We visited the Smart City Expo in Barcelona to gather clues as to how smart cities will develop within the next year in Europe.
Forum Virium Helsinki visited Barcelona to attend the world’s largest event for the smart city industry, the Smart City World Expo. The event brought together the world’s key smart cities and businesses operating in the industry. We listed five points that indicate what kind of direction smart cities are developing in.
1. Renewable energy and its storage will be emphasised
Smart cities are particularly dependent on energy. The war in Ukraine started by Russia ended the era of cheap Russian fossil energy in Europe. This creates new challenges. The German company Me Energy attended the expo to showcase their portable electricity storages that can be installed into a normal power grid for purposes such as a quick charging for electric cars. The energy storage is a much cheaper way to provide consumers, such as owners of electric cars living in scarcely populated areas, with electricity than building new power lines.
2. Remote work saves energy and reduces climate emissions
COVID-19 forced many of the world’s experts to work remotely. Today, at least partial remote work has established itself as a modern way of working. The effects of remote work were researched in Barcelona, and it was discovered that remote workers reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by 24% and their energy consumption by 19%. The most significant reason for this is reduced work commute traffic. Furthermore, at least partial remote work improved employees’ wellbeing.
3. Russian smart city development quieted down
In previous years, Russia and Moscow in particular have attended the expo in Barcelona to showcase their smart city solutions in a spectacular manner. This year, there was no sign of Russia, as the country is excluded from all European arenas because of the war. Russia’s smart city development is expected to quiet down and fall behind the rest of Europe, as cooperation with and electronics exports to the country have been suspended. The isolation of Russia is continuing and may continue for the entire 2020s.
4. Electric bikes are coming in fast
European countries have been running trials with conventional city bikes for a long time, but as of late, bikes with small electric motors have been becoming more common. Cycling is the most energy-efficient form of transport, and electrical assistance makes it even easier and more pleasant in urban environments. Several companies, such as the electric scooter manufacturer Tier and public transport operators, attended the expo in Barcelona to showcase their electric bike operations. The Swedish start-up company Jonna is providing electric bikes in Stockholm with an affordable leasing agreement, in which a monthly lease of €18–70 covers maintenance and insurance for the bike.
5. Germany woke up and smelled the smart city development
This year, Germany and Berlin in particular had a strong presence in Barcelona. The country is attracting businesses and developing smart solutions in different cities. An enormous smart city development area is being built in Berlin to replace the former Berlin Tegel Airport. Dubbed an urban tech republic, Berlin TXL is bringing together businesses, research institutions, start-ups and financers. The area is used to develop and research low-emission energy, traffic, construction and urban nature systems. A 10,000-resident smart city district will be built next to the area. This is good news for Europe, as when Germany rolls up its sleeves, things usually start happening.