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Drone Point View of City Street Crossing at Rush Hour, Long Exposure

Today more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas (75 percent in Europe), and according to the United Nations, that figure will increase to 70 percent by 2030. It’s no wonder then that cities consume 75 percent of natural resources, produce 50 percent of global waste, and emit 80 percent of global greenhouse gases every day. Cities are facing more challenges than ever before, such as environmental issues, sustainability, health and social concerns, and growth management issues. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live in and enjoy urban environments. Amidst the crisis, cities have seized the opportunity to reshape how they operate and improve the services to the people and communities they serve.

How can technology help cities meet new challenges, both today and in the future? This is one of the key themes at Smart City LIVE, a global virtual event on November 17 and 18, 2020, bringing together attendees from more than 700 cities in 140 countries around the world. The event will cover topics such as technologies as enablers of the COVID-19 response, post-lockdown urban mobility challenges, resilient infrastructures, and the challenges and opportunities of economic recovery.

Microsoft events at Smart City Live

We hope you’ll join us for our virtual events during Smart City Live, including the keynote session by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Julia Glidden. Please note there is no cost to attend the expo, but registration is required. Here is a summary of the Microsoft events at the event:

Keynote (17 Nov 17h (CET, Barcelona)): Julia Glidden, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, will discuss how COVID-19 response and recovery is driving the evolution of digital cities now, faster than ever before. Through the interview, we will explore what it means to transform now, as a necessity of the present than as a vision of the future.

Panel discussion (18 Nov 16h-17h (CET, Barcelona)): From Crisis to Opportunity: Transforming European Cities in the COVID Era. Moderated by Julia Glidden, this discussion will feature city leaders from four European capitals: Berlin, Copenhagen, London, and Madrid. They will provide insights into how cities are empowering people, enhancing operations government, and enabling societies in unprecedented times.

Panel discussion (18 Nov 11:30h-12:30h (CET, Barcelona)): Cities Reboot: Data Driven Solutions for the new Sustainable and Inclusive Cities. Hear firsthand how the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins, and data platforms are enabling cities to deliver against environmental and social sustainability challenges.

New Cloud and Digital Twins solutions to support Smart Cities

I’m excited to share that MindSphere City Graph was honored with the World Smart City Award in the Urban Environment category during this year’s Smart City Live, which recognizes the most innovative and successful projects implemented and developed for urban environments. The award is a prestigious international competition to recognize groundbreaking projects, ideas, and strategies that make cities around the world more livable, sustainable, and economically viable.

The Siemens MindSphere City Graph uses Azure Digital Twins to build digital models of entire environments within an urban space and bring these digital twins to life in a live execution environment with integration of real-time data.

Bentley Systems and Microsoft have expanded their strategic alliance to accelerate infrastructure Digital Twin innovations. The companies are focused on advancing infrastructure for smart city urban planning and smart construction. The alliance combines Microsoft’s Azure IoT Digital Twins and Azure Maps with Bentley Systems’ iTwins platform, enabling engineers, architects, constructors, and city planners to work within a comprehensive city-scale digital twin, empowering better decision-making, optimizing operational efficiency, reducing costs, and improving collaboration.

Read more about connecting urban environments and infrastructure in cities through IoT and Digital Twins.

Additionally, Microsoft is working toward making Smart Cities more inclusive and transparent. As part of our membership in the World Economic Forum Smart City Alliance, Microsoft contributed to the development of recommendations that cities can use to create accessibility and privacy policies that will benefit their citizens.

How cities are using data and AI to better serve citizens

Using the power of the cloud, cities are harnessing huge amounts of data to enhance urban mobility, leverage smart infrastructure, become more environmentally sustainable, and improve citizen and social services. Let’s look at how three cities around the world are using data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to empower their employees and drive more efficient and human use of their cities.

In the UK, the City of Westminster serves the heart of London. It was able to quickly pivot once the pandemic struck, deploying Microsoft cloud solutions across its operations to enable employees to work from home and citizens to access services remotely. Additionally, they provided all staff with Microsoft Surface devices to stay connected. They’ve since seen a significant increase in collaboration across the city’s departments.

Ghent, a port city in northwest Belgium, has created CityBot, an efficient communication and information system. This Azure AI-based chatbot keeps citizens informed about public information, with transparency and multi-language support. The city is now able to deliver secure services and innovation to enable communication and information sharing across multiple areas or departments. Ghent has been able to greatly reduce the time from sharing new policies and relevant information to citizen awareness and compliance, which is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Zurich commissioned EWZ, its sustainable energy and communications service department, to create a network of IoT applications for the city’s diverse digital needs related to the environment, mobility, transportation, and other urban planning challenges. Their Smart City Zurich strategy uses IoT network sensors and Microsoft Azure to gather data related to the city’s growth and infrastructure. The city can now quickly analyze data and generate insights, all while keeping data secure and ensuring privacy regulatory compliance.

Cities like these are using massive computing power to analyze vast amounts of data and AI, allowing them to gain insights and make informed decisions faster. Being agile in times of crisis can have a huge impact, as we’ve seen with COVID-19 when city managers and leaders faced 60-80 percent new decisions they’ve never had to make before, and new information required changing health and safety requirements quickly. In these situations, having the right data at the right time is critical to being confident about decisions that affect the health and safety of thousands or millions of people. Cities from Madrid to Amsterdam are using the cloud to improve citizen services, but also to develop and plan entirely new processes that allow them to be more responsive and efficient, yet secure.

We are living in unprecedented times, and cities are faced with decisions they’ve never had to make before. They need data, as well as insights from the data they already have, to make the best decisions, often in real-time. Thanks to new cloud and IoT-based solutions, cities can make informed decisions by using data to design and develop next-generation solutions. It’s this type of innovation that will help smart cities become more sustainable, but also more human, accessible, and equitable.

Learn more about our solutions for smart cities in Building Smart Communities of the Future, a Microsoft-sponsored white paper with IDC, or explore this infographic, Bringing Smart Living to Your City.