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Smart citizens

18/04/17Local Government

Line Gerstrand Knive of Smart Aarhus spoke to PEN about the framework which underpins innovation in the city

Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark and a leading centre of smart cities development in Europe. Smart Aarhus, the city’s driving smart initiative, has launched a number of projects over the last six years to introduce new technologies which will revolutionise the lives of its inhabitants. Line Gerstrand Knive of the Smart Aarhus initiative met with PEN to explain how the city is developing, and stressed the value of citizen engagement in innovating for a smart future.

What role does the Smart Aarhus initiative play in the development in the city?

Smart Aarhus is a public private partnership between the city of Aarhus, the University of Aarhus, VIA University College, a network of 500 companies, the it-forum, the Central Denmark Region, and two individual IT companies. The initiative began in 2011, and its main focus is to put digitalisation on the agenda.

It’s organised with a board of directors, made up of all the partners, and then a secretariat with representatives of some of the partners which carries out everyday appointments and communication on Smart Aarhus. Then we have a lot of projects, some of which are loosely coupled to the overall initiative and some which are directly linked to Smart Aarhus; for example, the City Lab, Open Data, and Internet Week Denmark are some of our main projects.

Where did the idea of establishing the City Lab come from?

We’ve been working with living labs for many years. Through that, citizen engagement has been a priority. When we started the Smart Aarhus initiative, we held a think tank for a year for citizens in Aarhus, representing both the public and private sectors, to bring in recommendations for the Future Digital Aarhus. In that sense, the entire Smart Aarhus project was crowdsourced; we engaged citizens right from the beginning to find out what was important to them, and we see that as a tradition in Aarhus.

We wanted to create a lab where we could test smart city solutions in an actual city setting. It can also be a place where we can engage with company partners and become a host for EU projects.

In what ways is Smart Aarhus working with cities or companies outside the initiative in terms of collaboration or experience sharing?

We collaborated on an EU project with London, UK, and Santander, Spain, on a project called OrganiCity. We also have an application for another project where we will collaborate with other cities. We are also in dialogue with some big IT companies that do smart city solutions, like Cisco and Microsoft, but we’re not sure what will concretely happen with that. We are sharing some experiences already because EU projects have a dissemination obligation, and so we are sharing a lot of the information about the OrganiCity project.

What are your aims for the project?

We’re launching a new network technology – a smallband network based on the LoRaWAN standard. It’s a network infrastructure that can send small data packages over long distances of up to 20km and through water or concrete, so it’s very useful for IoT applications. We’re installing sensors all around the city.

This network has a lot of possibilities for entrepreneurs. The city has already identified 100 challenges that it would like to solve through new technology, and this process will invite entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized companies to develop solutions through collaboration.

We’re hoping to develop some solutions at the city scale and create business development through that, but also to keep our focus on citizen engagement and communication.


Line Gerstrand Knive


Smart Aarhus

This article will appear in Pan European Networks: Smart Cities 1, which will be published in May 2017.