EU Space enabling Smart Cities

Published: 
27 December 2018
The EU space programmes are supporting services and applications that will underpin the Smart City of the future.
The EU space programmes are supporting services and applications that will underpin the Smart City of the future.

The 2018 European Space Week special session on Smart Cities saw professionals and decision makers showcasing how space applications are fostering urban innovation. Presentations highlighted current projects and cutting-edge technologies set to emerge in the coming years.

Smart cities use information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve citizens' welfare and the quality of key services such as public transport. Advances in satellite-based technologies, the likes of EU flagship Galileo, are giving rise to more competitive transport services, while minimising environmental and social impacts.

Evi Papantoniou, European Commission Head of Unit for Galileo and EGNOS legal and institutional aspects, introduced the European Space Week Smart Cities session: "By 2050, we expect two-thirds of the world's population to be living in urban areas, including mega-cities. With these rapid changes, many challenges are being faced by urban planners. We need efficient data flow and state-of-the-art infrastructure."

Smart Mobility is a basic requisite for Smart Cities. In the case of passenger transportation, the arrival of services like on-demand riding, vehicle sharing, multi-modal transportation, and autonomous vehicles are all changing how people get around.

"And at the same time we have the Internet of Things, with connected physical objects being able to locate themselves and communicate with other devices," said Papantoniou. "The question for all of us is how we fit this all together, to securely and affordably accommodate these services within currently available infrastructures and communication technologies."

Thought-provoking presentations

Thomas Bekker, Open and Smart Data Manager at Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur said: "Being smart is really a question of opening networks. We want open hardware, open data, open services, open knowledge, open innovation and Open Space! With technological barriers falling, we need to accelerate the deployment of user-centric approaches, making spatial digital data more accessible. Exploiting the new services of European space programmes is surely a means to addressing those issues."

Josep Maria Salanova Grau, Research Associate at the Hellenic Institute of Transport discussed a range of new emerging applications being enabled by Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). "In conjunction with Galileo, new developments in ITS include the ability to provide information on fuelling and charging stations, protection for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists, on-street and off-street parking information, park and ride information, connected and cooperative navigation, and many other kinds of traffic and routing information."

Grau outlined work under the EU-funded Galileo4Mobility project, now under way in his home region of Thessaloniki. The project is carrying out a number of pilot studies on the topic of 'Mobility as a Service' (MaaS). "Shared mobility services have grown exponentially during the last years," Grau said. "While car sharing is still the most widespread form, other services such as bike sharing, ride hailing and flexible forms of public transport are also growing rapidly." Geolocation of people, things and vehicles by means of satellite navigation technologies is now a prime enabler for most shared mobility services, and its use is expanding. Galileo4Mobility is also undertaking work in the field of autonomous driving, another application with GNSS technologies at its core.

Autonomous driving, and more

The Bosch company was present at the Smart Cities session in the form of a video about its latest autonomous driving technologies. Combining advanced on-board sensors, satellite navigation, correction services and highly advanced software for position calculation, Bosch is keeping Europe at the front of the pack in this rapidly evolving field.

"Indeed," said GSA Officer Alberto Fernandez-Wyttenbach, "Bosch recently became the first automotive supplier to confirm the commercialisation of a Galileo dual-frequency on-board localisation unit, a must-have feature in high autonomous driving This means added precision to mitigate the multipath effect when you talk about city driving. This is a major step towards the industry´s innovation, and we expect other European manufacturers to follow very quickly."

Presenting another exciting research initiative was Martin Skjold-Grontved, Head of Section at the Danish Agency for Data Supply and Efficiency. The TAPAS project ('Testbed in Aarhus for precision positioning and autonomous systems') is aimed at using improved infrastructure to exploit the full technical advantages of modern GNSS.

"Geodetic reference systems are the fundamental infrastructure that provides the basis for precision positioning and navigation using GNSS," Grontved explained. "Until now this has been primarily based on GPS measurements, supplemented by local Real Time Kinematic (RTK) systems. But now we have the new GNSS systems being implemented, such as BeiDou and not least Galileo. These systems are now forming the basis for new terrestrial networks and the basis for both faster and better position determination.">

TAPAS is establishing a sound, ground-based network test bed to support and test new advanced technological developments that require fast, efficient and flexible precision positioning. "This is a geodetic innovation platform," said Grontved, "in the form of physical and virtual networks. The ambition is to exploit the full potential of Galileo and evaluate this system's quality in relation to GPS. Further, and in particular, it is the goal to achieve unprecedented precision positioning in real-time."

Roland Trauter, Manager of Software Integration at Daimler Trucks presented the EU-funded TransSec, aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, in particular the recent rise in vehicle-based terror attacks across Europe. In a number of such incidents, perpetrators used heavy trucks to assault pedestrians.

Trauter said: "The TransSec project is developing and evaluating autonomous systems to detect and prevent trucks from being misused, to prevent these attacks from occurring. With the advances we have achieved in GNSS positioning, map data and map matching, we can assemble on-board environment sensors and V2X communication to create a local dynamic map. This can then be used to monitor movement, critical area alarm, pre-crash object detection and for implementing emergency manoeuvres."

The TransSec project team is also interested in developing new and more effective methods to detect GNSS jamming and spoofing, which represent further threats to security in the context of automated driving technologies. Here, Galileo's unique authentication feature can play an important role.

Pedro Jorge Caridade is Associate Professor at the University of Coimbra and also co-founder of SpaceLayer Technologies. The company is carrying out the SOUL project ('Sensor observation of urban life'), installing small, reliable, inexpensive and georeferenced air quality sensors in moving vehicles.

"Air pollution is the top environmental cause of premature death, and it has a huge impact on productivity and health," said Caridade. "The exposure to risk may be minimised by issuing alerts. Our vehicle-mounted sensors map dynamically the city, with an additional layer of data coming from earth observation satellite images, such as from Copernicus, and other sources of information,” he said. “We can then determine air-quality pollutant-correlating indexes. The users receive real-time alerts on mobile and web platforms. Knowing the air quality in various parts of the city, citizens can act in a proactive way, plan a less polluted route to work, reschedule meetings or take preventive pharmaceutical drugs."

Freight matters

Improving the flow of goods while reducing congestion, accidents and pollution is one of the most important challenges for Smart Cities. Here, new business models inspired by the sharing economy and disruptive technologies have recently emerged and are quickly being adopted.

Mourad El Bidaoui, CEO of MAGMA Technology explained how his company is using a small, battery-powered autonomous geolocation module to enable precise location of logistics assets, using Galileo and other precise positioning technologies. "Today there are ten million maritime containers, two billion trolleys and five billion pallets being used in the transport of goods." El Bidaoui said. "These are all logistics assets and we are making it possible for shippers around the world to have a full visibility of their logistics thanks to the MAGMA web platform."

Finally, Frederic Dagnet, Director of Strategy at the Port Authority of Marseille, and Frederic Rychen, Professor at Aix-Marseille University, gave a joint presentation on exciting new measures and initiatives around the Port of Marseille, France's 'Smart Port'.

Geo-referencing remains a key capability being delivered by space-based technologies such as Galileo. When used in concert with the latest data technologies, EU space flagships Galileo and Copernicus are enabling Smart Cities to streamline and speed up information flows and thus drive and optimise more efficient physical and economic flows.

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Updated: Dec 27, 2018