The Dutch City of Eindhoven may not be known to each reader of this blog, but the southern city in The Netherlands offers great potential. Not only for tourists – The New York Times recently tipped Eindhoven as an interesting destination for American tourists – but certainly as a Smarter City.
The city is widely recognized as the most innovative area in The Netherlands and Europe. In Eindhoven and its surroundings, many innovative high tech companies have been founded and are based. Philips, for example, was founded here. In 2011, BRIGHT Magazine ranked Eindhoven second in the top 25 of innovators, and in the same year, the Intelligent Community Forum named Eindhoven the smartest region of the world.
In Eindhoven, technology and innovation are being used to fight some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing at this moment. Mobility issues, rising energy costs and health care issues are being tackled with the help of technology. To become a smarter city, Eindhoven collaborates closely with research institutes and local businesses as it truly believes that collaboration is key.
Eindhoven reached out to IBM a few years ago to help solve one of our main challenges – public safety. For some years, the city was ranked as the least safe city in The Netherlands, according to a Dutch newspaper which ranked crime of unsafe cities. Burglary, theft of cars and bikes, but also regional drug trafficking gave Eindhoven this undesired image. When I visited the New York City Real Time Crime Center in 2009, I met with several IBM experts who showed me what technology was capable of in helping make cities safer. Also, the experience of IBM with the Memphis Police Department, the Puerto Rico Real Time Crime Center and other public safety institutions solutions is impressive. At that time, I also learned about the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and decided that Eindhoven should apply for this program.
In 2012, Eindhoven was delighted to receive IBM’s support and recommendations on how to better use data and technology to prevent and address organized crime, theft, and a growing black market economy. The team of five experts developed a plan to help us better engage with stakeholders within and outside the city and leverage the high-tech resources that exist in Eindhoven, including Brainport – a collaborative partnership of businesses, scientists and government dedicated to promoting technology and business development in the city.
With the recommendations of IBM in hand, Eindhoven has started several projects to use technology and engage with citizens to fight crime together. In some neighborhoods, citizens, police officers and local government officials are informing each other about burglaries using social media. Also, intelligence is used to recognize patterns in criminal behavior. The city also formed a Cluster Intelligence to share security data more efficiently.
After spending years in the top of the crime ranking for unsafe cities, I am pleased to tell you that we are improving on many fronts and are gradually becoming a smarter, safer city. Decreasing crime figures also enable citizens to perceive their city as a safer and better place to live.
As a city leader, I find myself on the threshold of a new age in which technology has the potential to solve many of the challenges cities are facing today. There are significant opportunities in these areas for our city and region. We will continue to work together with universities, businesses and society to develop innovative solutions that can help us and the rest of the world to move forward.
Rob van Gijzel is Mayor of Eindhoven, The Netherlands.