Interview with Lindomar Minguel for IoT Tech Expo

  • 23 May, 2019
  • Amsterdam Drone Week
  • Blog
Is Urban Air Mobility the blind spot in planning for Smart Cities?

UAM cannot emerge as an isolated industry; UAM demonstrator projects need to be aligned with current Smart City initiatives. On the other hand City planners need to integrate UAM in current planning to prevent a gap between the availability of UAM technology and the lack of infrastructure to run these operations as part of a smart city.

What do you mean by smart city? What makes a city smart?

A truly smart city is in essence a city that is capable to be people centric adaptable and provide positive impact for not only those active in technology but for even the least tech savvy. And in this context we mean with adaptive from both a technological as from a social-economical perspective.

‘’The smartphone will be the citizen’s personal node in the internet of things and gateway to the smart city’’ – Brian Zanghi

In The Netherlands we see that this can only be realised by co-creation with the general public. For example in Amsterdam the City launched the Amsterdam Smart City platform. On this platform the public is invited to share challenges the city faces but also provide solutions. The city is more a facilitator than a dictating force in this process. Demonstrating empathy and taking responsibility are key in this process. To make the city more data driven both the CTO of the City of Amsterdam, Ger Baron & Innovation Officer & Smart City Liaison Joshua Serrao are taking a lead position in these developments from a city perspective.

What are the key technologies required in the development of smart cities?

As a smart city has to be adaptive, it has to be connected and act on information gathered from the city. To gather information from the grid it needs data collection by for instance sensors, camera’s and even cars and drones in the near future. To store information it needs storage capacity and to act on information provided from the grid it needs intelligence solutions and last but not least the data has to be transported from and towards these (end)points, that is where connectivity comes in. So in essence a smart city needs 4 core technologies: Sensors, Networks, Storage and Analytics.

“Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people, but also think of dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure like on-demand bridges and stages, that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours” - Carlo Ratti, Professor at MIT and principal investigator about the Roboat-program of the AMS institute.

Who are the key stakeholders in the development of smart cities and what roles do they/should they play in the development of future cities? What role should citizens play?

In Amsterdam the City defined the key stakeholders in cities are first and foremost important the citizens & commuters, those who live and work in your city. They determine the pace and need for innovation. Second stakeholder of the cities are City Hubs & Companies, think Airports, Stadiums, Harbours, Medical Centers etc. Third of all an important stakeholder in your city are the millions of Tourist & Business Visitors to your city each year. If you do the first 2 right this number will grow and impact the state of your city. And last but not least Government & public institutions. In a role of identifying potential challenges and having a future driven integrated outlook on the city, government and public institutions are a stakeholder which has to demonstrate the ability to listen and the capability to implement people driven solutions for cities.

1. Citizens & Commuters

2. City Hubs & Companies

3. Tourist & Business Visitors

4. Government & public institutions

What are the best strategies for energy management in smart cities? How might they change in the next 5-10 years?

A circular approach to energy management in smart cities is key. Great example is the application of the warmth generated by Data-Centers in the great region of Amsterdam is being returned to the grid. For example Microsoft has built their data-center in the north of the Netherlands (Report by Dutch Data Center) and heat generated in the data center is delivered to the horticulture companies that are based in the direct area. Directly saving energy and making those companies more redundant and sustainable.

An other great example in the Netherlands is the Johan Cruijff Arena in the Netherlands. With a capacity of 50.000 attendees, the Johan Cruijff Arena is an official Uefa Euro 2020 game location and plays a critical role as a hub for Amsterdam. The Johan Cruijff Arena generates its own Energy supply from the stadiums rooftop. An interesting aspect is that the storage of the energy is based on circular principles as used Nissan Leaf car batteries are given a second life. They can now not only power there events with solar power but also give power back to the grid. In the next 5 to 10 years this will make the city more sustainable and adaptive to potential energy peaks and shortages. In the process CTO of the Johan Cruijff Arena, Henk van Raan created an energy entity named Amsterdam Energy ArenA BV. So creating a smart city also gives new (disruptive) business models an opportunity for those focused on making their business or organisations part of a smart city.

How will transportation develop in future smart cities? What will be the role of Urban Air Mobility?

The united Nations projected that 70% of all people will live in cities and urban environments within now and 30 years. Almost doubling the current numbers. This means that driving around in your car or lorry to deliver goods and transporting people, will be impossible based on the current state of city infrastructure. Next to doing the same things smarter, we should be focused on new ways of mobility. For example Urban Air Mobility by using city skies as a means of transportation of people and goods.

We all are accustomed of flying from continent to continent, but flying from city airport, to city center and again to city venue is in a lot of cities not included in current city planning. As Urban Air Mobility will impact rules and regulations, digital and physical infrastructure, public awareness cities need to anticipate this new development as from today.

Urban Air Mobility will even challenge the function of airports as smaller, vertical lift able vehicles, will need less run way, energy and can connect new locations, unreachable by the current fleet of airplanes. An other development will be the building of landing paths is cities. In London rooftops already are being purchased with the goal of transforming them in vertical take off and landing locations for drones. This development will excel towards the future. An other aspect is the digital infrastructure needed. To coordinate drones in the sky new methods of Air Traffic Management needs to be developed.

One of them is Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM). This software driven approach to aerial traffic management will enable to coordinate the thousands of drones that are going to fly in cities the coming years. In addition new business models will develop, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will now not only integrate ground mobility but also Air Mobility as part of the movement in cities.

This is where the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities on Urban Air Mobility helps cities develop strategies and implement solutions to prepare for this new (3rd) dimension of mobility that has to be integrated in current infrastructure and in the process prevent UAM blind spots in smart city planning.

How can smart city solutions/services be developed to better serve all constituents, including underserved populations and vulnerable citizens?

As inclusivity is key in creating smart cities, making sure that solutions are not only usable and available for tech savvy people is key in making sure that people are connected. Also cities have to adopt a facilitating and inspiring city mindset instead of a controlling and accounting mindset. I would there for plead for facilitating and inspiring cities as acronym for smart cities. In essence if you cannot make use of the benefits of new technologies, how can you keep up with the pace needed to thrive or even participate in a more digitized society.

"The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers." – Sydney J. Harris

What are best practices for smart city governance (including legislation, procurement, funding, data protection, ethics, etc.)? Where in the world are the best examples of smart city development and management?

From an UAM perspective there are currently 100 live Urban Air Mobility projects. But if I have to choose I would say Switzerland. They aligned both technology, public acceptance and are now delivering postal and medical packages throughout Switzerland with the use of drones. They are also the first country with a nationwide Unmanned Traffic Management system for drones. A big problem of innovation in UAM is the lack of information for the general public about flying movements. They solved this issue with an application in which the general public can see in an live environment which drone is flying where and with which purpose.

“The industry asks us to regulate the business. But regulate what exactly? If we fully regulate the business. We kill the business. If we under regulate we endanger public safety. Both is not acceptable.” Patrick Key - Director EASA during Amsterdam Drone Week, november 2018

What is the best advice you can offer today’s/future smart city planners?

Have ambition, think and act forward. Make new technologies an in depth part of your planning, but centralize your stakeholders and be facilitator in the process towards a more adaptive city for everyone. And from a personal perspective for those who are willing but are waiting for the right moment to innovate is now!

Lindomar Minguel is Ambassador for the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities, with a specific focus on Urban Air Mobility. The Urban Air Mobility network contains 42 cities. Among those are Hamburg, Geneva, Toulouse, Madrid, Stockholm and Amsterdam.

Responsible to connect with new partners, cities and share knowledge and project results between the Dutch initiatives and the other 42 Urban Air Mobility demonstrator regions in Europe. As part of the connection and sharing knowledge side of our role we organise the Amsterdam Drone Week end of this year in cooperation with EASA, The European Aviation Safety Agency.

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