.
With the introduction of this system, the city has managed to merge multiple individual organizational systems into one central system, thus making the process at least 50 percent faster than the previous mode of operation. By implementing the E-road Online project, fast and efficient communication of multiple services has been achieved simultaneously with the total cost control and field intervention orders via a single WebGIS interface”, Flanders Investment & Trade informs.
Competence centers are associations based on innovative collaboration between government officials, research and growth organizations and companies. They focus on industry-led developmental and industrial research and marketability within particular thematic areas and fields of expertise. They are linked to one or more priority thematic areas and/or intra-sectoral topics identified by the Smart Specialization Strategy.
“For example, there is the Competence centre for smart cities in Rijeka (CEKOM), whose key activities combine innovative and developmental projects devoted to implementation of a strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive local community, active support to local administrative units on the introduction of service components of ‘smart cities’, the establishment of scientific, technological and organizational starting points for the application of integrated intelligent technologies and business models to implement solutions within smart cities”, the Belgian report also states. The goal is to locate private and research partners interested in entering CEKOM through cooperative initiatives to develop new intelligent city-related products and services.
Development agencies and academic force
such as the City of Dubrovnik Development Agency (DURA) and Development Agency Zagreb, promote collaboration and provide smart city project intel. DURA acts as a bridge between urban agencies, the private sector – stimulating entrepreneurial growth and civil society.
“Development Agency Zagreb launched the first equity pre-acceleration program in Croatia - Startup Factory Zagreb, in cooperation with leading ICT companies in the country. The project aims to strengthen the ecosystem that encourages the development of start-up entrepreneurship and the sustainable development of innovative tourist solutions for a smart city. The University of Zagreb is also partnering on the project”, the Investment & Trade Agency announces.
“In general, universities and students are playing an important role. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing of University of Zagreb initiated the establishment of an energy platform “living lab” to encourage research, development and innovation. The Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy of the University of Split, together with Urban Data Management Society and ISPRS (The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing), organized the first international conference “Smart Data and Smart Cities” held in Split in September 2016", the study further explains.
The Croatian Chamber of Economy
also has a leading role in the development of the smart city concept in the country. Its organizational unit - Professional Group for Information Technology, together with Innovatio Proficit, held a panel discussion “Split 2020 – The Vision of the City’s Future through Smart City Innovation”. The forum was organized in order to encourage and give an opportunity to all IT companies to participate in the realization of the envisaged projects.
“It is also important to pinpoint the project Smart cities – cities of the future initiated by Croatian media. The aim of the project is to promote excellence and innovation of ‘smart city’ and related initiatives implemented in Croatian cities, as well as to raise public awareness of the importance of developing new technological, organizational and logistic solutions aimed at improving the quality of life of Croatian citizen”, the Embassy of Belgium in Croatia summarizes.
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