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A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 2

Towards a methodological approach useful to structure a new (smart) post-lockdown city model based on the correlation between initiatives taken to stem the spread of the virus and the obtained results, to address long-standing challenges such as pollution, traffic congestion, inadequate public transport, etc., the direct consequence of inadequate planning decisions

A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 2

A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 2   Per la versione in Italiano:

Part 1 of the article “A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 1” published on issue n. 141 May/June 2020 is online on

Digital resilience offers a future to the cities

Smart Cities are resilient and secure, and to become smart they need shared models at a national level. It was highlighted that the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is being tackled much better by the cities, businesses and citizens themselves who have a developed propensity to digitisation.

All the structures that have put in place a digital organization for a long time have decidedly shown to have a greater ability to overcome the criticalities.

This means that if every urban service was equipped with monitoring systems of all the data it collects and put them in common with a superior system – able to collect and organize them, transmitting them to transform them into services – it would make it possible to coordinate them in the best possible way by finalising them in order to optimise each of the sectors involved: transport, traffic, energy, etc..

To this end, ENEA – National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, has formulated a model of the city of the future with technological solutions and tools for housing and urban environment.

At a horizontal level, it has developed an ICT integration platform, called Smart City Platform, able to connect all urban services to the district platform and to integrate the prototypes and innovative solutions created.

As part of the Project ES-PA (Energy and Sustainability for Public Administration) funded by PON-GOV 2014-2020, ENEA promotes the city network “Smart Italy Goal”which aims to outline a national strategy for the convergence of urban and territorial redevelopment programmes and interventions aimed at the realization of Smart City.


The design and development of a Smart City, in fact, are realized only if programmed as part of a structured and shared collaboration between the main stakeholders of urban management processes and related public services.

In this perspective, it proposes to the Municipal Administrations to become part of the network and to collaborate at the different work tables in order to share:

  • management models;
  • data model;
  • specifications for the interoperability of platforms;
  • technical specifications to be attached to the calls for tenders;
  • guidelines to support the application of instruments;
  • results achieved and interventions carried out on the urban territory;
  • interoperable platforms.

How should cities be rethought?

It would be appropriate, now more than ever, to work on a coordinated model of Smart City at the national level to better respond not only to the current emergency caused by Covid-19, but to appropriately address further critical situations that will inevitably arise in the future.

This could also be useful in case a utility that manages an urban service, such as mobility monitoring, is able to collect data in real time and transmit them to a higher infrastructure.

In this way, it would be possible to carry out targeted analyses which would otherwise be unthinkable and create the basis for optimising other urban services, such as public lighting, by means of knowledge of traffic flows, thus achieving significant energy and economic savings.

According to Agens (Association representing the interests of the transport sector and services in the system of Confindustria), this coordination infrastructure is not thinkable is developed autonomously by each city with a standard owner, because otherwise multiple smart islands would be created.

The project carried out by ENEA, Smart Italy Goal aims to generate standards specifications at the national level, which must be adhered to by cities and build accordingly dedicated infrastructure.

This initiative, designed to improve the environmental impact and optimize, significantly reducing, the economic cost of certain services, today highlights an additional dimension and utility: that of security and urban resilience.


Smart City: what infrastructure is needed for smart and resilient cities?

First, we need a solid foundation to build Smart City. It is precisely these data exchange platforms, digital infrastructures that receive data and make them available to others.

The Smart City Platform should be adopted by every Italian city: the problem is to overcome localism and reason in a coordinated and uniform perspective. So, you’d need a single software platform where each city converges its data.

The proposal of which ENEA is the bearer is just this, having defined all the specifications necessary for these infrastructures to be open, communicable, standardized.

They have been developed in synergy with an international network (IES Cities Framework) coordinated by NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology of the USA.

But now we need a national decision. The logic is not to transform all cities from today to tomorrow, making them smart, because it would not be likely.

However, it is important to develop these digital infrastructures today by obliging cities, each time they take action at an urban level, to make the specifications and the main indicators a common factor.

The cost of implementation is drastically reduced. For example: if a city manages the waste service or public lighting, a contract should include the clause to send the data daily to the platform. Otherwise, for the duration of the contract it will not be possible to do so, with the consequent delays of standardization.

Smart Italy Goal: the enabling factors that can make it feasible

First of all, it involves actors of national importance: ANCI, Confindustria Nazionale, Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale, Consip, national procurement manager, and the Territorial Cohesion Agency.

The latter, in particular, is a particularly valuable institution as it administers and governs European infrastructure funds. Many EU funds are now being offered to cities that are often used for Smart City purposes,

but with partial, open, “local” solutions that are not nationally standardised. If they were directed in a conscious way, there would be the possibility of having targeted and effective appropriations.

Then there is the essential role played by the Ministry for Economic Development that, through the program System Research (fund powered by a minimum share provided in the electricity bill), funded the project that has developed the specifications of the Smart City Platform, enabling economic resources to be maintained until the end of 2021. Building smart and resilient cities takes time and costs money.

But within the task force of the project mentioned there are many stakeholders in this issue that could help make this path possible and sustainable.


The times of the city: a real plan of times and times for the city is needed

More than ever overlooked argument that has contributed to aggravate the management of our cities. Moreover, there is a Standard, practically disregarded and dating back to the year 2000, which provides a solution that – coordinated with others – could help.

It is Law 8 March 2000, n,. 53 which, in Chapter VII – “Times of the cities” – provides:

  • the enactment by the Regions of Standards for the coordination by the municipalities of business hours, public services and peripheral offices of Public Administrations, as well as for the promotion of the use of time for purposes of social solidarity;
  • the provision by the regions of financial incentives for municipalities for the preparation and implementation of territorial schedules;
  • the establishment, also by the Regions, of Technical Committees, composed of experts in urban design, social analysis, social communication and organizational management, with consultative tasks relating to the coordination of city schedules and the assessment of the effects of time plans on local communities.

Protagonists of the Norm are the Municipalities whose Mayor, pursuant to art. 50, paragraph 7, of D.Lgs. 267/2000, “… coordinates and organizes, on the basis of the guidelines expressed by the city council and within the criteria indicated by the region, the schedules of shops, public establishments and public services, and in agreement with the territorially competent authorities of the Administrations concerned, the opening hours to the public of the offices located in the territory, in order to harmonize the provision of services with the overall and general needs of users”.

In short, time and schedule planning, linked to planning and actions in the field of urban planning as well as mobility (by increasing local public transport and promoting pedestrian and cycling mobility, by dedicating road hours to cycling and pedestrian journeys) and work (maintaining, where possible, the agile working methods, including for meetings and training), it’s an indispensable solution to solving pre-Covid problems. The rules already exist: it would be a matter of applying them immediately.

For an intelligent regulatory framework, the key is data. All regulatory interventions depend on data obtained from connected vehicles; shared by map application providers such as Waze, TNC and other transport providers and finished with traffic cameras, sensors and other Internet of Things tools.

The data can identify anomalies: in which areas the available space is little used, for example. The data are the new currency of regulation: they allow flexible and multifaceted control to protect health and safety, always taking into account the needs of the community.

The regulatory framework of the 21st century should also include the collection and analysis – anonymously – of the consent collected by Twitter, Yelp or other platforms.

monitoring systems
A person who needs easier access to a section of public transport or who has had a bad experience in car sharing could help to refine the information available to city administrators by posting a vote on the service.

Establishing a new regulatory framework that changes in real time generates cooperation, empowers administrators, efficiently uses data and truly gives voice to citizens is a difficult and complex task.

But ultimately, developing flexible rules is also the only way to respond to the costs and benefits of our new mobility market, and at the same time maximise accessibility opportunities.

Circular economy and smart mobility, so the way to move has changed

The circular economy also involves cars that in about ten years will be transformed from a transport tool into interconnected and sustainable vehicles.

Not just a simple means of transport. The car, as we know it, will be replaced. But by itself. The revolution of the circular economy has already begun to involve the car, transforming it from a mere vehicle to a real computer. And the key words will be: connection, sharing and sustainability.

The first, immediate demonstration of a different mobility is represented by the data of car sharing, the use of which is growing sharply. The members of car sharing services in Italy in 2018 were in total one million and 860,000, of which about 90% enrolled in free-floating services.

Compared to 2017, however, the largest increase was in station-based services with a more 37%, while free-flow car sharing totaled a plus 27% year on year.

The kilometers travelled by car sharing were 88.9 million in 2018. The total fleet continues to grow reaching an altitude of 7,961 cars, with a quota of 27% of electric on the total that has grown of 11% in the free-floating segment and 39% in the station-based regarding 2017.

The Peer-to-Peer car sharing is an important alternative to the mobility demand of Italians in the future, especially looking at the European market data.

In Italy are already active platforms that offer traditional services of car sharing between private (Consumer-2-Consumer) or in some cases also involve corporate fleets (Business-2-Business-2-Consumer).

With the sharing of cars taking hold, also changes the idea of the car market itself: the sales of the new would be destined to decrease but the cars would travel more kilometers, moving the business of the houses towards maintenance/repair.

“Circular strategies – AIRP (Italian Tyre Rebuilders Association) recently pointed out – are particularly important in the transport sector”.

On the end-of-life vehicle management front, for example, more and more companies are investing in sustainable transport, transforming the production line, aiming at waste recovery and regeneration (remanufacturing) end-of-life vehicle materials (spent oils, batteries, plastics, tyres).

To characterize the car of the future, of course, will be its ability to be always connected: it will be possible to “talk” and communicate directly with road signs and will allow travelers to access both email and their social profiles.

It will be a “green” car: with electric or hybrid motorization, exploiting renewable energy. Between Smart City and circular economy, the future of the car seems to be already here.
Smart Italy Goal


This article is intended as a first useful contribution to enable a reasoned analysis of the main factors involved in the management of a new mobility by using the results resulting from the restrictions adopted during the crisis period caused by Covid-19 and providing useful topics for comparison, an exchange of views.

An opportunity to understand how technologies and technological innovation, as well as the adoption of new behaviors, new lifestyles, can help to live better by overcoming all the distortions that we have always found in our cities.

The experience of Covid-19, is a unique opportunity to draw a new model of city that will be able to answer the countless questions regarding intelligent mobility in an intelligent city, of the future.

A subject that has been much discussed in recent years, but with little results. Typical theme that concerns: convergence between new needs, new technologies, new lifestyles, as a contrast to the strong urbanization and lifestyles inadequate to the current model of city. Today, because of Covid-19, we have to rethink everything, radically.

Italy now has the opportunity to share and can do so without returning to the levels of traffic, pollution, congestion of the previous era using the benchmarks so far unavailable.

It’s necessary to have a new ability to reset our social model using cause-effect correlations that are detected in Covid-19 phases.

The need to reach an innovative eco-system meets the technical and administrative difficulties that hamper the implementation of solutions that can bring benefits, more generally, to the economy and society and therefore also to mobility as a whole (economic losses due to congestion, etc.).

In particular, there is an urgent need for clear and new strategies to be drawn up to support innovation and retraining in the world of work, revising issues that are no longer appropriate.

In all this, public administrations are faced with major challenges that in past years have not been able to face because, in addition to a shortage of resources, there has often been a scarcity of strategic vision, policy coherence and the use of resources, regardless of what are the real priorities for an administration that goes far beyond the political mandate.

Among others, the issue of monitoring and controlling bridges and road infrastructure is giving us – for too long – a clear confirmation of this; and the prediction is that the whole will be further delayed despite the obvious level of risk.

In order to achieve the results we are seeking, the offices responsible for managing infrastructure, mobility, roads, parking, etc. they must not only unite on general shared objectives, but also receive more freedom of action from the political bodies.

Large-scale issues such as traffic, mobility, town planning, spatial planning, cannot be set according to autonomous logic, except to cause the effects we have seen so far.


Similarly, we cannot forget that we have a decision-making and legislative process that is too long and inherently slow to respond.

The policy should then set itself general objectives but also allow those who implement them to make decisions based on technical data and not to prevail logic that are not supported.

Moreover, the implementation of most of the instruments for planning mobility and transport has shown that policy operates in a very different way. And you can see the results.

An example: the HCM – Highway Capacity Manual is a publication of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science in the United States and is an internationally recognized manual, with which it is possible to size a road according to the volume of traffic that can support and so also the effects on air quality resulting from the choices made. Are these or other tools used to prevent the distortions we see?

Moreover, the mobility system is assimilated to a hydraulic system where the two reference parameters are capacity and capacity. It is not a question of engineering everything, but of using those available technical tools that anticipate what will be the situations of circulation according to the choices taken.

Moving, yes, but moving better should be the slogan that indicates the right direction for the future.

Part 1 of the article “A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 1” is online here

A new Smart City model after Covid-19 – part 2   Per la versione in Italiano:

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