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Putting Leuven on an innovative path to electromobility and autonomous shuttles

Putting Leuven on an innovative path to electromobility and autonomous shuttles

The Digital City Pole project is part of a wider initiative to bring electromobility and sustainable development to the city of Leuven, Belgium. As a first step toward realizing this ambitious vision, the city will use the modular poles to deploy energy-efficient LED street lighting and provide charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

Leuven plans to distribute the new poles extensively at business and research parks and in urban areas to create a platform for hosting high-performance connectivity and IoT sensors that can support a variety of innovative city services. The project paves the way for future business and research parks and citywide connectivity that will stimulate local innovation, drive environmentally friendly development and provide new opportunities for local small- and medium-sized businesses and enterprises.

Electromobility promises to help cities such as Leuven meet their sustainable development goals. To realize this promise, cities must develop EV charging infrastructure and limit the environmental impact of the increased demand for power generation that will be required to support it. At the same time, they need to ensure that citizens, visitors and businesses remain happy with access and mobility in the city.

New technologies such as digital city poles have an important role to play in addressing these challenges and facilitating the transition to electromobility. For example, they can provide EV charging capabilities while reducing the electricity required to light city streets. They can also include sensors and cameras that measure air and noise pollution, monitor traffic and identify free parking places.

Digital City Pole

Digital city poles can also be a first step for cities seeking to optimize power supply and demand in real time or develop dense public transportation systems based on autonomous electric shuttles. These systems support automated shuttles and robo-taxis that take people from suburban park-and-ride facilities to the city center. With capabilities like these in place, the city center could be reimagined as a greener and more pleasant place to live. This would realize the goal of the technology, which is to improve quality of life in and around the city.

The EU recently selected Leuven as the European Capital of Innovation 2020. The city’s leaders are committed to exploring the use of new technologies to encourage digitalization and sustainable development. Their aim is to enable Leuven to become one of Europe's Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model that facilitates collaborative innovation. The Digital City Pole project is an important step towards achieving this aim. The city fully supports the project and has the talented partners and innovative business models required to make it a reality. It also has the support of the Flemish government and the EU Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Nokia is contributing to the Digital City Pole project as a technology supplier and consultant to a diverse ecosystem of companies led by TRES. In collaboration with TRES, we created an integrated solution for 5G, IoT and electromobility, along with powerful transaction and payment processing services that will make the ecosystem more efficient and help it achieve its sustainability goals.

We are playing a key role in implementing the project by deploying industrial-grade, 5G-ready private wireless connectivity in partnership with our value-added reseller Citymesh. The project will also rely on our digital value platforms, including our Data Marketplace solution for transaction management. We complement these technologies with comprehensive networking expertise and a deep understanding of what it takes to deliver integrated smart city solutions.

Digital City Poles

A key focus of our work on the Digital City Pole project is to demonstrate use cases that leverage IoT intelligence across a secure city data backbone. The project will explore new revenue opportunities based on IoT data and energy marketplaces, along with applications that benefit the public, including:

  • Making smarter decisions about lighting and other public services by applying artificial intelligence to video and IoT streams to gain a richer awareness of what is happening at a given place and time (e.g. pedestrians walking, people playing basketball)
  • Using electromobility to provide more EV charging stations, and using the energy stored in EVs to intelligently feed energy back into the grid
  • Monitoring of environmental sensors for air and noise pollution, as well as crowd movement
  • Creating a digital marketplace that enables companies to use data from digital city poles to provide new digital services that benefit citizens and visitors while maintaining their privacy
  • Using drones to help public safety agencies respond to fires, floods or other disasters, and manage crowds more intelligently

This ambitious project highlights the innovation that can be realized by connecting smart infrastructure over private wireless networks. Leuven’s streetlights now have the potential to improve their own performance and power future services that will contribute to a sustainable digital society.

By working in close alignment with TRES to transform Leuven’s digital city poles into an intelligent urban IoT infrastructure, we are helping the city build a better, safer and more prosperous future for its citizens and visitors. The project is also designed to generate new revenue for the city, for power utilities, and for companies that operate in the areas where the poles are deployed (e.g. for Industry 4.0 applications). By providing the infrastructure for smart data collection, the project will give startups the opportunity to solve real-life problems in their local area.

City Pole

The Flemish government sees the efforts in Leuven as a way to create a future-proof approach for other cities in the region and beyond. It believes that this type of innovation will be indispensable for future-proofing its economy, and for getting the economy back on track following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Digital City Poles project provides tangible evidence of how new energy, mobility and interactive data communications applications can improve quality of life and power the sustainable development of smart cities. This combination of elements has an important and transformative role to play in the social and economic evolution of Flanders and of cities and regions throughout the world.

Learn more
Watch our video to find out more about the Digital City Poles project and 5G integration for smart city initiatives.
Watch our webinar to get an in-depth view of how we’re working with TRES to transform Leuven’s digital city poles into an intelligent infrastructure for IoT applications.

Contact a Nokia city advisor to discuss a transformation plan that will enrich the lives, safety and well-being of your citizens.

Jacques Vermeulen

About Jacques Vermeulen

Jacques has been Nokia’s Director Future Cities, developing strategy, solutions, partnerships and business since 2009. He is passionate about tapping into his knowledge of ICT, Smart City ecosystems, customer experience and appreciative organizational development and change to help transformations to sustainable urban development, reduce the complexity of the society we live in and offer new augmented services to city’s organizations and the people they serve.

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