Digital transformation through smart sensors and digital dialogue

29 June 2022

“Digital transformation is one of the greatest challenges cities will face in the following years,” said Alessandro Ghinelli, Mayor of Arezzo, as his city signed the Declaration on joining forces to boost sustainable digital transformation in cities and communities in the EU promoted by the Living in EU (Li.EU) platform, on June.

According to the declaration, signatories agree on adopting a citizen-centric approach with the city as a citizen-driven and open innovation ecosystem promoting ethical and socially responsible access, use, sharing and management of data and also fostering interoperability with a city-led approach at the EU level.

“It’s not only a matter of smart or smarter cities: it is a core process that will change how we offer the services to our citizens, the competitive advantage we provide to local business and, last but not least, the prospects of research and development we give to young generations. Therefore as the Mayor of Arezzo, I signed the Living-in.EU declaration to promote a sustainable, coordinated and co-designed digital transition within the cities,” Ghinelli added.

Along with Arezzo, the cities of Hannover and Terrassa have also joined the declaration and are committed to adopting sustainable measures to promote digital transformation in cities and communities.

“Joining the Li.EU initiative will allow us to improve our digital transformation, delivering better services to citizens and turning our city of Terrassa into a smart and sustainable place,” said Jennifer Ramírez, Councillor for European and International Affairs of the city of Terrassa.

Digital dialogues in Arezzo

The city of Arezzo. Image by wolfgang1663 at Pixabay
The city of Arezzo. Image by wolfgang1663 on Pixabay

In Arezzo, the city has been responding to the challenge of digital transition with innovative projects that involve citizens for shared development, aiming to increase the technological skills of all citizens through two flagship projects.

‘Unico Online’ is a service launched in 2019 to improve and adapt the city’s capacity to listen and dialogue with its citizens through the instant messaging platform WhatsApp, where citizens can reach out to the city and also subscribe to the weekly communication sent by the municipality.

According to city officials, the number of subscribers to the service has been steadily growing and the main objective of changing the habits of the citizens from calling the city hall to actually using the messaging app was achieved – increasing speed and efficiency.

And this can be verified by the approval ratings of over 80% given by citizens to the service – even among those over 60, corresponding to about one-third of users. And this is also something to be celebrated as the service has proven to be useful and accessible even for those who often face challenges using new technologies.

The second project, ‘Nonni Digitali’ (Digital Grandparents in Italian) is focused exactly on the elderly population and aims to increase the number of SPID digital identities and to increase their level of digital competence along the process.  SPID is the digital key that central and local administrations use to make their services available on citizens’ individual devices.

Citizens can go to one of several Social Aggregation Centres spread throughout the city and the centre’s staff will activate the SPID and offer information and assistance to navigate the digital world.

Smart sensors in Terrassa

Typical human castles in Catalonia. Photo by Saul Mercado on Unsplash
Typical human castles in Catalonia. Photo by Saul Mercado on Unsplash

In Terrassa, the city has been working hard to become a smart city, improving services, efficiency in the use of resources, security, mobility and welfare with the aim of improving its citizens’ lives and becoming a better place for them to live.

Through the gathering of all the data that the city generates in its daily activities and its treatment and analysis, the city can make better decisions, building a digital ecosystem with the amount of information that is generated and then used to impact the quality of life of residents.

Terrassa has been long focused on smart buildings and the analysis of data generated by and in them through a participatory process where citizens contribute to generating new knowledge and new services along with the deployment of smart sensors in 169 city buildings.

The city was, in 2018, a finalist in Catalonia, along with the city of Hospitalet de Llobregat, of the RED.ES “National Plan for Smart Territories” with a project called “Smart Building Terrassa: The buildings build the Smart City,” showing that their efforts are proving fruitful.

All of these initiatives are supported by the Living in EU network that aims at creating an ecosystem with a large number of signatories and supporters where cities can discuss their issues, propose new initiatives, share innovation, and measure their results and impacts.


Raphael Garcia Eurocities Writer