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Smart City - Good practices from Bulgaria

KISMC team

Smart Cities are, by design, municipalities that address these challenges via a process of digital transformation (DX); in fact, the mission of Smart Cities can be described as “outcomes-based digital transformation”.

This means using new methods of innovation and creativity, and new sources of information, to enhance experiences, increase sustainability and resilience, and improve financial and operational performance.

IT that uses a combination of cloud, mobility, and data analytics has the power to provide new solutions to long-standing urban challenges and enable new experiences for residents and communities, visitors and tourists, and local businesses. (IDC white paper “Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Smart Cities and Smart Communities”, 19 December 2017. Posted in Intelligent / Smart Cities Solutions).

Here are presented some good practices for the digital transformation of cities in Bulgaria, based on smart city technologies.

Sofia Smart City Digital Transformation Strategy of the City of Sofia

The city of Sofia participated in the initiative Digital Cities Challenge of the European Commission. The result was the elaboration of the digital transformation strategy for Sofia (DTSS): A platform for smart growth. https://innovativesofia.bg/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Digital-Transformation-Strategy-for-Sofia-Final-accepted-ENG.pdf. DTSS defined an action plan and a series of actions that strengthen the ICT business ecosystem located in Sofia, enabling (a) to develop innovative solutions for the digital transformation of the city. As for the further implementation of the action plan the city signed a technical support agreement with the European Investment Bank for its realization through concrete investment projects.

There are some cases (projects), based on smart city technologies that have been identified for immediate implementation by the Smart City Roadmap. (Source: The digital transformation strategy for Sofia: A platform for smart growth; Digital Cities Challenge Initiative)

  • Distributed platform of urban data - creating a Data Lake – a storage repository that holds a vast amount of raw data in its native format, including structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. The data lake will not only be used to store data from and for the municipality but also business, citizens, academia. After creating the data lake, we would expand with different modules used for analytics, visualization, and modeling, thus creating a data hub. General goal – help stakeholders be more informed and facilitate evidence-based policymaking. -
  • Sofia’s Digital twin (cyber-physical platform for decision-making optimization) - digital twin – a digital profile of the physical city that helps to optimize its performance and can be used as a platform for planning and decision- making but also experimentation, and research and development. General goal – help decision-makers and experts to better plan and make decisions about the development of the city. \
  • Online platform for services in schools - for a few years now there has been an operating system for acceptance and attendance in kindergartens. Expanding it to the public schools and build new functionalities that allow new e-services. General goal – improve communication between student parents and schools.
  • Dashboard for real-time utility consumption - the creation of e-utility services in help for building owners to save energy, gas, and water using smart sensors. Creation of a mobile app/website for following utility consumption in real-time. Testing in 3-5 properties (manufacturing, administrative, residential, retail). General goal – optimization of utility costs
  • Development of utility efficiency model - development of a single model for efficiency based on meteorological conditions – create an online platform for data collection and analysis that helps utility companies to increase the efficiency of resource utilization. General goal: increased efficiency and service quality
  • Transport modeling - the creation of a dynamic transport model for the city. To be used to test scenarios. General goals: better planning and mobility management in the city.
  • Integrated Mobility Platform - the creation of an integrated mobility platform that provides real-time information about all types of transport and routes in the city. General goal: optimize mobility as a service
  • Neighborhood car-sharing - building a platform for shared electric cars for a certain number of neighboring residential buildings. General goals: improve the urban environment.
  • Digital and physical space for start-ups located in Sofia - development of new or customization of an existing e-platform for start-ups and scale-ups. Creation of an office for consultations for founders. The team there would also be responsible for synchronizing, supporting, and developing existing initiatives engaged with inspiring entrepreneurial qualities and innovative thinking. General goals: promote entrepreneurial qualities and innovative thinking among young people, improve founders’ entrepreneurial skills, make it easier for start-ups and investors to connect.

Sofia Smart City Marketplace

It is an initiative of the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City to develop a platform for publishing, storing, and open access to a database of validated or ready-to-validate products and technological innovations that can be used in the process of transforming the city into a smart city. It is designed for those local government officials responsible for the development of the smart city by providing them with a simplified process for finding information on the latest products, applications, technologies, and technological solutions with which the municipal structures can cope more successfully. The platform is beta version https://smartcitymarketplace.eu/.

Planning a Black Sea smart city of Bourgas

Bourgas’s smart city agenda supports smart city planning and development. The city is now keen to lend structure to its ambitions and is developing a Smart City Roadmap that refines its strategic intent and prioritizes future investment intentions accordingly. A smart city of Bourgas integrates technology with infrastructure to enable urban development that is more intelligent, interconnected, and efficient. Because of its manageable size and other endowments, Bourgas is the perfect “urban laboratory” in which to test smart applications in a relatively controlled environment. The municipality’s commitment to a considered program of further interventions that will form the mosaic of its proposed Smart City Roadmap will only make it smarter.

There are some examples from a smart city planning agenda:

  • Interactive smart mobility terminals - the city has developed an interactive terminal system and mobile application to make traveling easier and more convenient. Transport users can access the interactive terminals at various transport hubs and intermodal terminals around the city. These can be used to access bus timetables and real-time information about all of the city’s various transport modes, details of events in the city, and even the weather. The development of these terminals is intended to facilitate more sustainable urban mobility in the city and is part of Bourgas’ Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. 
  • Smart lampposts - the city is installing solar-powered lampposts fitted with LED bulbs and a reactive dimming system that will save over half of Bourgas’s energy used for street lighting. In addition to offering solutions for energy savings, sensors installed on smart lampposts can gather data on noise and pollution levels and traffic, sharing this information with the city to inform future urban developments based on Bourgas’s needs. In a novel development, some lampposts in the tourist area are fitted with sprinklers that release a modest and mist-like water-spray to cool pedestrians in high summer. 
  • Intelligent public transport - the city has created an intelligent system to make its public transport safer, more efficient, and convenient. Financed by the municipality, the European Regional Development Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the project increases the attractiveness and comfort of the current system, provides real-time information for passengers, introduces integrated ticketing, and includes video surveillance to increase passenger safety and reduce ticket fraud.
  • Bicycle sharing service - the city started the implementation of a bike-sharing service as long ago as 2012 and was the first Bulgarian city to include the practice as part of an integrated urban mobility policy. The initial project, “Cycling City – a Model of Modern Urban Mobility”, was financed by the Global Environmental Fund and aimed to increase infrastructure for and access to non-motorized transport. Since its introduction, the system has been extended and constantly upgraded, with e-bikes envisaged for the near future. - The business incubator - a listed building in a prime location has been refurbished and re-modeled as a business incubator for innovative, high-tech, and digitally-enabled projects that, once sufficiently developed and ready for up-scaling and/or production, can be transferred to a more appropriate location in an innovation cluster in one of the new industrial zones.
  • Urban dashboard - the city’s initiative draws on two European Regional Development Fund projects23 that focus on building knowledge and capabilities in the field of information and communications technology, as prioritized in Bulgaria’s Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation. In pursuit of the project’s objectives, Bourgas has been identified as an ideal test-bed. To this end, the city is creating a so-called urban dashboard. The latter builds on new and existing digital infrastructure and seeks to integrate disparate data sets from the municipality and other city partners to monitor, evaluate, and optimize public investment plans and service delivery. By affording the opportunity for significant improvement in communication and information flows between dispersed organizations and activities, the dashboard should also facilitate the introduction of new ways of organizing shared work and co-operative enterprise, strengthening Bourgas’s competitive advantage as part of its wider smart city endeavor.

The Smart Cities Information System (SCIS) of the City of Varna

SCIS is a knowledge platform to exchange data, experience, and know-how and to collaborate on the creation of smart cities, providing a high quality of life for its citizens in a clean, energy-efficient, and climate-friendly urban environment. SCIS brings together project developers, cities, research institutions, industry, experts, and citizens from across Europe. SCIS focuses on people and their stories – bringing to life best practices and lessons learned from smart projects. Through storytelling, SCIS portrays the “human element” of changing cities. It restores qualitative depth to inspire replication and, of course, to spread the knowledge of smart ideas and technologies - not only to a scientific community but also to the broad public! Launched with support from the European Commission, SCIS encompasses data, experience, and stories collected from completed, ongoing, and future projects. Focusing on energy, mobility & transport, and ICT, SCIS thus showcases solutions in the fields of energy-efficiency in buildings, energy system integration, sustainable energy solutions on the district level, smart cities and communities, and strategic sustainable urban planning.

Projects in the scope of SCIS are mostly co-funded by the European Commission, for example, the 12 Horizon 2020 Smart Cities and Communities (SCC1) projects (such as Triangulum, Sharing Cities or Stardust), the 7th Framework Programme projects CELSIUS and City-zen, and many more! SCIS, therefore, analyses project results and experiences to:

  • establish best practices that will enable project developers and cities to learn and replicate.
  • identify barriers and point out lessons learned, with the purpose of finding better solutions for technology implementations and policy development.
  • provide recommendations to policymakers and policy actions needed to address market gaps.

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