Urban Evolution: The Next Generation of Mobility and Infrastructure in Smarter Cities

‘Smart’ as a concept is surging in popularity as we are looking for ways to design cities that can outsmart some of the most critical issues of our time. Embracing the potential of technological innovation, smart cities are expected to adapt to an ever changing environment in ways that maximize efficiency while minimizing emissions. Particularly the mobility and construction sectors, the building blocks of modern urban development, are under pressure to optimize the flow of energy, resources, people and information in order to transform urban life.

While progress is inevitable and needed, shifting the perspective towards ‘smart enough’ cities might actually create smarter long term solutions. Emphasizing innovation as a means to an end, ‘smart enough’ cities advocate for a bottom up approach to urban development that centers the needs of citizens. Here, the conjunction of science and society creates truly smart solutions, as a narrow focus on technological innovation can lead to hidden injustices and inequality. Some recent lessons include the finding by the Netherlands Court of Audit, revealing that merely 3 out of 9 governmental algorithms checked meet all basic requirements for safe usage. The algorithms were used for a variety of important tasks, such as awarding housing benefits, forecasting crime risks and sending out traffic fines. Emphasizing the risk of inadequate control, bias and data leaks, the audit points underlines the need for human centric technological innovation.

With almost half of the world’s population now living in cities, and this number being expected to rise to 7 out of 10 people by 2050, we need cities meeting the needs of its people while staying within the means of the planet, more than ever. The UN calls for making cities ‘inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ as part of the SDGs. Overall, cities currently account for around 70% of worldwide emissions while generating about 80% of all economic growth. Major changes are on the horizon, calling for a bottom-up approach to urban development, applying innovative solutions to local problems on a city-by-city level. While the big task ahead requires bringing together a variety of relevant stakeholder perspectives, think communities, cities, businesses and municipalities alike, there are already a multitude of examples of initiatives pioneering pathways to smarter cities, such as:

  • Amsterdam, being named the EU capital of innovation by the European Commission in 2016, is leading the way through setting up its urban innovation platform ‘Smart City’ that brings together governments, businesses, research institutions and businesses in what is called a “quadruple helix”. This approach combines all four key urban players to design bottom-up innovative approaches to answer pressing questions around sustainable energy, the future of mobility and the digital revolution.
  • In Utrecht, the mobility landscape has been transformed through the world’s largest bike parking garage. Blending AI technology and the city’s cultural cycling tradition, we see a successful shift towards micro-mobility and human centered urban solutions. In the Netherlands, Utrecht has been the first city announcing their shift towards becoming a 10min city, with all necessities easily reachable to reduce emissions.
  • With the Netherlands being Europe’s second largest producer of hydrogen, a key element in the energy transition, ‘Electriq’ has made a significant step in bridging gaps in the traditional hydrogen economy. Developing an innovative hydrogen powder, the technology delivers hydrogen in a ground-coffee-like form. Addressing challenges around sustainability, storage, transport and usage, the solution is not only ocean-friendly but also circular.


As the smart city revolution continues to unfold, it is crucial for cities and businesses alike to invest in the right technologies to integrate into their urban fabric.