IEEE Core Smart City Profile - Trento, Italy

Trento’s natural gifts inform its journey toward “smarticization”
Mid-sized Italian city seeks to optimize six aspects of urban life

The city of Trento nestles in the glacially carved Adige River valley, which drains the southern Dolomite Mountains (one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and forms a natural gateway between northern Italy and the rest of Europe. This location among mountains, lakes and passes led to Trento’s prosperity and regional influence over millennia.

Today, Trento’s town center remains a time-honored combination of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. The city’s 116,000 inhabitants enjoy an enviable quality of life, as well as a level of public-private cooperation that creates jobs and economic opportunity. Trento is consistently praised by fellow Italians for its livability.

As an IEEE core smart city, Trento is capitalizing on its strengths –including robust citizen engagement and local universities and research centers – to become a model for urban quality of life, cohesive relationships, and sustainable development. Two major, distinctive features of Trento’s smartification efforts are:

  • An intensely linked ecosystem of research centers, universities, and companies, that leverages a strong commitment of public bodies and a shared knowledge-based vision;
  • A strong commitment to extend the “smart communities” paradigm to the whole Trento Province (which includes about 538,000 inhabitants) through common and shared policies and with a special focus on citizen engagement, cohesive relationships, and the natural environment. This paradigm could reverse depopulation of mountainous areas, thus promoting sustainable population and economic growth in territories that are difficult to reach.

Trento’s mission includes sharing its lessons learned with its urban counterparts across the globe through hosting conferences, issuing documentation and white papers on its progress, and providing online content and tutorials.

Thus Trento’s work – and broader, global efforts at smart city advancements – was on display in mid-September as the city hosted the IEEE Second International Smart Cities conference, 12-15 September 2016 during the Trento Smart City Week 2016 event. The event involved thousands of people and offered citizens, stakeholders, and local companies the opportunity to to share experiences as well as to join the IEEE Smart Cities community.

 

Trento’s focus areas

Even before being selected as an IEEE Core Smart City in July 2014, Trento had pursued smart city-related advancements. The city’s inaugural IEEE Smart City conference in December 2014 helped hone Trento’s focus on six significant areas: Big Data/Open Data, Energy Systems, Fostering Smart Mobility for Mid-sized Cities, Innovative Tourism Services, Smart Citizens for Healthy Cities and e-Government. These topics and Trento’s thinking on how to forge advancements are addressed in five white papers published after the city’s inaugural smart cities conference in December 2014.

Though data, energy, mobility and tourism sound like disparate subjects, a few common civic and technology themes actually link them together.

One foundation of Trento’s smart city efforts is a robust, integrated information and communications technology (ICT) platform that leverages the value of data and can link various data networks that support advancements in the city’s energy, transportation, health, business and tourism initiatives. Another pillar of Trento’s approach is that that data is created by and belongs to citizens and visitors, who should be able to freely access “open data” to make e-government more transparent. Trento recognizes the value of an engaged citizenry, which is essential to creating a user-centric design for how services can be accessed and put to use. Recognizing that citizens and tourists are both “guests” of the city at any given moment will lead to a more unified approach to accessing information and improving services such as public transportation. And Trento’s pursuit of a smarter grid based on active end-user engagement will support energy efficiency, the use of distributed energy resources (DER) and broader European Union goals for sustainability.

Though these foundational concepts may apply to smart cities everywhere, Trento’s history, geography and regional role will flavor how this mid-sized Italian city pursues them.

Citizens and data

As Trento pursues Big Data and Open Data (PDF, 314 KB), the city must integrate and unify a formerly fragmented administrative IT structure. The city is restructuring its internal processes to empower an open data culture and move from an internal to a shared data management approach, even extending across the province of Trento. Trento is devoting effort to training companies and public administrators to extend their knowledge about big data and open data. University and research institutions are delivering initiatives and training opportunities to improve economic operators’ and citizens’ awareness about these issues. Public seminars, academic courses, and MOOCs devoted to these topics have been organized.

Future Energy Systems in Smart Cities (PDF, 174 KB) like Trento depends on the engagement of energy end-users and the pursuit of energy efficiency, DER and real-time demand response. A smarter electric grid in Trento will include energy efficiency improvements to the city’s historic buildings and administrative offices, as well as to private residences and businesses. Trento’s future energy system will encourage the use of smart buildings, electric vehicles, DER and energy storage as end-users both produce and consume energy.

Trento’s efforts at Fostering Smart Mobility for Mid-sized Cities (PDF, 1093 KB) focus on providing citizens with improved, real-time information on traffic, public transportation options, multi-modal transportation services (bike-sharing, ride-sharing) and infrastructure that supports both transport solutions and application development for citizen services. One of Trento’s challenges is that the city is long north-to-south and narrow east-to-west, with north-south barriers to cross-town mobility that include a river, a railroad and major roads.

In developing Innovative Tourism Services (PDF, 352 KB) Trento seeks to optimize the “guest” experience by integrating information and services for an end-to-end tourism ecosystem. The city will monitor guest-generated social media to hone its approach.

The concept of Smart Citizens for Healthy Cities (PDF, 520 KB) takes “health” beyond mere physical well-being to encompass social, economic and informational opportunities. Trento, as other cities in Europe, faces the challenge of an aging population and a digital divide that can leave the segments of society with unequal opportunities in these areas.

e-Government (PDF, 414 KB) focuses on producing a knowledgeable citizen with access to municipal, citizen-generated data and a “one-stop shop” means to access it via a system that is “simple, trusted, complete, connected and open.”

Trento’s journey

How did Trento arrive at these practical steps toward an improved, sustainable civic life?

The city’s traditional civic engagement and the presence of well-regarded universities and research centers coalesced in recent years into formal plans to do more. Thus when the IEEE Smart Cities initiative gained steam in 2014 and sought applications from cities for their participation, Trento already had momentum and it attracted IEEE support. In July 2014, Trento was selected to join Guadalajara, Mexico, and Wuxi, China, as the first three IEEE core smart cities.

Technologically, smart cities are required to develop a platform for innovations and applications based on an Open Data framework, ideally informed by citizen-produced data, which can support progress towards an improved quality of urban life and services, economic prosperity and sustainability. Trento, as with other core smart cities, is being assisted in reaching its goals by a team of IEEE experts in various fields. The conferences and white papers cited here are one set of deliverables. Another deliverable – a MOOC (massive open online course) on Big Data for Smart Cities – is also available on the web.

Trento is well on its way to quantifiable, sustainable improvements in six major areas of civic, social and economic life and, thus, it has honored its motto: Qualità dela vita e impegno attivo e consapevole dei cittadini – quality of life, active and aware engagement of citizens.