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Earth Observation meets smart cities to build urban resilience

According to the UN, over half of the world’s population lives in cities and urban areas, while the coming decades will bring further profound changes to the size and spatial distribution of the global population, also due to increasing migration processes.

The continuing urbanisation is projected to add 2.5 billion to urban populations by 2050, and the world population living in cities to increase to 66%. Under these circumstances, sustainable development challenges will increasingly concentrate in cities.

Smart cities and Earth Observation

The SMURBS project has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 funding programme, as the winning project of ERA-PLANET‘s transnational call under Strand 1 ‘Smart Cities and Resilient Societies’.

Its ultimate goal is to promote and co-ordinate the ‘smart city’ concept into a European network of cities, serving the need for a common approach to enhance environmental and societal resilience to urban pollution, natural/man-made disasters and uncontrolled city growth. At the same time it aims to set the stage for the integration of the still fragmented, multi-scale and multi-temporal Earth Observation (EO) resources, into information and decision making tools for individuals and local governments, in support of Group of Earth Observation (GEO Strategic Plan 2016-2025) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The main activities of the SMURBS smart cities project are:

  • an extensive gathering of needs from local and regional authorities, city level stakeholders, and specific citizen communities to provide to decision makers with “access to the information they need” when they need it, and in a format they can use;
  • a deployment of a wide variety of EO platforms such as satellites (Sentinel family), Copernicus EO data, in situ air quality instrumentation, modelling and innovative platforms such as Citizen Observatories and smart sensors, augmenting cross-validated EO information and creating synergies among these platforms for city scale applications and solutions;
  • a creation of a portfolio of Smart Urban Solutions, based on the full exploitation of EO capacities and the empowering smart city methods, towards the targeted environmental pressures; and
  • an extensive testing and fine-tuning of these solutions in a constellation of cities, establishing the SMURBS smart city network.
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  • The SMURBS consortium consists of 19 ERA‐PLANET partners from 12 European countries, including research institutes, space agencies and universities, EO experts of different disciplines and scientific backgrounds in several thematic areas such as atmospheric composition and air quality, disasters management, and urban growth monitoring;
  • The collective expertise these partners bring covers a wide variety of EO such as in situ, remote sensing, modelling and innovative observational platforms that will be refocused during the project to serve the smart cities paradigm. SMURBS collectively offers scientific excellence in relation to the environmental challenges in the complex urban setting, solid experience in maintaining and operating high‐performance, large coverage infrastructures and operational experience in environmental services;
  • The expertise also covers advanced IT and knowhow for data processing, data representation, cataloguing, querying and EO portal developments, as well as semantics and interoperability capacity.
  • Adjust currently fragmented EO to the urban scale, integrating EU activities and exploiting previous investments;
  • Advance GEO and Copernicus, their uptake, enlarge the audience and establish an urban specialization and reference point;
  • Explore scientific robustness of Citizen Science;
  • Push the state-of-the-art in:
    • the in situ component, by integrating various AQ monitoring platforms to provide online information including source apportionment;
    • the remote sensing component, by integrating satellite data with local ancillary information, utilizing Very High-Resolution imagery for urban applications, and by exploiting the novel Copernicus satellites; and
    • the modelling component, by demonstrating city-scale implementations with state-of-the-art numerical models and using Copernicus provided datasets.

Profile in SciTech Europa Quarterly, issue 27

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