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How to make cities more accessible: The definition of Smart Cities by Frans-Anton Vermast

The benefits of citizens in the smart cities ecosystem and how it is possible to achieve it with digital solutions.

As an expert in searching for opportunities for novel appliances and services that make cities more habitable places for its citizens to live, Frans-Anton Vermast was invited by Ubiwhere to participate in our initiative “Digital City Break”, and we talked with the known Senior Strategy Advisor and Smart City Ambassador from Amsterdam Smart City to discuss some topics about Smart Cities.

According to him, Amsterdam has been at the forefront of smart mobility for many years, where some intelligent and sustainable mobility solutions have been implemented. The best way to evolve is to learn from those who truly understand. That’s why we decided to talk about Smart Cities with Frans-Anton Vermast.

’’A smart city should have the following components: quality of life, citizens, inclusiveness, accessibility, social innovation, ethics, and openness.’’

Ubiwhere: Smart Cities have many definitions. As a Senior Strategy Advisor and International Smart City Ambassador of Amsterdam Smart City, how would you define smart cities?

Frans-Anton Vermast: When you look in a search engine on the internet for a definition of a smart city, you will find over 400 definitions. Still, over 70% focus on ICT and technique in the definition and have a top-down approach. Therefore, my smart city definition would be: how can we make cities and their regions more habitable, inclusive and accessible places for people who live, work and play through open and social innovation to improve citizens’ quality of life within ethical standards?


UW: Considering citizens as the centre of the smart cities ecosystem, why do you believe cities need to be smart? What are the benefits for the citizens?

FAV: You want to think and act from the end user’s perspective and put their goals and benefits first by optimising the city’s operations and increasing socio-economic growth. Benefits for citizens include a more accessible environment through more efficient mobility and infrastructure improvements. It also consists of an inclusive society where decisions are made on a non-discriminatory basis and an opportunity for citizens to travel according to their wishes. It needs instead of being dictated by top-down options.


Citizens don’t need to be smart, but the total ecosystem has to facilitate for citizens to be smart.


UW: In one of your public presentations, you asked, “If technology is the answer, what was the question?”. We may now ask: What are the questions/challenges that you believe technology can answer/help solve in the context of smart cities?

FAV: As long as you use open technology to reach an objective on a non-discriminatory basis, it can significantly help achieve more efficient operations. Or they are based on collecting data to get better insights, integrate services, make more informed decisions and manage cities better to increase the liveability for the people who live, work, and play there. The same goes for citizens to make more well-informed decisions and manage their lives pleasantly.


Technology can also help reduce mistakes by automating and handling processes so that algorithms and artificial intelligence are transparent and open.


UW: Given your expertise in searching for the opportunities of novel appliances and services that make cities more habitable places for its citizens to live, work and play pleasantly, how does a city become smart, and what do you think is the role of SMEs like Ubiwhere in helping achieve that?

FAV: A city can become smart by increasing the quality of life of citizens and their communities. And that can differ if one person is happy that their street is clean. At the same time, someone else might look for smart parking solutions to make their lives easier. SMEs like Ubiwhere can provide tailor-made problem-solving through their solutions and appliances. Ubiwhere also develops partnerships with municipalities to help them with challenges through innovative thinking and from a citizen perspective. Another advantage of SMEs is that there is room for error within the collaboration through a learning-by-doing approach.


UW: What a nice conversation, Frans-Anton! Thank you for talking about how Smart Cities can create a more sustainable environment and boost social benefits that will result in more happy citizens in the future.