Term Smart City sounds very fancy and sophisticated. What is it in reality? A wise city, urbanely intelligent? Well, basically it is an environment that promotes the best of urban experience boosting citizen well-being and delivering more efficient, sustainable and inclusive urban services and environments, creating innovative products and services. Smart City looks across every aspect of a city’s operations to use technology to improve outcomes.
Smart Cities aren’t just a concept or dream of future. Many of them are already active and expanding rapidly. For us it is the capital of Latvia – Riga with the highest population, density of technology companies and higher education institutions where smart city solutions can be tested. But also other Latvian cities and towns are starting to successfully implement various Smart City solutions, for example, Sigulda, Valmiera, Jurmala, Jelgava to name a few.
Since 2018, Latvia has begun to develop its Smart City strategy, building an ecosystem between the industry, the government, municipalities and academia. Smart City ecosystem is a framework, predominantly composed of ICT and Smart energy to develop, deploy and promote sustainable development practices to address growing urbanization challenges. The main domains covered are digital and physical infrastructure, legal framework (incl. pilot territories for different solution testing), human capital/talent, funding and research and development.
By breaking down the unnecessary bureaucracy and by closing the gap between the legal framework and new enabled technologies, Latvia is embracing innovation and is striving to become the leader of Smart City solutions in the Baltic Sea region. We trust in the Smart Cities and luckily many of us live in one.
Big data, smart energy, IoT, smart transport
- 3G...4G...well, we want more! Operational 5G base stations ready for work.
- Our ICT products and services are of high demand as we offer the largest ICT exports in the Baltics.
- Also our government understands the importance of big data, smart energy, IoT as IT sector development is a strategic governmental policy priority.
- Image how the city of the future looks like. You can get a glimpse of it already now as we have specialized urban innovation zones for Smart City solution testing.
- And let's not forget about utilized cross sectoral cooperation ecosystem.
Smart City is all about improving infrastructure, efficiency, convenience, and quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Here are some of the examples from various cities and towns in Latvia. Let’s dive in.
- Connecting the Baltic countries with a smart highway, the co-operative intelligent transport system (C-ITS) Baltic corridor is underway and ready to make full use of the upcoming 5G network.
- The State Public Traffic Safety Directorate (CSDD) uses the FITS (“Future Intelligent Transport Systems”) ITEMS, which significantly improves road safety and saves people's lives. FITS ITEMS provide uniform management and processing of sensors and data in the transport sector, taking advantage of the latest cloud computing and AI.
- The regulation of Jurmala city lighting uses a variety of smart solutions. One of these is a lighting control system that allows remote control of city lights – set the turn-on/off time, digest the lighting, fix various errors, and see if something technically is wrong with a light post and react quickly to it. At present, a total of 1000 luminaires are connected to the control system, but new luminaires are added each year when energy efficiency measures are taken to change lights to LED.
- SIA Jūrmalas autobusu satiksme has created an online tool for watching bus movements and timelines. Passengers can follow the location of the bus online, as well as view routes, movement lists, and schedule the route.
- The waste management company in Jurmala city has purchased new waste machines, and a small chip is attached to each waste container in the city. This allows determining the container owner. In turn, the garbage vehicle is equipped with a system that allows the waste to be weighed when the container is raised to drain it. In this way, citizens are encouraged to pay more attention to the sorting of waste and to reduce the amount of municipal waste.
- The first of the smart city solutions in Sigulda municipality was the creation of a mobile app that has integrated the declared population identification card system with up-to-date possibilities for obtaining information about the municipality and its topics.
- Valmiera was the first municipality in Latvia, which developed and introduced the smartphone app My Valmiera. Also, Valmiera installs smart lighting, new video surveillance system and a digital informative stand.
- One of the solutions introduced in Jelgava city is the monitoring of traffic intensity to determine street congestion. In the long term it allows to effectively plan street repair works and traffic organization, making everyday life of residents more comfortable.
- Innovation movement VEFRESH was established once the district’s technology leaders joined forces with real estate developers and Riga municipality owned culture venue VEF Kulturas pils. The new movement aims to redevelop VEF district as an innovation sandbox where corporations, start ups and public sector can prototype and test their latest solutions in public space. VEFRESH works in close cooperation with City of Riga and Ministry of Economics of Latvia to to jointly develop VEF district as Latvia’s first smart city innovation district.
- The importance of the sector in GDP keeps growing. As of now ICT sector has 4.3% of GDP.
- Money, money, money...must be funny...ICT turnover in 2019 was 3.7 billion EUR.
- Two heads are better than one. Research platforms include IoT, big data transfer and processing, AI laboratory system modelling and software technologies, real-time system laboratory.
- Many of our ICT products and services are innovative and patent pending putting us amongst TOP 20 in patent activity globally.
Employment and education
- Many young and bright students from different countries want to study in this field in Latvia. This has resulted in increasing number of study programmes in English and highest % of international students in the Baltics.
- After the studies they can definitely stay here as 37 thousand people are employed in ICT sector.
- This is one of the best paid sectors in Latvia. ICT labour costs are around 700 million EUR per year.