Translate page into
« Go back to list

City of things

Innovation image
An innovation provided by

Kris Van Berendoncks
32 3 338 62 63

Published On: 09 June 2017

If you are a public official, please sign in to see the contact details of the innovator.

Organisation: City of Antwerp

Country: Belgium

Level of government: Local government

Sector: General public services

Type: Data

Launched in: 2016

City of Things initiative is an open innovation environment where different actors are gathered within a unique innovation infrastructure and research service in which new technologies (with a focus on Internet Of Things) are being explored, shaped and tested in a citywide living lab setting. Hundreds of smart sensors and wireless gateways positioned at carefully selected locations across streets and buildings will transform the city of Antwerp into a true living lab for the IoT. The long-term objective is to connect thousands of Antwerp citizens with numerous innovative solutions that will considerably improve their quality of life, e.g. by positively impacting mobility and public safety in the city or by mitigating the influence of air pollution. Instead of a lab environment, where innovative software and hardware solutions are tested in an artificial context, the entire city is transformed into a real-life test bed where real-time data are collected and analysed on a large scale.

Why the innovation was developed

  • The development of smart-city services comes with a number of challenges: there is little knowhow, it requires a significant investment as well as the engagement from different stakeholders.Too often the development of new services is taking place in a vacuum, with no interaction with the envisaged end-users.This can result in a mismatch between the solution and the value it is expected to generate, often resulting in a failed innovation.
  • Secondly, smart city services are more and more integrated services that consist of a broad set of components.To start developing such service one needs to interact with various actors in the ecosystem.
  • Finally, to test and evaluate smart city services and to assess their real value and impact, it needs to be deployed within a city context. Not only for developers, but also for cities there is still a long learning curve on how to deal with these new services and the changing business models, what role a city can or need to play.


Enhance transparency, Improve effectiveness, Improve efficiency, Improve service quality, Improve user satisfaction, Increase citizen engagement, Support economic growth

  • Service quality is improved as the city will be able to draw upon the data to more intelligently (micro) manage the city's different challenges in a variety of domains, such as smart mobility, smart governance, smart living, smart environment, or security.
  • Transparency is enhanced by using open data and disclosing the data gathered to everyone involved. Citizens are engaged in the large-scale, real-life testing of the disruptive new technologies and applications. Massive efficiency gains are achieved by lowering costs, minimizing decision-making on minimal information, and agile responding to sudden developments.
  • Effectiveness is increased, as decision-making is based on current, real-timeinformation. Economic growth is spurred, by actively involving small and largecompanies to test technologies and develop smart applications for the City of Things infrastructure.

Main beneficiaries

Academia, Businesses, Civil Society, General population, Government bodies, Government staff

Existing similar practices

Amsterdam Smart CityIn other countries’ public administrationsCity of Amsterdam
Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) is the innovation platform of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area which is constantly challenging businesses, residents, the municipality and knowledge institutions to test innovative ideas & solutions for urban issues. This contributes to the livability of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, promotes sustainable economic growth and helps develop new markets.



Service quality


User satisfaction

Other improvements

Results not available yet

  • City Of Things has only just been launched. On the technological level the following elements have already been achieved: The rollout of various gateways throughout the city providing connectivity supporting different network protocols: LoRa, SigFox, DASH7, Wifi, Bluetooth.
  • A data layer infrastructure to gather, harmonize, store, analyseand visualize different datastreams. This includes an APIbased structure that enables an open data structure for sharing datastreams Additionally a full set of enabling tools for prototyping have been put into place, including methods to enable ideation and experimentation, measure the user experience and to conduct behavioural change experiments.
  • This already resulted into different small scale pilots. One in which a set of sensors to measure the air quality is being attached to postal office vehicles. These data enable the city to take proper measurements, adjust current policies and to assess the effects of these actions in real-time.


The idea and concept for City Of Things originates from the research centre Imec, which is coordinating the initiative. Imec has a long track record in living lab research, open innovation and smart city services. Based upon their expertise they have initiated and developed the City Of Things framework. The current model and operations has been the result from a close collaboration with the city of Antwerp and different companies. From the start there has been a dialogue between the different actors of the quadruple helix to shape the City of Things
environment and by doing so addressing the different needs and requirements.


  • The main objective of City of Things is to develop and test new smart city innovations that are making use of Internet of Things or open data.
  • One of the core components is that this creation and testing occurs in a real life city environment. Thus, City of Things has to be considered as one testing environment.
  • Therefore a set of different methods and tools to support this testing (on a technological and non-technological level) are being offered, such as (paper) prototyping, data logging and – analysis, (realtime) user interaction and both UX and UA measurements, business model and value chain analysis, network performance, etc.


Tools used:
  • City of Things comes with a wide variety of different (technological) tools and methods that offer an integratedtest environment.
  • The four main levels, the living lab offers: Hardware: a wide set of different sensors
  • Data: a dedicated data platform for the capturing, handling and analysis of data following the newest standards (such as NGIS)
  • User and business: a citizen testing community (currently still underdevelopment), real life and direct user interaction tools (ESM…), user behaviour measurement instruments, usercentric design and evaluation methods
  • Network: a network of gateways providing coverage on city level using various new protocols such as LoRa, SigFox, DASH7…
Resources used:
  • City of Things currently operates with a dedicated multidisciplinary team that varies in size depending on the number of projects running.
  • They are responsible for the daily operations of the technology lab and living lab. It is a mixed team of engineers, (user) researchers, technicians, data analysts,coordinators, legal researchers,… This staff is extended on a project base.
  • During the execution of a smart city project this team is being extended withadditional researchers, engineers, community managers from imec on the hand and specific profiles from the different partners involved.

Challenges and solutions

  • Setting up the necessary access and support to the different layers (hardware, network, data and user) for City of Things requires an integration of various systems, technologies and processes.
  • In addition to the technological infrastructure, accompanying research on each of these layers needs to be available to support the companies in the most optimal way.
  • Furthermore, as City of Things is a real life living lab, its operations are taking place in the city context. This requires a good and strong collaboration with various stakeholders, the city of Antwerp as one of the main actors.


Other Public Sector, Private sector
Between imec, as leading partner of City of Things, and the city of Antwerp, a collaboration agreement has been signed in which various dimension of cooperation are being tackled. Due to this agreement City of Things is able
to deploy its infrastructure on a city level, interacting with different city infrastructures (also on data level). For the specific R&D projects that are being deployed in the living lab, an innovation collaboration agreement is foreseen.
This deals with IPR, data ownership, etc. and allows City Of Things to make use of these assets and reuse them for other R&D projects.

Conditions for success

  • Involve all actors within the quadruple helix from the beginning in order to capture their needs and demands. A strong partnership and engagement of the local government is a necessity to be able to deploy a city-based real life test environment.
  • Instead of deploying a fixed operational infrastructure (network, data, user) at the beginning, this has to grow together with the different projects that will take place in the living lab. This will provide you withmore flexibility and can anticipate to different demands and needs.
  • Smart city solutions should not feel strange to citizens. Therefore sufficient (proactive) attention needs to be given to the perception of the solutions, especially on the matters of transparency and ownership.
  • City of Things is coordinated by a research institute, offering theadvantage that it can act as a neutral player without a direct commercial interest and that the setup is strongly inspired by a broad range various research questions.

Other information

The success of the City of Things as a real life testbed and living lab environment for smart city services depends on: The strong belief in the opportunities that such living lab has and the willingness to invest in such infrastructure (by all stakeholders). The
collaboration and close interaction with all stakeholders: companies, citizens, government and academia. The operational model of the living lab should be based on a long-term basis and not project-based. The initial startup phase of about one year has allowed not to jumpstart things, to work on a solid (organizational and technological) base and to have an intensive dialogue with the various stakeholders.
The second year of City of Things will be used to gradually deploy various pilots and experiments and fine tune the organization, the infrastructure and the offering. An
interdisciplinary team that can operate from a central base.