This short article is based on the results of the project Skills4Cities, an Erasmus+ project and in particular on the “Toolkit for smart city competencies framework”.
The Smart City concept continues to be a subject to debate, and definitions of smart cities vary. However, in most cases, smart cities are connected to initiatives that use digital innovation to make urban service delivery more efficient and thereby increase the overall competitiveness of a community. With the development of new technological innovations, the concept of the Smart City is mostly being engaged with the understanding to achieve more efficient and sustainable cities.
Cities are becoming smart not only in terms of the stage of their technological development, but also in ways that enable us to monitor, understand, analyse, and plan the city in order to improve the urban performance. While digital innovation remains central to the smart city concept, a key question is whether an investment in smart technologies and digital innovations ultimately contribute to improving the well-being of citizens. The human-centric approach is also considered key to making a city smarter. That is why in a recent OECD publication (Smart Cities and Inclusive Growth, 2020) smart cities initiatives are defined as “initiatives or approaches that effectively leverage digitalization to boost citizen well-being and deliver more efficient, sustainable and inclusive urban services and environments as part of a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process”.
After an in-depth study under the Skills4Cities project, of recent reports on the problems, constraints, and challenges which the smart city projects face the project team identified the main challenges related to the development, management, and implementation of Smart City projects.
The urban organism is a complex system, involving many different domains, infrastructures, organizations, and activities. All these systems need to integrate and work together effectively for that city to become smart. This integration needs to take place at many levels, technical, but also about the integration of business processes and management, integrated strategies, and regulations. It is clearly impossible to develop a single model of a smart city that will be simple enough and at the same time enough comprehensive to cover all the key aspects. While urban infrastructure may provide facilities to the citizens, it can only be converted into smart solutions and services through the use of digital technology. Digital technology has the main role in the implementation of Smart City solutions in the city.
While implementation of the Digital technology solution shall immensely enhance the effectiveness of the urban infrastructure, there is very little capacity amongst the city administrators to understand and implement such technology solutions effectively. Thus, the cities and the professionals working in this field face innumerable challenges in implementing Smart City projects.
Of course, this list below is not entirely exhaustive and probably there are many other challenges that arise due to the complexity of those projects. However, the Skills4Cities partners agreed they are most common and relevant in relation to the skill gaps of the experts who are involved in such projects:
Considering the above-mentioned findings could be concluded that the biggest issues when implementing Smart City projects are not about the technology itself but rather the problems that arise when the ideas have to be put into action and related to these professionals with relevant expertise and specific competencies that are able to either develop or manage or implement such complex and multidisciplinary projects as the Smart City ones. Therefore, all of the above-mentioned challenges require a specific set of skills and knowledge to be a smart city professional/practitioner. Such professionals who have a good understating of the underlying information and communication technology, effective management of such technology-intensive projects, good procurement and financial acumen, and great communication skills, will alone be successful in implementing such projects.
@Cluster Sofia Knowledge City
Digitalization and automation mean progress, and new technologies can improve the quality of life in big cities. When we think of smart city solutions, a few keywords come to our minds such as smart mobility, smart grids or waste reduction, but it is important to also look at Smart Living solutions.
There is a wide spectrum of smart city applications, ranging from air quality monitoring, parking, street lighting controlling and many others. Applications are indispensable tools in big cities, whether they are made available to citizens by public administrations or they are made available by IT companies.
App Dedicated to Social Distancing in Restaurants
For example, an application which allows customers to order from the phone, before arriving at the restaurant, is developed by the IT company FlamingoApp from Cluj-Napoca, member of Transilvania IT Cluster. Basically, the application helps customers have the food ready by the time they reach the restaurant. This application became very popular in the pandemic context.
Ana Neamțu, founder of the IT company, said that employees are now working to add restaurants to the application, to be adapted to the new requirements, related to the menu that will be only in a digital format and compliance GDPR on the register of customers.
"We are working on developing the Flamingo App for pre-orders in the restaurant to ensure social distancing, putting customer safety first. Through the application on the mobile phone, restaurant customers order the menu before arriving at the place, so that when they arrive, the food is ready to serve. Interactions with waiters will be reduced from a minimum of seven to one, only when the order is placed. Each customer will set the time of booking so that the restaurant has time to prepare and the number of people who will be at the table", said Ana Neamțu.
The payment of the food order is made exclusively with a card in the application, in order to avoid contact with the money that may carry the virus. The application is useful for the HORECA industry, in this period when social distancing is recommended, just as physical contacts should be as few as possible.
(photo -1 flamingo app - source: cluj.info)
Another application developed by a company from Cluj-Napoca is dedicated to parking spaces. In all big cities it is almost impossible to find vacancies and you often waste a lot of time finding a vacancy.
YeParking is a free parksharing application, developed in Cluj, which brings together a community of thousands of drivers, willing to share their parking spaces. In turn, they can park for free on the places available in the application. Drivers, who help the community by providing a parking space, are rewarded with virtual coins (parkCoins), which can benefit from discounts on various products and services of the application developer's partners, as well as discounts on private parking lots that have started to be listed in the community. The first of them is the Cluj-Napoca Airport Parking, according to the application's website.
From the same category is the Cluj Parking application - the application of the City Hall for parking spaces in the center of Cluj, developed by the company AROBS from Cluj-Napoca. Through this app, Cluj-Napoca City Hall provides citizens with parking spaces available in the 6 barrier parking lots in the city.
Solution for the Public Sector
NTT DATA AMLAD is an application of the company NTT DATA ROMANIA and is dedicated to museums, libraries, public archives and companies to store and archive images, videos and audio documents in one place.
A city can’t be a smart city without smart living which combines the use of apps, social networks and new social technologies.
Author: Laura Goarnă
Technologies are expected to help citizens make better informed decisions. But, the adoption of new technologies which are connected to the network, always comes with inherent risks. Moreover, with the increasing risk of cybercrime and data theft, smart cities should be prepared to deal with any potential threat.
Safety and security are two of the main concerns in any city, and with the incorporation of digital technologies, the concern becomes greater. Therefore the Cybersecurity is a key enabling technology for our cities.
Cities need to integrate solutions that provide strong authentication and ID management solutions to ensure a safe and secure urban environment. In fact, the inclusion of smart technologies has the potential to reduce fatalities and improve emergency response times.
Smart City Vulnerabilities
Because a threat could be introduced into a smart city's infrastructure at any compromised location, the risk can escalate rapidly as one system can compromise the next. When a seemingly harmless connected device is hacked and injected with malware, that attack could affect other devices, causing cascading damage throughout the whole infrastructure.
For example, a breach of street lighting systems could lead to control of lights, which could lead to servers, which in turn would generate data on individual customer behavior and ultimately end up with access to financial and other personal information about citizens, possibly even their health records.
It's not unlike a recent major distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, in which everyday IoT devices such as baby monitors were hacked and turned into a botnet to take over some of the world's largest websites. Cities could be equally susceptible as they rapidly deploy connected devices in municipal domains.
In addition, customer-centric information aimed at citizen convenience may also be quite vulnerable. Unfortunately, the development of cybersecurity credentials, security and prevention systems for smart cities has not kept pace with the growing adoption of digital capabilities. Some European cities, anticipating the potential downside of digital transformation without controls, have already implemented safeguards. With the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, residents in European cities can opt in rather than having to actively opt in to multiple systems.
Meanwhile, many cities have employed certified biometric systems, cryptography and digital privacy policies, establishing a culture of cybersecurity. Recognizing the need to start and then budgeting for cybersecurity as part of an overall smart city initiative can help avoid additional expenses once the system is already in place. As with IoT in consumer products, connected systems throughout the city also need security protocols.
There are an unknown number of potential vulnerabilities and methodologies, some of the most common attacks include:
In order to avoid these problems and to avoid new vulnerabilities, there are some best practices that should be taken into account until there are some concrete standards and ways of acting are established:
An interconnected smart city sounds great and is a trendy: drivers avoid traffic jams; citizens' needs are predicted in advance by city services; utilities provide real-time information, allowing residents to adjust usage, etc. However, a cyber-secure interconnected utopia includes the right controls with proper implementation to ensure that connected infrastructure is accessible only to the right people at the right time for the right reasons.
Resources:  https://ciberseguridad.com/guias/smart-cities/
Smart Cities are known to combine the use of cross-cutting and innovative technologies (ICT but not only) to improve the provision of urban-based services to citizens in a more efficient way if compared to the traditional methods employed so far.
In the age of the CoVid-19 pandemic, where distances have represented the first line of defense against the increasing degree of contagion from this virus, smart city project managers have had to face a new conundrum: how can cities continue to function when movements are being limited for health-related reasons? Indeed, different waves of lockdown have affected Europe as a whole, to different extent but with a halt to the freedom of movement as being a common factor to all countries in Europe and beyond.
To this end, different cities have started to reimagine their urban environments as micro-clusters that can provide whatever is needed to citizens within the span of a few minutes. Usually, limitations have been imposed on short distances or on the borders of the single municipality: for this reason, the maximum amount of time employed by people, on foot or by bike, can be calculated in just a few minutes – or just one, even.
This was the challenge launched by the Swedish national innovation body Vinnova and design think tank ArkDes. The idea is to combine a participatory approach to urban policy planning through the involvement of local citizens and the implementation of innovative solutions, also technology based. It represents a good example of cooperation between the idea of smart city project managers trying to implement on a small scale while taking into consideration during all phases of development both the needs and the ultimate goal of the project – that is, to enable citizens to enjoy all cities’ services within minutes from their residence.
This approach to innovation and smartness can be considered to take place at the neighborhood level, and it is fair to define them as smart neighborhood. Furthermore, Sweden is not the only example in this category. To different extent in terms of time employed, but also Barcelona (the “superblock”), Paris (“15-minutes city”) and other cities have been working on this kind of solutions.
Then, what exactly are the measures that are being put in place to allow citizens to move less but to actually experience and enjoy more their city at the neighborhood level? A first aspect that felt like needed rethinking was the space used by streets. With the progressive use of nature-based solution, developed according to the needs identified by the local residents, neighborhoods have started designing new structures that can help citizens enjoy more their local areas rather than having to move further away from their home. The same goes for similar green initiatives, like urban gardens – addressing both community-building and food supply issues (as in Los Angeles). Other digital solutions are the widespread of bike sharing technologies, with cities’ sidewalks flooded with such opportunities, or cashless transactions.
The goal of this neighborhood-based solutions is to prove that smaller scale solutions for smarter cities are not only possible, but advisable in terms of practical benefits, governance and lower costs.
 ArkDes website. Accessible here: https://arkdes.se/arkdes-play/nu-flyttar-streetmoves-fran-stockholm/. See also: O’ Sullivan, Feargus. Make Way for the “One-Minute City”. Accessible here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-01-05/a-tiny-twist-on-street-design-the-one-minute-city
 Yeung, Peter. How ’15-minute cities’ will change the way we socialise’. Accessible here: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201214-how-15-minute-cities-will-change-the-way-we-socialise
 Berg, Nate. An illegal curbside garden flourishes in L.A. Accessible here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-10/an-illegal-curbside-garden-flourishes-in-l-a
 Moreno, C. et al. Introducing the “15-Minute City”: Sustainability, Resilience and Place Identity in Future Post-Pandemic Cities. Smart Cities 4 (1), 93-111, 2021. Accessible here: https://www.mdpi.com/2624-6511/4/1/6
This article is based on a study done so far on the Project Smart Skills for Smarter Cities (Skills4Cities), launched by the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City at the end of 2020 with the support of the Programme Erasmus +. It reflects the work of the partnership till now and is a first attempt to draw some important conclusions the partners came to regarding the so-called skills gaps in the field of smart cities projects.
Smart City is a term denoting the effective integration of physical, digital, and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive future for its citizens. The smartness of a city describes its ability to bring together all its resources, to effectively and seamlessly achieve the goals and fulfill the tasks it has set itself. Undoubtedly, the administration and other professionals that work for smart cities require new competencies that currently the education systems provide quite fragmented.
Few universities provide to the learners a well-balanced curriculum for smart city governance. The new types of jobs require the experts to be well trained to meet the needs of smart cities. Such learners, being the future drivers of these industries and smart city agents, are the main human resource to fulfill the vacancies of these workforces.
Constant improvements in and re-evaluation of the curriculum taught to the learners have to be done regularly to keep the learners up-to-date in fulfilling the requirements of the industries and corporations. So, our understanding is that the new era cities need well addressed vocational training of experts who should upgrade their competencies and skills after their classic (normal & formal) education.
In regards to the smart cities' competencies’ needs, we can divide the professionals, who are most involved in the process of transforming cities into smart and realizing activities to implement smart city plans and activities, into three main groups:
1. Internal staff (employees of the cities) of the urban and regional administrations, that is directly committed to the realization of the local government policies, strategies, and plans. From one side these are city officers who are members of the specialized administrations and departments engaged with the smart city matters and from another side, in case of lack of specialized departments, these are regular city officers who are engaged with the realization of such activities on a project base.
2. A large group of hired external representatives of the urban economic environment, architects, engineers, as well as technicians who work in the field of technical solutions for smart cities, economists, geologists, cartographers, lawyers, among others, all working as service and equipment suppliers (individuals or companies).
3. Free-lance professionals, hired on a project base, that have competencies to develop, manage and implement smart city projects - milestones of the cities' transformation process. Skills4Cities project defines these professionals as smart city project developers, managers, and consultants. To our understanding, these professionals are the most important agents of change that can motorize the process of transformation. They are design thinkers and very often leaders of the realization of smart city projects.
Skills4Cities Project Findings
The following three findings at this stage of the project are important for this article:
1. Among many different drivers for the smart cities’ development, it was found that the “smart city project” is a key instrument for making cities smart. For that reason, the smart city project was put on the stage as the main standpoint for competencies mapping and modeling.
2. The third, from the above-mentioned target groups, i.e., the freelancer professionals like projects developers, managers, and consultants, was crucial for smart city projects' success. That is why the Skills4Cities team focused on upskilling these practitioners with a set of competencies, which can make them real agents of cities' change.
3. It was also found that the set of competencies of the above-mentioned freelancer professionals includes:
Smart City Projects
One project is considered a smart city project when it’s associated with a higher number of smart city main dimensions which are economy, people, governance, environment, mobility, and living. Each dimension represents a particular aspect of the city where a smart project aims to achieve smart city goals in efficiency, sustainability, and high quality of life.
One of the challenges of smart city projects is their size and scope where two types of projects can be defined. Greenfield projects, which are huge, long-term, usually start from zero, and brownfield projects - smaller sized projects, short-term and fast implemented, which are usually built on existing infrastructure and are preferred by investors for generating fast revenues.
Undoubtedly, smart city projects are very complex, multidimensional, multi-stakeholder, citizen-centric, and citizen opinion sensitive, requiring serious leadership, managing change approach, and building on the normal managerial and project management knowledge and skills.
Mapping Smart City Projects
Let's start, in a systematic way, to map the smart city projects, showing where the cities usually invest, domain by domain. As it was already stated, this is based on the study of the results of the mentioned survey.
1. Economy, trade, and industry.
This domain includes projects and initiatives for attracting business, generating growth, and industrial development. The most effective projects that one city implements to improve economic, trade, and industry development are these that make it possible to track economic & industrial trends to make decisions; working with business & academic community; aligning higher education with local industry needs; attracting companies through incentives & work with trade groups and attracting/developing talent & skills.
2. Government and education.
In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
3. Living and health.
This domain includes projects for ensuring the well-being and equity of citizens. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
4. Public safety
This domain includes projects for disaster early warning systems, computer-aided dispatch, drones, and in-car and body cameras for police. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
5. Mobility and transportation
This domain includes projects for partnerships, innovative funding, technology, data, and governance and policy to help people and goods move faster, more safely, and efficiently, and without leaving a carbon footprint. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
6. Environment and sustainability
This domain includes projects for promoting the circular economy and using gamification to boost recycling, reduce food waste, adopt zero waste programs, and digital track waste disposal. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
7. Energy, water, utilities
This domain includes projects to enhance services, encouraging the use of renewable energy, and promoting efficient water usage. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
8. Digital infrastructure and networks
This domain includes projects to become better at using data and analytics to understand where the divide exists, providing free Wi-Fi, working with partners to provide free devices, and leveraging PPPs to foster digital equity, partnerships with telecom providers to provide smart services, to use data analytics to understand the digital divide and to use PPPs. In this smart city domain, the cities usually look for investors for the following city projects:
Smart City project competencies in our understanding apart of transversal skills, knowledge about key technologies and skills for dealing with the challenges, include also knowledge about the areas of application and the way such technologies аре use. Undoubtedly, people working on smart city projects need access to accumulated knowledge and information for good practices of how smart city projects are generated, initiated, developed, and implemented in the listed smart city areas.
The collected above diverse types of investment projects taken from hundreds of cities generated within the eight smart city domains report a very high return on investment of over 90%. Thus, these projects can facilitate the identification of good practices in studying each city and be a basis for measuring and benchmarking results.
They also provide an opportunity to be used in the training process of this target group and can contribute to filling in the missing elements of the competence framework for these new professions directly related to smart cities. So that the mapping of smart city projects provides a good although an insufficient basis for the accumulation of knowledge that the target freelancers (smart city developers, managers, and consultants) should be familiar with before committing to develop, manage, and consult smart cities projects.
@Cluster Sofia Knowledge City
In the beginning of March 2021 the Skills4Cities Bulgarian partners IBS and CSKC laid the grounds of a common initiative inspired by the Skills4Cities project and in favour of the sustainability of the project’s results and the impact it aims to achieve – a Center for Competencies for Innovation Management and Smart Cities.
The Center will focus on the preparation of human capital in accordance with the European Skills Agenda with an emphasis on skills in managing innovation and deep technologies for digital transformation and smart cities. At the heart of the initiative is the most important building block of any smart city, namely the "smart city project".
This will be the first specialized Competencies Center in the Bulgaria, which will upgrade and certify skills, knowledge, and abilities directly related to the new professions, so necessary for the cities of the future. The initiative envisages offering lifelong and specialized training to expand and improve the professional qualification and skills for technology management, innovation, and projects for smart cities.
The target group is the innovative professional community, which includes employees and managers, experts, consultants, mentors, urban planners, economists, architects, engineers, geologists, cartographers, lawyers, as well as technicians working in the ICT sectors, etc. who, by upskilling with new competencies and subsequent certification, will claim knowledge and skills in the management and implementation of various types and sizes of the smart cities projects.
After the completion of the Skills4Cities project, the Center will have the necessary resources to prepare and certify the first three new job roles.
On the 13th of November 2020 the Skills4Cities project (Smart Skills for Smarter Cities, No: 2020-1-BG01-KA202-079071) kicked-off with an online meeting hosted by the project coordinator Cluster Sofia Knowledge City - CSKC (Bulgaria) and all project partners: ARIES Transilvania (Romania), ECQA (Austria), GAIA (Spain), IBS (Bulgaria) and IDEC (Greece).
The project implementation will continue 24 months and is funded under the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
During the kick off meeting the partners agreed on an agenda that would focus on producing quality intellectual outputs and would result in the development of a three job profiles targeting the smart cities projects – the “building block” of any smart city.
What is Skills4Cities about?
The main objective of the project is to develop and test learning and validation tools for the training of experts, personnel and managers of smart city projects for their newly emerging roles.
Skills4Cities Results and Impacts
Considering the emerging technologies and the digital transformation of the cities the urban management requires new competencies that the education systems provide currently quite fragmented. In this respect the core activities of the project are focused on the development of two so called intellectual outputs (IO):
IO1 - Toolkit for smart city competencies framework
IO2 - Validation tools for smart city competencies
Project Impact and Sustainability
All project results will be available in all partner languages (5) and in English, facilitating this way their use even by stakeholders in non-participating countries. All materials will be accessible through the project website for free.
The project impact envisages a rise of awareness on the new roles of the cities' staff regarding the smart city-related challenges and increasing the efficiency of the cities as a result of an improved competencies of the HR of the cities. The last will be a result of a certified training based on the new competencies framework and the training curricula and materials, elaborated under the project.
A potential longer-term benefit could be considered the opportunity to link the reference competencies framework and the validation mechanism for recruitment, training or retraining of personnel working on smart city projects, to the national and European qualification systems and to have it recognized on national and European levels.