Smart Cities and the Bari example

Published on Saturday, 22 October 2016

At the event Innovative City 2016 in Nice, France, this June, a group of computer scientists, urban designers and architects came together as Renaissance Urbaine to present their manifesto, “The Smart Cities We Need”.

The manifesto describes the three primary characteristics required for urban transformation: digital, connected infrastructures; community involvement; and new shared spaces. The other challenge for smart cities is to be able to make the shift from individual projects to the scale of an entire metropolitan area through strategic vision and an integrated platform.

This is a problem that most Italian cities today must face. The National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) recently surveyed 1,227 projects throughout the country as a part of its Smart City Observatory.

Of these cities, at least 800 provide a shared mobility service or an app for finding parking, but they lack an integrated strategy, i.e. a systemic approach to creating a true ecosystem and to achieving objectives such as energy savings, improving traffic, and providing services of community engagement.

In southern Italy, Bari is the leading candidate to take on the role of smart city, and Enel is investing technology and resources in the city through a series of integrated infrastructures and other projects, such as the Puglia Active Network (PAN), a smart electrical system that increases the efficiency and performance of the power grid (of 8,000 distribution substations) by integrating power generated by renewable-energy plants (for a total of around 5,000 MW). Another example is the Unico project, a program of integrated remote metering of water and gas for residential users and of public lighting through an agreement between Enel Distribuzione, Amgas, AQP, and the City of Bari.

In addition, Bari’s technology district is one of the most active, with 98 businesses, 3 consortia, 4 universities, and total revenues on the order of €500 million. The goal of this industrial district is to promote research and the creation of databases and permanent observatories. Within the district, there are leading organizations such as Expriva, the publicly listed company (on the Star segment of the Italian stock market) specialized in software development that designed the Area Vasta Metropoli Terra di Bari platform, which enables residents of 28 municipalities to access numerous services online, including paying city taxes and obtaining public records and zoning authorizations. Other prominent members of the district include CLE, which developed the first online system of medical consults for pediatric hemophilia, and Macnil, the company that designed InfoSmartCity, an app that connects the various sensors in smart cities and aggregates all information of public utility, such as available parking, traffic, and the location of points for separate waste collection.

At the same time, however, in order to develop a smart city, it is also important to bring about initiatives from the bottom up that seek to revitalize abandoned or underutilized urban areas. In Bari, again, there is Pop Hub, a project of social innovation to create a network of people and urban areas and to transform abandoned areas into new resources. Through Pop Hub, a vast community was created—its members interconnected both physically and by way of social networks and mobile apps—which helped new talent to emerge and revitalized both a wing of the Carbonaro covered market that had been vacant for ten years, transforming it into a vibrant space for courses, the presentation of startups, and other events, as well as a former open-air cinema that once again became a site for midsummer-night events.

In collaboration with the City of Bari, the Pop Hub community also organized a call for solutions that awarded financing to five projects of young entrepreneurship. It is only through this integration of technology and community involvement, digital communities and human networks, that we can create a robust smart city, because, in the words of Aldo Bonomi in a recent issue of Il Sole 24ore, "there can be no smart city without a social city."