Operator ICT provides in-depth insight into the initiatives of the Smart Prague project – from inter-city co-operation to intelligent, shared data projects.
Effective utilisation of municipal data; clean transportation supporting electric mobility; energy-efficient buildings and street furniture; economic waste collection; new informative services for Prague’s citizens in the form of applications; Wi-Fi hotspots; and modern digital payment options for transportation services… Such is the vision for a smart Prague, and the motivation for the Smart Prague project.
A co-ordinated approach to smart cities
Prague has been gradually fulfilling this vision. In 2017, the city management approved a historic first – a long-term strategy in the area of utilising modern technologies in the public space. Fulfilment of the Smart Prague 2030 Concept is co-ordinated by Operator ICT, a municipal company; the word “co-ordinates” is appropriate, as several institutions participate in the Smart Prague project. They include municipal companies, such as:
- The Prague Public Transit Co.;
- Prague Institute of Planning and Development;
- Technical Administration of Roadways of the Capital of Prague;
- Various academic institutions, such as the Czech Technical University in Prague or Charles University; as well as
- Local municipal authorities.
The public is also involved in innovation planning; people submit their ideas about what the Smart Prague project should look like via our website. Operator ICT, together with academics, subsequently assess if these ideas are feasible. Yet another inspiration source is formed by hackathons – competitions – during which IT enthusiasts propose new technological gadgets based on the available open data. Operator ICT is currently testing an idea that was born during 2017’s hackathon. The project in question involves weighting individual metro carriages. The results are signaled to passengers and with thus, they can see which carriages have more space.
Operator ICT submits project intentions to the city management. The intentions are initially discussed by a special committee for the development of the smart cities concept. Final decisions on the implementation of individual projects is always adopted by the Council of the Capital of Prague, or by the municipal authorities.
What projects can we expect in the capital this year?
Prague’s citizens and visitors will experience a revolution when it comes to public transportation services. In the middle of the year, the project of the so-called virtual Lítačka will be launched. It will make it fundamentally easier for passengers on the Prague and Central Bohemian transportation system to pay their fares. The public transportation system applies to the metro, bus and tram lines, and trains. Apart from the existing Lítačka card, SMS, and paper tickets, the payment options will be newly expanded by the ability to use:
- Bank cards;
- Train fare cards; and
- A mobile application.
Passengers will thus be able to quickly and comfortably pay long-term fares, as well as individual tickets, which will make travelling in Prague significantly easier. The Lítačka card, which is used by Prague inhabitants as the main travel document, can be used for other things as well. It is currently tested as a card at primary schools where kids use it for passing through turnstiles, ordering and collecting lunches, or for payments at school buffets. The project will gradually expand to more primary schools in Prague.
Electric mobility for intelligent, eco-friendly inter-city transport
Electric mobility forms yet another area which the Czech capital will actively support as a clean form of transportation. The plan for this year envisions the commencement of the construction of the basic network for charging stations, of which will provide electric vehicle owners with more locations for medium to fast battery charging infrastructure. Considering the prognosis for the growth of sales of electrically driven vehicles, the existing network of the charging stations is insufficient.
When compared with comparably large cities in Europe, Prague does not have a sufficiently dense network. The plan calls for five times the number of the fast-charging stations on Prague’s streets by the end of 2019. The medium-fast charging stations will be installed on park and ride parking lots at the outskirts of Prague, where people park their cars for longer periods of time and switch to public transportation.
An energy efficient approach for the capital
Energy savings form another important area from the perspective of the city economic management. That is why Prague is testing the so-called digital energy measuring system in one of its historical palaces. The building tenants will have online access to the current consumption of all energies in their respective households. It is expected that this method may enable savings of at least 15% of energy consumption expenses. The final savings will of course depend on the behaviour of individual households. Should the pilot project prove successful and bring the expected savings, it could be expanded to other buildings owned by the capital.
“The year of 2018 will be a milestone for us. Last year, we were working hard on preparing big strategic projects, which we will start implement this year. I strongly believe that the introduction of modern technologies in today’s big cities is the right thing to do, as it has been demonstrated in many cities around the world. Nevertheless, it has to be done efficiently and economically. That is the reason why we initially test several projects in a trial mode before we apply it on a larger scale. Unfortunately, the Czech Republic currently legs behind when it comes to the digitalisation of the state administration. We would like to contribute to turning this negative trend into a positive trajectory by implementing the Smart Prague project,” says the General Director of Operator ICT, Michal Fišer, in relation to Prague’s plans.
An important element of the Smart Prague project is the testing of modern street furniture in public spaces. That is why a compact space, a prototype of a smart neighbourhood, is being developed on one of Prague’s squares, where several technologies will be tested. A sensory network will be built and it will be formed by energy-saving public lighting lamps which will self-regulate light intensity based on how busy the street is. Other sensors installed on these lamp posts will monitor the traffic situation. This information can then be used by, for example, rescue system units and as a result they can plan their routes accordingly.
Meanwhile, other sensors will provide weather information. A Wi-Fi connection will be a matter of course. Several lamps will be furnished with charging points for electric vehicles. USB connectors for charging smart appliances will be available for passersby on benches. At a different location in the city, the City of Prague also installed compression solar waste bins that can, thanks to sensors installed in them, recognise when they are full and contact the given waste collection company. Their pilot operation demonstrated that large sums of money can be saved due to the reduced number of waste collection operations required. The savings can reach up to 95% when compared with regular bins.
As a part of the Smart Prague project, Prague also wants to focus on modern forms of the information provision manner. That is why it has been developing mobile applications that can make everyday life in the city as pleasant as possible. The My Prague application was launched not long ago, using its positional services – it navigates users to various points of interest – such as the:
- Closest administration authorities;
- Playgrounds; and
- Public toilets, amongst other areas of interest.
Further development of this application is planned for 2018. It should bring new functionalities such as organising appointments with individual offices directly from the application. The application already enables citizens to pay for parking fees directly from their mobile phones at specific parking zones. Its users can also obtain information about cultural events in Prague.
Yet another application, the Prague Visitor Guide, offers tourists untraditional trips around Prague in an entertaining form. These trips take their participants to places that they would probably never visit with regular guides. The routes even take their participants outside of the historical center, thus allowing them to see the Czech capital in a different light.
The city brain – data platform
The key concept of the entire Smart Prague project is its data platform. It will represent a certain brain of all innovation projects. Why? The data platform, which should be launched within next few months, will combine and analyse detailed, structured data about city operations. Such a unified environment has not existed in Prague so far. The platform can be used not only by city managers, municipal companies and individual municipal authorities, but also by the public. A part of the platform will be provided in the open data format.
The data will come from various sources – from municipal organisations to private entities. One of the sources will be formed by the Smart Prague project, for example, information from the public lighting smart lamp post sensors. It is important to emphasise that the data platform will not only be used as a data storage space, but also as a location for data analyses and assessments. Based on this analytic work, it will be possible to make many processes in the city more efficient and to improve their planning. The data can currently be found at various locations, coming from various entities, but locating them can be time consuming and expensive.
The data integration in the data platform will be a gradual process. The first data sets will particularly focus on the traffic. The platform will include, for example:
- Data about free parking spaces;
- Current positions of the public transportation vehicles;
- Information about traffic closures; meanwhile
- Other data will be related to bicycle routes and air quality.
Since the data will be provided to the public, new services and applications may be created using them. Application development could thus be taken up by companies, start-ups, students and non-profit organisations, amongst others. This unique project will ensure that all relevant municipal data will be available at a single location and that they can be used for introducing better services for Prague’s citizens.