Together with suppliers, Danish local and regional governments are utilising smart city technologies and data to reduce traffic and climate challenges – fast. If realised, the socio-economic benefits could amount to 700 million euros and save over 5,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
On a busy road in the Copenhagen suburb of Vallensbæk, traffic crawled at a snail’s pace during peak hour. The company Technolution has managed to reduce traffic congestion substantially within just four months. How? Via intelligent traffic control based on GPS data from cars, which was then used to regulate traffic along the busy road of Vallensbæk Torvevej. The solution means that the average speed along the road has increased from 32 km/h to 38 km/h.
Although six kilometres may sound modest, these results can have significant beneficial societial impacts.
If we look at the time wasted when sitting in traffic, the Danish Road Directorate has estimated that Danes are stuck in traffic 77 million hours a year. This has a socio-economic cost of EUR 3 billion. Then there is the impact on the climate. Results from the Vallensnæk Torvevej project reduce CO2 emissions by 1.5 tonnes,” says senior project manager Lise Søderberg from the public-private partnership Gate21 which is behind the project in Vallensbæk.
KMD’s Institute for Analysis has calculated what would happen if the Vallensbæk Torvevej project results were applied to all traffic light crossings in Denmark.
“This would make it possible to save EUR 700 million annually, as the amount of time citizens sit in traffic will be reduced by 16 million hours and it will reduce CO2 emissions by 5,256 tonnes,” continues Lise Søderberg.
The Vallenbæk project is one 13 prototypes which have been developed in collaboration with Denmark’s Regional Datahub, which works on how data can be applied to solve municipalities’ challenges within mobility, climate proofing and optimisation of operations.
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Data is king
The projects are administered by Gate 21, which is a partnership between regional and local government, companies and research institutes in Greater Copenhagen. Gate 21’s mission is to accelerate the green transition and growth.
Gate 21 helps with the procurement of the project and finding relevant suppliers. The projects run for four months, where a potential solution is developed in the first three months and the last month is devoted to testing purposes.
“It is a criteria, that the projects have relevance for multiple municipalities. They also need to be innovative. That means that they have to be solutions that aren’t already on the market,” states Lise Søderberg.
Many of the projects are devoted to activating the large quantities of data that the municipalities have in a new and more constructive way.
“When the data is applied in machine learning, artificial intelligence and predicted analysis reveal a completely new picture. The municipalities gain an insight into the potentials their data encompasses and this is highly valuable,” states Lise Søderberg.
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Municipalities and companies benefit
From a company perspective, the partnership with Gate 21 is highly beneficial. Dennis Bjørn Knudsen is a senior consultant in the company Technolution, which has created the intelligent traffic management on Vallensbæk Torvevej.
“One of the reasons we have entered into the project is that it is a good fit with some of the things we want to promote. It is an opportunity to gain exposure to a wider circle of potential clients. For us it is very positive to be able to demonstrate a good case. It helps when someone knocks on our door,” says Dennis Bjørn Pedersen.
For Technolution the project is an investment.
“We receive payment, but it is no secret that not all of our expenses are covered by this project. It requires an investment from our side, but it makes sense,” he continues.
Lars Fleng Vestergaard, who is an employee at the Municipality of Vallensbæk, doesn’t see anything untoward in the arrangement.
“This type of objective oriented product development is really smart. As a municipality, we have a need. In this type of collaboration, we meet those who have the technologies and the competencies. This creates a kind of Ping-Pong, where something usable is developed. This is the direct opposite to when a company fumbles around in the dark and develops something that will never be sold,” says Lars Fleng Vestergaard.
Gate 21 ensures that the municipalities receive the necessary tools to make smart city technologies operational and concrete.
“It isn’t every single municipality that is of a sufficient size and possesses sufficient resources to launch these kinds of projects. It requires times and a sense of timing to enter into market dialogue and procurement,” says Lise Søderberg.
The next step for the projects in The Regional Data Hub will be to scale the best ones and test them in other municipalities.