Smart cities in Norway enhance quality of life and reduce emissions

Half the world already lives in cities – and 2.5 billion will be added to the urban population by 2025. In the cities of tomorrow, infrastructure and services must be more efficient and environment-friendly – and accessible to all. This will enhance the quality of life of inhabitants, reduce the ecological footprint of the city, and ultimately help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What is a smart city?

There is no sole definition of what a smart city is. There are, however, a number of common components. Smart transport systems enable more people to move around more quickly. Smart buildings do not waste precious energy. Smart health services simplify and optimise registration, diagnosis and medication of patients. And smart government makes it easier for inhabitants to find information and influence decision-making processes in their city.

Moreover, smart cities make active use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and open data to optimise the flow of energy, people and data.

IoT refers to the network of physical objects that contain, for example, software or sensors that allows the things to be connected to the Internet and each other. The objects can thereby interact and exchange data, as well as be remotely controlled or automated. IoT solutions may also involve cloud services and artificial intelligence.

Norway leads the way

Norway has a strong culture for innovation, highly technologically literate citizens, and a public sector that uses stringent procurement requirements to promote innovation and sustainability. Together this has put Norway at the forefront in development of smart cities. The capital city, Oslo, has even been selected as the European Green Capital for 2019.

Below are some areas where Norway stands out.

Buildings and construction

Buildings account for roughly 40 per cent of global energy consumption. Smart technology based on IoT can improve energy efficiency in buildings dramatically. Sensors, for example, can collect data needed to automatically control lighting, heating and cooling – ensuring that these are delivered precisely when and where they are needed.

Norway is a leader when it comes to implementing this technology on a large scale. For example, Statsbygg – which is responsible for all government-funded construction projects – is investing heavily here. This has opened up the market and made similar solutions more accessible for private actors. Norway also promotes advances through stringent requirements for energy use in new buildings.

In the private sector, the Powerhouse alliance is developing energy-positive buildings that generate more energy than they consume throughout their lifespan. Powerhouse and similar Norwegian firms have been attracting significant international attention as spearheads for energy-positive architecture.

Mobility

With about 1 million inhabitants, the greater Oslo region is an excellent test lab for smart, green transport solutions. Ruter – the public transport company for the region – has stated that all its modes of transport will become emission free by 2028.

In Bergen – which is Norway’s second largest city and the unofficial capital of Western Norway – shared mobility is the keyword. The city recently opened two of about 10 mobility hubs. The core of each hub is made up of permanent, reserved parking spaces for car-sharing cars, primarily electric ones. Mobility hubs are located close to public transport and ride-sharing stops, and offer secure bicycle parking, access to city bikes and chargers for electric vehicles. This makes it easier for people to travel to and around the city without using a private car.

Open data

Norway is a champion of open data, and the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) runs a national registry of open data from the public sector.

The registry contains data in numerous areas, including the environment, health, geography, agriculture, traffic and demographics, and it is available for use by everyone. In the context of smart cities, for example, car-sharing companies can use traffic data and data from the Norwegian Mapping Authority to determine the demand for their services.

Access to such extensive open data makes it easier for entrepreneurs, innovators and others to identify problems and opportunities and develop smart solutions for smart cities.

Photos, from top: Urban Sharing's shared infrastructure platform for smart cities; Eta Energi’s Green Tracker solution for improving energy efficiency; Neuron sensors by El-Watch; parking space for electric car-sharing cars, part of a mobility hub in Bergen.