Building a smart city from the ground up is a complex challenge that requires the cooperation of multiple stakeholders — such as governmental institutions, large enterprises, and small businesses
Understandably, this cooperation between different stakeholders isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Corporations often fight with municipalities over local taxes, threatening to bring their jobs elsewhere. Startups look at corporations less as potential partners and more as Goliaths that need to be brought down. And, in all of this, municipalities must assure that cities remain cities, a welcoming spaces for all citizens, and not tech hubs with unaffordable housing.
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If it wasn’t for the strained relationship between these stakeholders, we’d be able to establish truly smart cities much faster. That’s why TNW and Vodafone have decide to join forces and solve this problem by harmonizing institutions, corporations, and startups. In order to make smart cities a reality, the two companies have created a program that aims to produce concrete IoT solutions for cities in just six months.
But before delving into the program, it’s important to understand what actually constitutes a “smart city” and “IoT solutions” — because the terms have been thrown around lightly in the past.
Smart cities and the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is what happens when you put devices like sensors, vehicles, and home appliances on the internet, allowing them to exchange data among themselves and with us humans.
In a smart city, these devices are used to gather data that’s in turn used to manage the city more efficiently. For example, here in Amsterdam, the project SmartFlow consists of a cloud-based platform which manages and monitors sensors across the city to report traffic flow and parking availabilities. This way, it’s possible to reduce the average time of finding a parking spot of up to 43 percent.
Aside from Amsterdam, other examples of smart cities are Copenaghen, Singapore, and Stockholm.
The ultimate utopian goal is that in the future we’ll live in cities as smart as Golden City, the capital of Black Panther’s Wakanda. In the imaginary capital, technology enables an economic system that’s at the same time advanced and sustainable.
The Vodafone TNW IoT Challenge
10 high-profile organizations — ranging from large corporations to institutions — joined the program and proposed 10 different challenges:
- Heineken wants to develop a low-cost tracking solution for their beer crates
- The Dutch police wants to find an efficient way to enable citizens to measure the surface water quality in their neighborhoods, in order to prevent environmental crime
- Shipbuilding company Damen is in the fascinating business of autonomous vessels and wants to find ways to “upgrade” fleets with smart sensors and other tracking devices. My fanciful mind is already depicting ghost ships and a literal Flying Dutchman
- Drinking water company Vitens is looking into possible solutions to track the quality of water on its way from production plants to homes and offices. Yes, we’re in The Netherlands and it’s no coincidence that three out 10 challenges deal with water-related issues
- Dutch theme park Efteling doesn’t like when its roller coasters don’t roll. For this reason, it wants to find a reliant way to prevent downtime by implementing predictive maintenance solutions
- Grid operator Stedin proposes a challenge with a potentially high societal impact. It wants to know how can we identify electricity usage fraud and illegal electricity consumption.
- Facility services provider Facilicom wants to find a way to improve airport wheelchairs by making them smart
- The Health Hub Utrecht – a foundation whose board comprises entrepreneurs, scientists, and public officials that work on a strategy to innovate health services in the Utrecht area – wants to monitor health information in the home situation in order to minimize the transport time in case of medical emergencies
- SHV Energy, a leading supplier of LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), is hunting for smart technologies that can be used to create the gas cylinders of the future
- Jaarbeurs, an exhibition and convention center in Utrecht, wants to create a seamless experience for its visitors thanks to innovative wayfinding services
You can find a complete overview of the challenges here.
So how exactly do these 10 organizations plan to solve their challenges? Well, as we said, you can’t build smart cities on your own. You need to partner up. That’s why these organizations are looking for the best and most innovative startups to help them find a solution.
How it works
Then, between June and August, TNW and Vodafone will scout for the best startups to solve the different challenges.
September, 5 the selected startups will be announced to the partners.
September 6 and 7, the implemention of the program will be kick-started with a two-day event.
In October and November, partners and startups will work on a proof of concept that will be showcased in December — when it will hopefully be time to seal a few deals, celebrate, and bring the partnerships to the next level.
Head here for a complete overview of the timeline and of the program setup.
Throughout the program, TNW and Vodafone will provide startups with all the technical support that they need to successfully implement their solution within the partner’s company.
The overall aim of the challenge is to create projects that represent a great business opportunity for both partners and startups, while at the same time having a positive societal impact on the cities where they will be implemented. It’s what we could call “a win-win-win situation.”
“The Vodafone TNW IoT Challenge shows how the Internet of Things can create solutions that make our daily lives easier,” said John Van Vianen, executive director of VodafoneZiggo. “And I’m happy that Vodafone is at the forefront of this revolution.”
Are you a startup and you got what it takes to solve one of the 10 challenges? We dare you to prove it. You can apply for the program here.