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A data-driven approach for more sustainable local areas

How to support Public Administrations in the development of measurable green policies that can evolve over time

 

This has been a particular focus for some time. It has now become urgent and a top priority. The race to cut CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is unfolding along two main paths: on the one hand, containing the industry’s environmental impact; on the other, reducing the pollution of local areas and cities.

Who is responsible for identifying the route to be followed in this green transition? Naturally, the central and local Public Administration plays a primary guiding role in creating the necessary conditions for this change to take place: in industry, by facilitating the development of more sustainable production chains; in towns and urban areas, through policies linked to mobility and planning first and foremost. In fact, towns and large urban areas are one of the main players, as 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions are concentrated there. 

 

Redesigning spaces, transforming buildings with a view to energy saving and reorganizing transport are therefore fundamental in the evolution towards greener and more sustainable areas.

 

A rapidly developing scenario, which is still highly fragmented and guided primarily by community and national institutions with initiatives, regulations and economic stimuli such as, first and foremost, the European Green Deal ratified by the European Commission in December 2019, and the most recent Recovery Plan that allocates €78 billion for the transition towards a sustainable economy and — not coincidently as we like to recall — is built upon the Next Generation EU initiative, and the recent introduction of the new Italian Ministry for Ecological Transition. This is a set of interventions designed to create a greener and more digital European Union, transforming it into the first climate-neutral bloc by 2050. 

 

A new data-sharing culture

 

The interventions linked to the area’s ecological transformation are broad and diverse, but it is fundamental for them to be guided by a crucial element for all the different segments that require flow reorganization: data. Dedagroup Public Services specializes in data collection, interpretation and governance. 

 

Data, its aggregation from seemingly unrelated heterogeneous sources and the capacity to identify internal relationships and links, in fact, plays an essential role in enabling Public Administrations to make decisions with measurable and shared effects.

 

And it is precisely here that the approach adopted and the technological decisions made play a decisive role. 

The capacity to manage data is based on three main pillars: on the one hand, collection and analysis technology, on the other — although no less important — methods to be followed to ensure that the data is “open”, easily accessible and readable by software, in accordance with national and European guidelines. To this, we can add the capacity to interpret and then use the open data to develop new services that represent a value, not only for those who provide them, but also those who use them.

It is within this context that the adoption of a new culture of data sharing becomes essential. The quantity of data generated by an area — or rather, by the numerous public and private entities that comprise it — is truly impressive. However, all too often its quality and the lack of an overall vision make it much less useful than it could be. It is therefore a priority for public decision-makers to be aware of the fact that they need to know how to choose the data, clean it up, connect it and analyze it, as well as keep it up to date. These are the grounds for identifying effective green transition policies, able to evolve rapidly over time.

 

Open Innovation in the battle against pollution

 

In short, the digital future depends on the capacity to make the most of the existing legacy of data and links, enriching and integrating it with external sources. This concept is behind the open and circular approach to innovation developed by Deda Group and Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), with a view to ensuring that all the areas of expertise are able to interact smoothly.

 

The Digital Hub represents a summing up of Deda Group’s open innovation model, which aims to create software solutions and models for the interoperability of data and services for the local area, people and the community.

 

This open innovation process, which has been adopted across the Group entities, is being employed by Dedagroup Public Services to offer its clients strategies that provide a comprehensive and consistent response to their routine and emerging digital requirements, from “operating” management necessities to more innovative and cutting-edge ideas. These are solutions that meet the needs linked to projects and areas of different sizes, interconnecting services and data.

One example is SMASH (Sustainable Mobility Analysis as Service Hub), the platform developed thanks to the EIT Climate-KIT funding with the collaboration of AESS, designed to improve the analysis of local data and promote sustainable mobility, which has been adopted as a pilot project by ten European cities. 

The platform collects and analyzes the information produced by GPS sensors regarding movements made by people and public transport. This allows local organizations, start-ups and public and private firms to use this data to optimize their existing services (such as replanning public transport routes and timetables) and to develop new ones (such as those created by combining movement data with information on road air quality, temperature and noise pollution). In addition, the platform also allows to measure the efficacy of the adopted strategies in real time. 

Indeed, according to the European Commission, atmospheric pollution is currently the biggest environmental risk factor when it comes to human health. It is therefore fundamental to check the efficacy of the solutions adopted by Public Administrations as quickly as possible, going on to adopt data-driven corrections, where necessary.

 

A data marketplace for climate-neutral cities

 

This data-based approach to the green transition of local areas has translated in a number of different national and European initiatives in which Dedagroup Public Services has taken part. One example is MADAME that, together with another three projects developed by three Italian and Spanish organizations, was selected as part of the Cross KIC Sustainable Cities three-year tender for the city of Madrid, promoted by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT). The project aims to create collection and processing platforms for data on the environment, energy and transport, fostering an increase in both public and private initiatives able to redesign and transform the Iberian capital, making it climate-neutral by 2030. 

 

The creation of a data marketplace will actually provide the Public Administration with useful information regarding the definition of public policies and monitoring of their effects on the area and society, thereby enabling a major transformation of the community.

 

MADAME will bring together numerous subjects working towards systemic solutions to improve the sustainability of Madrid, connecting them via a shared data space involving both Public Administrations and private firms. In this sense, the project and, more generally, the Cross KIC Sustainable Cities initiative, are put forward as benchmarks not only for technical solutions, but also for funding and community-engagement models. 

 

Using georeferenced data to reduce environmental impact

 

Dedagroup Public Services’ technology ad methods can also be used in more limited geographical situations and in more vertical projects. The adopted approach, based on a data-driven strategy, makes it possible to develop replicable projects and shared policies, able to involve large metropolitan areas and small municipalities alike, even generating long-term effects in a country such as Italy, characterized by the widespread presence of small towns.

 

Data sharing within the organization itself therefore becomes an essential element in drawing mutual advantage from the information and improving energy management in buildings on the one hand, while developing policies designed to encourage more sustainable mobility on the other.

 

This is also possible thanks to the use of technology such as GeoNext, a platform offering georeferenced data reading and interpretation models. This suite of tools, that allows to analyze and display information about the local areas, is part of Next, the ecosystem of solutions and services developed by Dedagroup Public Services for local organizations committed to innovate their processes.

Thanks to the energy transition experience gained with the Sunshine and Accent projects, GeoNext now allows for the sharing of geographical data that can be used to develop innovative and interoperable services, offering a set of tools that can facilitate real energy savings to the benefit of the community as a whole. An example of its recent application can be seen in FinAosta’s regional energy balance, which is based on this solution.

Other examples are the Air Break and Landscape Metropolis projects in Ferrara that aim to achieve greener transport within the city. The former is based on a data-driven approach to planning measures to contain pollution, such as the creation of cycle paths and green spaces. The second provides the local transport firm with public data that makes it possible to calibrate routes and timetables in the best possible way. This solution would also lend itself well to being adopted for the real-time monitoring of public transport crowding — something that is more important than ever during this era of social distancing. 

 

Luigi Zanella
Head of business innovation & development