5 hidden examples of Rotterdam as a smart city

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Rotterdam Marketing

The smart city is all around us. While that sounds like big brother’s watching, it’s actually about the integration of ICT, internet and technology in a city’s assets. It might be invisible, but it’s supposed to include citizens, which is why it’s a good idea to go on a ‘data walk’. Here’s a little preview of what you might discover in this increasingly smart city:


EUR professor Liesbet van Zoonen is the academic director of the centre for BOLD Cities (Big Open and Linked Data Cities). She takes students, civil servants, and other citizens on specific data walks so they can observe their surroundings and identify data sets. The data walks aren’t just about identifying the smart city – they’re meant to encourage questions. Who owns them? What happens with your data? And would you like to have some say in that?

Smart preview
We share with you five hidden – and surprising – examples of the smartness of Rotterdam.

1) Cables: Two construction workers are digging a hole in the ground to lay cables. ‘There are so many things beneath our feet we don’t know about,’ says Van Zoonen. ‘Like bunches of cables that transfer the invisible communication in this city.’

2) Smartphones: A police car is parked at the side of the road. The officers carry smartphones with which they can immediately check if you have a criminal record. Moreover, they use a face recognition application and can scan your driver’s licence. ‘Is there someone who collects all this data and discusses what kind of data officers have checked in the past year?’ Van Zoonen asks them. But the officers don’t know.

3) For sale: This apartment is for sale, a sign says. But more than a sign, it’s a hidden data point, like a red flag that lets you know there’s something going on here with data. Cause when you check Funda, you can find out everything about the apartment – from its size to the design of the bathroom and the price of the building.

4) High mast: In Rotterdam South there’s a four-metre-high mast located in the middle of a busy pedestrian harbour park area, opposite Hotel New York. Six small sensors are attached to it. But neither pedestrians nor civil servants have any idea what they are for and what kind of data they collect. Everyone just walks past. What's their function?

5) Cameras: Cameras at a construction site. Whose are they and who gets the data? The municipality? The developer of the project? The company that provides the cameras? We don’t know. And what happens with the data? We also don’t know.  

Curious to learn more about the implications of a smart city? Read this article about the purpose of the data walks. Want to find out more about Rotterdam as a smart city? Listen to this podcast in which Van Zoonen takes students on a data walk around Rotterdam.

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