The connected currents running through Amsterdam

34 min


“Amsterdam lives and breathes creativity. One moment you walk into a building from the 17th century, and the next you find yourself in a hub of creative start-up companies” – Marcel Wanders, contemporary designer, architect & native of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam: at a glance, the Dutch capital is famed for its coffeeshops, promiscuous nightlife, canal trips, and historic culture. But the 820,000-strong city is an innovation incubator teeming with pioneering technology; whether it be eco-friendly projects aimed at revamping rooftops into melting pots of greenery and biodiversity, prodigious cutting-edge commercial buildings, or community platforms encouraging social cohesion.

“A number of post-war developments made Amsterdam even more connected to the outside world,” said Dr Tim Verlaan, assistant professor in Urban History at the University of Amsterdam. “From an economic perspective, the western expansion of the harbour and the massive growth of Schiphol airport meant that ever more foreign goods and people arrived in Amsterdam. From a sociocultural perspective, the arrival of ‘guest workers’ from southern Europe in the 1960s and Turkey and Morocco throughout the 1970s and 1980s changed demographics and by extent the composition of the local workforce, religious denominations, and food cultures.”

Towards the end of the 2000s, several socioeconomic, environmental, and technological developments led towards the development of ‘smart’ connected technologies: loosely defined as going beyond the simple sending and receiving data and allowing the user to connect, interact, and share information with other smart devices. With 97% of Amsterdammers owning an internet connection, the possibilities of a halcyon interconnected city could unlock untold prosperities for Amsterdam.

But the capabilities an ‘Internet of Things’ society can bring to residents’ lives also has its potential downfalls: critics have recently hit out at a smart-city development in Toronto, Canada, in partnership with Google, after locals aired concerns over data harvesting and invasion of privacy. Dr Verlaan, sceptical of the smart-tech craze, said: “I think governments are more trustworthy partners than private companies in safeguarding data.

“If you compare how cities were controlled and designed in the post-war period, i.e. until the 1980s, civil servants and semi-public partners were much more in control and had less market incentives in building and governing the urban future. I think these footloose companies are less interested in the wellbeing of local citizens than local government held accountable by local voters.”

Ger Baron, chief technology officer of City of Amsterdam, spoke of the city’s meticulous approach to data protection in its development as a connected society: “I would say we’re doing quite well in our adaptation and discussion with citizens. What you will see when we make a policy nowadays and dialogue around artificial intelligence [AI] or around blockchain, it’s part of a bigger dialogue in the city.

“So we’re fundamentally discussing ethics; we were one of the founders for the cities with digital rights, where we look to take care and protect citizens’ digital rights and make sure that we put a weight behind the message to make sure big tech is not stealing data in the public space. We’ve approached our agenda with all of our values incorporated.”

So, how does Amsterdam compare to other global cities in terms of its sophistication and progress in smart technology? CTO Ger believes that, overall, the Dutch capital is leading the way when all sectors are taken into account: “I think when you look at our maturity in terms of smart cities, I would say there are a lot of cities in the world [that are ahead] on certain topics – for example, I would say when it comes to sustainability Copenhagen is outperforming every city in the world – but I think overall, across every domain, we are doing quite well.

We put a weight behind the message to make sure big tech is not stealing data in the public space

“I think Amsterdam is performing the best when you look at every sector combined. In energy and the circular economy, we are leading in those sectors, but we are not focusing too much on one sector because we tend to think that technology has an impact on everything in our city.”

In this extended feature into Amsterdam’s smart technology efforts, Cityscape is bringing you interviews, insight, and expert analysis into how environmental, transport, commercial, and community-based projects are working in tandem to improve the lives of the residents that coexist within it. Behind the technology are the inspirational minds driving the innovation, and we can’t wait to open up their world to you.

MX3D Bridge Project
MX3D Bridge Construction

If you were to play an Amsterdam round of Family Fortunes of the first thing that crosses minds when thinking of the Dutch capital, it would be a good bet to say canals and its bridges would feature in the top five. And it’s no wonder; with more than 100km of canals, there are around 1,200 bridges in Amsterdam. But there has never been a bridge in the city quite like this: the MX3D structure, one of the world’s first 3D-printed bridges, could be the future of mobility around the city.

Measuring at 12.5 metres and weighing 4.5 tonnes in stainless steel, this large-scale 3D printed bridge – which has taken nearly four years to design and print, and is due to be installed in the Red Light District in January 2020 – is a stunning tribute to the innovation of the city of Amsterdam.

This bridge will show how 3D-printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form

Developed by local tech start-up MX3D, in collaboration with designers Joris Laarman Lab and a host of collaborators including Arup and the Municipality of Amsterdam, this stunning and fully functional bridge will marry traditional steelwork with cutting-edge digital modelling into a ground-breaking piece of infrastructure.

With Arup involved as lead structural engineer, MX3D designed intelligent software to convert welding machines into 3D-printing robots to produce the steel bridge. This method of 3D printing, known as additive manufacturing, creates parts directly from a digital model by building layer upon layer of material – in this instance, steel.

Tim Geurtjens, chief technology officer at MX3D, told us: “What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘Printing Outside the box’ principle.

“By printing with six-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is, of course, the ideal way to demonstrate the endless possibilities of this technique.”

The team forewent Amsterdam’s iconic ‘U-shaped’ bridges and instead adopted an S-shaped model, creating an eye-catching design that stands out to all who pass it. Printing began in March 2017 and the completed bridge had already been put on display at Dutch Design Week by October 2018.

The structure, due to be positioned over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal, will be equipped with an intelligent Internet of Things-based ‘nervous system,’ or sensor network, meaning partners can collate data to assess the bridge’s performance. MX3D and its partners developed a machine-learning algorithm to teach sensors to interpret and react to their surrounding.

The teams were also able to monitor and learn how the bridge reacted by creating a digital twin to track the health of the bridge. The digital twin can assess how the bridge reacts to a variety of circumstances, including environmental conditions and changing dynamic loads such as heavy or light pedestrian use, as well as check for corrosion – amongst other factors that affect its lifecycle.

The Joris Laarman Lab said that bridge demonstrates the belief in the future of digital and local production of the new craft: “This bridge will show how 3D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form. The symbolism of the bridge is a beautiful metaphor to connect the technology of the future with the old city, in a way that brings out the best of both worlds.”

MobiMaestro: Smart Traffic Management System

Despite there being an astonishing number of bicycles in Amsterdam – 881,000, or four times as many cars on roads in the city – car usage in the nation’s capital still presents its challenges. Traffic in the Netherlands increased by 20% from 2017 to 2018, and Amsterdam is no different, hosting the busiest four-lane motorway in the Netherlands (the A10 in the Coen Tunnel), with 110,000 vehicles per day.

In response to an increasing population placing greater strain on the city’s roadways, the municipality of Amsterdam kicked into gear and acted. Around two years ago, decision-makers in the city commissioned Technolution, creators of MobiMaestro, a sophisticated system for coordinated network-wide traffic management, to implement their technology to create Amsterdam’s very own unique virtual traffic management system.

The road system of the region of Amsterdam is controlled by three separate authorities: the municipality of Amsterdam, the province of North Holland, and the national government. “They must work together; and with our system we can connect Amsterdam, the province, and the Highways Agency with MobiMaestro on their system on the same screen. We can connect via the DVM-Exchange to exchange information, and to ask services from each other so we can control the whole region,” said Henk den Breejen, the company’s business developer of mobility.

The smart traffic management system led to fall of vehicle loss hours on the road by a tenth – streamlining traffic in the city and enhancing regional cooperation between the municipality, province authorities, and national government. Henk said MobiMaestro has allowed the city to manage peak-time travelling during rush hour and when several events are occurring in Amsterdam.

“The Highways Agency must manage the traffic on the highways to the event; the city of Amsterdam is struggling with that traffic inside the city of course, and the province is in between,” he noted. “So they must manage the traffic between the three of them, and then it’s important that you have the same view on the road network. Amsterdam can see what the state of the traffic is on the highways, and also on the province roads, and the other way around.”

The smart technology putting the wheels in motion for MobiMaestro may be even more impressive than the results itself: “The data is coming from three traffic sources, but they have to build the operational traffic room, and then it comes all together in one system we built, called the Common Operational Picture. And then there is the information from all three traffic sources in one view,” Henk explained.

“Amsterdam has different solutions for parking guidance, VMS (variable-message sign) information, and traffic light systems that are separate systems. We delivered a network management system to combine that information and to control it over the whole city. Together with travel-time information and traffic counters, the City of Amsterdam can manage the whole city and not something as specific as one item such as traffic or parking guidance, but the complete flow.”

Amsterdam is not alone in installing Technolution’s smart technology to simplify its traffic systems: major cities in the Netherlands including Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht also use MobiMaestro. But can the technology supersede previous transport systems used by cities around the rest of Europe? Henk believes so: “I think we’re mostly suited to Europe because here we have more agencies who are responsible for the traffic network; in India, for example, that is more from one organisation who is responsible for a bigger area of roads. We also deliver MobiMaestro for the City of Copenhagen.

“In England, for example, you have Highways England, you have the counties, and you have the cities – and it is the exact same here in the Netherlands. Cooperating between the parties is the most important thing to run a whole area, so I think it is very scalable in Europe.”

CO2 Smart Grid

“With the Smart Grid programme everybody was thinking about grid only. It’s not only about the grid: it’s about the economy, it’s about innovation, it’s about assets, it’s about infrastructure. It’s about companies that want to contribute. You have to have the whole system working together, and that is what we have right now.” This is the scale of the potential of the utilisation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the eyes of Petrus Postma, founder of BLOC and manager of the world’s first-ever CO2 Smart Grid.

The CO2 Smart Grid, which completed its feasibility assessment in July 2018, combines 22 industry partners – ranging from the ports of Amsterdam & Rotterdam, Tata Steel, and the Amsterdam Economic Board – in using existing infrastructure to capture waste CO2 and use it as a raw material and resource to produce food, materials, and biomaterials, eliminating the need for natural gas and fossil fuels for heat and streamlining the Netherlands’ circular economy.

The process, Petrus explains, is utilising carbon dioxide by taking advantage of CO2 created by a variety of businesses in the region – it is, for example, a raw material used in the horticulture and chemical industries – and using smart technology to store and reuse, as opposed to using fossil fuels.

BioMCN’s production plant, Groningen

Amsterdam is, in his view, an ideal location to create a CO2 Smart Grid: the western region of the Netherlands hosts several industry-leading CCS units, including a bio-moss installation in Duiven and BioMCN’s production of bio-methanol near Groningen; the city is close to Europe’s largest and fourth largest sea ports; and there is a revamped Cold War oil pipeline between Amsterdam and Rotterdam capable of transporting 3.5m tonnes of CO2 a year – a staggering six times the current intake of CO2 to greenhouses around the country.

Petrus noted that Amsterdam is already taking the leap in the sky-high potential of CCS: “We have the infrastructure. We have the capture.

“We saw a lot of options in mineralisation, in chemistry, and in fuels, and with a few wastage incineration facilities and Tata Steel, we came to the conclusion that the assets in the country combined with the innovation infrastructure would make CO2 a building block for the circular economy in the Netherlands, and that we could be a leading country in this economy.”

 

We have the infrastructure. We have the capture. You have to have the whole system working together, and that is what we have right now

With the infrastructure in place and cross-industry support for the scheme, what needs to happen for the programme to take the next step and be put into full-scale production? Demand from both the public and private sector for products produced by CO2 carbon capture is needed first, says Petrus. “When authorities like regional governments or public road organisations are going to prescribe using sustainable materials in their cement and concrete, then these technologies will be incorporated so much faster than they are being done now. That could be a huge difference – by procurement.

“The idea of using CO2 as a heat stock is very appealing to the Dutch society and government. I don’t think consumers are the ones that are going to change the market. I think the large wholesale companies will – for example, in the Netherlands we have Ahold, which is the owner of half of the country’s supermarkets. When they are going to ask for bioplastics, then the market changes.”

Schoonschip Grid Friends

Along the floating houses of the Buiksloterham neighbourhood, Amsterdam, the future of energy consumption is here: the Schoonschip project, part of the Grid Friends smart cities scheme, is touted as the most sustainable floating neighbourhood in all of Europe, using innovative technologies to provide power to its residents.

Based in the Johan van Hasseltkanaal, a side canal from the IJ river in the north of the city, the Schoonschip project hosts 46 sustainable houses providing renewable energy to 105 residents. Some 500 solar panels, 30 heat pumps, and battery packs in every household, amongst other power sources, provide energy to those in the neighbourhood.

The prospect of the entire city of Amsterdam transitioning to similar style of energy consumption is a very real one, too: an OIS survey of 1,400 locals found that around 70% of respondents supported a complete conversion to clean energy, meaning that smart grids, battery-powered homes, and solar panels adorning the rooves of properties in the city could be how the Dutch capital looks in the near future.

“Grid Friends was motivated by the idea that you can create communities that want to be more grid-independent and more self-sufficient, and essentially own their own smart energy systems. Our goal was to develop the right energy management system technologies to help facilitate them to operate their own energy infrastructure,” said Philip Gladek, chief executive of Spectral Energy, the organisation behind the installation of renewable infrastructure in Schoonschip.

In partnership with CWI and Fraunhofer ITWM, research institutes for mathematics and computer science in Germany, and Evohaus, a German society for energy-saving and cost-effective construction, Spectral installed the technologies in the neighbourhood to allow for energy-sharing between households. All homes are connected to a communal smart grid; heat is generated by water pumps which extract warmth from the canal water; no gas is necessary as the homes are well insulated; and all homes will have a green roof covering at least a third of the roof’s surface, adding biodiversity and another eco-friendly element to the project.

Philip noted that energy cooperation with the community was the main focus of Grid Friends: “Our aim was to facilitate these future energy cooperatives to be as grid-independent and resilient for the future as possible – focusing on these community-scale smart energy services, such as maximising local solar self-consumption and peer-to-peer energy exchange.”

Grid Friends was motivated by the idea that you can create communities that want to be more grid-independent and more self-sufficient

The project spans beyond Amsterdam as well: a second demonstrator site is underway in Bilbao, with the municipality of Bilbao as a partner, part of the ATELIER project which focuses on scaling up the application of energy-positive districts and smart grids. Six other European cities including Copenhagen, Bratislava, and Krakow have also drawn inspiration from the Schoonschip neighbourhood, to create a “positive district-level energy community,” Philip claims.

“We’re going to be connecting Schoonschip with what we have in this area with four other microgrid projects underway, some of which use the same legal exemption to have a private smart grid that we have for Schoonschip, so a completely private network. We also have larger developments, which include large hotels, apartment buildings, parking structures.

“That, tied together with a number of other ongoing projects which we’re busy with in the same district, will all be connected and bundled into a larger energy community that will be actively participating on the wholesale energy market, and also on the capacity market to provide national grid balancing services. That is basically in terms of where it’s headed, our next steps, one of the key focal points in our work.”

On top of the world: Rooftop Revolution

Roaring investment from international landlords for AirBnB-style housing and the sharp influx of Brexpats – companies relocating to mainland European hubs following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union – have led to a boom in Amsterdam’s housing market in recent years: an average price increase of 64% in the last five years alone. With real estate across the city being eaten up at a rapid pace, the city’s leading innovators have been looking upwards to solve the spatial squeeze.

Rooftop Revolution, an Amsterdam-based not-for-profit NGO, brings a flavour of the rural countryside to the urban landscape by introducing eco-friendly roofing – ‘green rooves’ – to a vast array of buildings in the city – creating stunning ecosystems on hotel roofs, office blocks, and residential buildings, and providing oneiric landscapes across entire neighbourhoods.

The foundation acts as mediator in taking requests from businesses and locals who want to take advantage of the unused space of their building’s rooftops, working with key stakeholders behind the buildings to create a diverse, ebullient biosystem – right above residents’ heads.

“In any big city, it’s getting increasingly crowded and there is generally a lack of green space. The only unused space that is often still left are the rooftops,” said Julia Huisman, project coordinator of Rooftop Revolution. “City residents should look to utilise this space much more. Too frequently, the rooftop is simply ignored; there are so many opportunities to use it for environmental benefits and recreation, or a combination of both.”

Green rooves come with a plethora of benefits, and not just in providing locals with a welcome break from the metropolitan expanse. RESILIO (Resilience nEtwork of Smart Innovative cLImate-adaptive rOoftops), the EU’s flagship green roofing project – a partnership between the municipality of Amsterdam, two universities, the public water board, SMEs, social housing corporations, and Rooftop Revolution – will introduce a whopping 10,000sqm of smart blue-green roof to social housing complexes across the city. The RESILIO project receives a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund through the EU’s Urban Innovative Actions initiative, which offers yearly subsidies for innovative pilot projects within various themes.

These blue-green rooves – blue standing for water, green for plants and shrubbery – can store water underneath the green vegetation layer, and have a ‘smart flow control’ that can actually anticipate heavy rain or periods of dry weather, thus releasing or retaining water accordingly. The rooves themselves will be connected to a smart network, enabling remote regulation of rooftops and the exchange of data for dynamic water management.

“We need to prepare our cities for extreme weather caused by the climate crisis. Therefore, we need to change our perception and view water as a resource. Generally, cities aim to dispose rainwater as quickly as possible. With this project, we try to switch that attitude as water is a valuable resource; we should retain it as long as possible,” Julia commented.

“The project centres around blue-green innovation, meaning there will be a lot of research done by the waterboards and the city’s universities – ultimately, we will be testing an entirely new scale and type of adaptive urban water management system on our rooftops. If successful, we’re going to assess whether we can scale up to other cities across Europe.”

But how valuable for a country – and continent – is the project in dealing with urban issues? “Regular rooves turned into smart blue-green rooves reduce urban island heat effect, energy consumption at building level, sewer overflows, and urban flooding,” she pointed out. “Moreover, they provide urban green spaces, thereby supporting biodiversity and citizen wellbeing. Blue-green rooves are a nature-based solution to a variety of metropolitan challenges.”

Too frequently, the rooftop is simply ignored; there are so many opportunities to use it for environmental benefits and recreation, or a combination of both

“The enormous benefits are becoming increasingly clear to the general public.” Julia explained. “In the Netherlands, even insurance companies have begun promoting green rooftops, as they protect roofing against harmful UV and damage from hail, for example, while lowering risks due to climate-change-related events, such has heavy rains.”

The potential for smart roofing across Europe is clear: creating diverse, visually appealing, and eco-friendly roofing for residents to enjoy will become the norm as cities continue their green approach to city planning. More collaborative efforts, such as the RESILIO scheme, are needed between city councils, SMEs, local residents, and forward-thinking NGOs like Rooftop Revolution to allow the smart-roofing sector to reach its sky-high potential.

Gebiedonline

When considering what life in a smart city looks like, minds are immediately cast to avant-garde transportation systems, state-of-the-art smart buildings that can monitor and control electricity demands, and environmental systems capable of analysing air quality and performing wildlife counts. But innovations are always put in place with an ultimate priority in mind: the communities they are serving.

In a globalised world where connection to all corners of the globe is but a matter of seconds, the concept of connecting online with people on your street sounds trivial. Yet the potential of smart technology driving community cohesion is boundless – and Amsterdam’s Gebiedonline is seizing the opportunity. Born out of a hyper-localised community platform created by IT specialist Michel Vogler in 2012, Gebiedonline – an online social space where users can share activities, projects, community campaigns, and a vast array of other local information – is now used by more than 30 neighbourhoods across the Netherlands.

The selling point of Gebiedonline is simple: it’s a digital platform for the betterment of the community run by the users, for the users. “We have a strong relationship with the local government,” Michel said.

“Every year the government makes plans for the neighbourhood and those plans are developed on the platform. All of the locals on the platform are able to propose plans and projects – and others can react to those projects, say if they do or don’t like it, and make suggestions on the proposals. At the end the government decides what proposals will go through or not. It’s a very transparent process.”

But what separates Gebiedonline from the Facebooks, Twitters, and Tumblrs of the world? All mainstream social media hubs can perform the same functions as Gebiedonline does with community pages, and much more. Michel, in contrast, believes that this effulgent grassroots approach to community cohesion is the key unique selling point of the programme: no commercial interests, no page moderators stifling conversation. “This is a cooperative and they decide what happens to that day in that platform, who gets access to it, and they decide themselves what would be the further developments,” he commented. “This platform can be suited to local needs.”

A platform like Gebiedonline brings people together

As for the city’s interest in the scheme, curiosity has without a doubt piqued. After starting with just six neighbourhoods using the Gebiedonline platform four years ago, the community channel now hosts a staggering 30 neighbourhoods, each paying fees to ensure Michel and his team can continue to maintain and enhance the online social space.

And, in the same way that smart cities are not simply defined by eco-friendly projects and traffic management systems, Gebiedonline is not simply defined as a community bulletin board for local goings-on.

For example, in working towards the city of Amsterdam’s circular economy – the approach of keeping resources in use for as long as possible in order to reduce waste –  Michel believes the platform can be pivotal for igniting social change from bottom-up schemes: “Certainly, in the rest of Amsterdam, there are a lot of people living here who want to contribute to a circular economy. So I have neighbours here who are very concerned with waste management – and have created local initiatives.

“A platform like Gebiedonline brings people together so they can communicate about their ideas and find other people who are also interested. They can show what they want to do, they can show what they need, and to get your plan bigger it is very important to show what you are doing already.”

With more than 16,000 people registered and community projects being mulled over every day, the hyper-local Gebiedonline is a catalyst for social and political change in the Netherlands. As global social media channels such as Facebook come under fire for their collection of user data, it seems that platforms like Gebiedonline could be the future of community discourse and debate.

VITAMINE Amsterdam

The Netherlands, like several other countries in Western Europe, faces arduous challenges in planning for its ageing population. Recent findings by Vektis identified that half of all funding allocated for healthcare in the Netherlands is used for those over 65 – who make up one in five people in the country, with that ratio set to increase to one in four by 2030.

Many, however, are viewing smart technology as the potential key to unlocking this colossal demographic challenge through providing micro solutions to macro problems – embodied most notably with the VITAMINE project.

VITAMINE, standing for VITale AMsterdamse ouderen IN dE stad, is part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences’ Urban Vitality centre of expertise, bringing online fitness and nutrition plans to elderly residents without the requirement of a home visit by a care plan leader – therefore dramatically reducing costs and time allocated to assessing patients.

“We combined three very important aspects: exercise, nutrition, and technology,” said Professor Peter Weijs, principle investigator of the scheme and Lector Weight Management at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. “These were in three different faculties. We wanted to make solutions for society that would prove a better and more integrated solution for the elderly.

“In general, what we would like to do is to investigate things that matter to people in Amsterdam and its surroundings. We are trying to provide practical solutions for people in society.”

That is the key to this programme: that it is actually meaningful for the elderly people themselves

Inspiration for VITAMINE grew after experts found shortcomings in the national programme for elderly exercise, More Movement for Elderly – a once-weekly group event that, in the eyes of Prof Weijs, was not shown to be providing sustained physical function.

Peter and his team developed a mobile app to provide follow-along exercise clips for residents to replicate, giving users the option to choose from a range of activities at varying difficulties and to create their own training programme.

Users are also encouraged to create a protein-rich nutrition plan on the app, which led to positive outcomes in the trial. In VITAMINE’s controlled group where just the exercise plan was performed, investigators found that users lost 2.5% of muscle mass in five months; yet in the combination group, where both an exercise and protein-focused diet is followed, researchers found no decrease in muscle mass, stabilising the common issue of sarcopenia – the age-related loss of muscle mass causing the decline of physical function, and one of the key issues for Amsterdam’s senior citizens needing medical assessment.

Prof Weijs noted that the user autonomy for senior citizens using the app has led to satisfied outcomes. “I think that is the key to this programme: that it is actually meaningful for the elderly people themselves,” he said. “But in general we were surprised on how adaptive they were.

“We were also very positively surprised that they actually did the exercise and kept doing it. I think that 1) the exercise was meaningful, and 2) that we could confidently coach them via the app.”

The project is positively impacting users’ mental health too, the professor found, providing positive impacts against diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. “We have tests to measure executive function, and we did indeed find in both the training and nutrition an improvement in several aspects in executive function,” he explained. “The cognitive aspect is also being improved.”

Adaptive technology like the VITAMINE has clear benefits for elderly citizens in Amsterdam, but how scalable is the project across Europe? EU figures from 2018 estimate that the old-age dependency ration (people aged 65 and above relative to those aged 15 to 64) is expected to almost double by 2070, surging from 29.6% in 2016 to a predicted 51.2%.

Because of this, Prof Weijs believes the public perception towards home-based training schemes will improve as time goes on: “We set up a home-based training programme that would be meaningful for the elderly themselves. It is not endurance training, it is not resistance training; it’s built out of functional activities that they do on a daily basis in their own home.

“I think this will also be happening more and more because there will be new older people that are more adaptive to technological developments, so growing popularity for the scheme will be easier.”

EDGE Technologies

At the forefront of smart innovation for Amsterdam’s real estate sector is EDGE Technologies: an Amsterdam-based real estate developer that is literally changing the way people work. Its latest development, EDGE Olympic, is the younger brother of the company’s flagship building created in 2014, The Edge.

Upon its creation five years ago, The Edge, now home to finance giant Deloitte, was truly pioneering in its energy efficiency, intelligent infrastructure, and positive working environments. EDGE Olympic, fully completed in 2018, is a remodelled former office and logistics block of the Netherlands postal service, and gives tenants ultimate customisation of their working environment to suit their needs on a daily basis.

The Edge

The Edge Deloitte

“I think The Edge was quite a pivotal project for us as a company it was basically the project which marked the transition for us from a classical developer already being highly innovative, highly driven for sustainability, to a new business model. The Edge opened our eyes to the potential of technology and the opportunities in the real estate sector to those aspects,” explained Sandra Gritti, Product Excellence Director at EDGE.

Covering a massive 40,000m² of office space in the Zuidas business district in Amsterdam, the interconnected gargantuan that is The Edge is a diverse blend of cyber interoperability, environmental sustainability, and hyper-flexibility for work environments to cater to each and every single tenant’s needs.

The Edge achieved the world’s highest BREEAM rating – a measuring stick for the sustainability levels of major buildings and infrastructure – for an office building. The Edge holds an abundance of energy-saving properties installed into the building, including: 65,000ft² of solar panels located on the facades and roof; 30,000 lighting sensors to analyse occupancy, movement, and lighting levels to effectively moderate the Ethernet-powered LED lighting systems; and rain water collection from the roof used to irrigate green terraces dotted around the office and to flush toilets.

The Edge opened our eyes to the potential of technology and the opportunities in the real estate sector

Sandra outlined EDGE’s approach to sustainability with their building: “What, we saw whilst we were developing The Edge was a completely different attention to what it means to build offices today.

“Over the last year there has been a really big attention shift beyond  energy; of course energy is such a huge factor in sustainability – 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, mainly due to the energy that we have been using for many years being sourced from fossil fuels. There is in the whole cycle of things a greater responsibility for us there, and of course a greater awareness for resource sparsity and thinking beyond the end of the life of a building.”

The results of The Edge’s environmentally-conscious approach have been prosperous: the building uses 70% less electricity than comparable office buildings, happily and efficiently housing around 2,500 Deloitte workers sharing around 1,000 desks.

 

EDGE Olympic

Imagine walking into your office and being granted access, notified of where your work colleagues are located, be able to adjust the light and temperature of your workspace, and assess noise and air quality levels to find the ideal working area in the building: all from your smartphone.

EDGE Olympic, completed last year and already holds a long waiting list for its one-year lease option, is fervent on pushing the boundaries on user-led working environments, with a plethora of working factors able to be tweaked and toggled with, at the click of a few buttons.

EDGE Olympic’s intelligent digital infrastructure, like its big brother The Edge, gives users the capability to put their interests first: meaning no more fighting over the Thermostat in your work department.

Sandra said: “As an industry, for us the whole idea of understanding changes in the workforce, understanding how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaping the way in which people work today and what they need to do, makes it clear that the typology of the office needs to become different.”

And EDGE has encapsulated the burgeoning way of flexible working through its array of work environments for tenants to choose from – theme-based areas are available such as co-working spaces with meeting rooms, informal seating, and hot-desks; in addition to closed off spaces to encourage studio working for a single company, or simply a dedicated floor or section of the building can be rented out by a single tenant for exclusive use, giving tenants even more control over the fit-out of their working space.

Understanding how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaping the way in which people work today and what they need to do, makes it clear that the typology of the office needs to become different

The 11,000m² building at Fred Roeskestraat 115 will also benefit future owners and operators of the building with its innovative digital twin created to collate all materials used in the Olympic. Sandra said the company has placed the whole building in a “materials passport”, called Madaster, with a digital twin, allowing for all materials installed in the building to be passed on to the next owner, notifying them of any materials which can be reused or remodelled. As with several other smart city projects around Amsterdam, EDGE is passionate about contributing to the circular economy and ensuring waste is kept to a minimum.

With so much user and material data being collected and analysed by the buildings themselves, the company has had to place a particular focus on protecting the intelligent infrastructure from cyber-attacks. EDGE ensures its cyber-security platforms are audited on an annual basis, and has commissioned Microsoft Azure – an IoT platform of which holds some of the highest standards in the world – to protect its data, with several hundred people monitoring for any risks that could impact the building’s smart network.

Sandra noted that this shift towards cyber protection for office spaces themselves has lead to quite the change in future construction negotiations. “When we build buildings, sell and rent them out, we have IT lawyers at the table. The construction industry has never before had IT lawyers at the table discussing compliance and how smart technology can be protected and what it can bring to people in the building,” she said.

“For some newcomers to the game it is a challenge we need to be aware of, but it also has massively increased the potential of smart, but also the argument that if you do it, you need to do it right and take it seriously.”

Through The Edge and EDGE Olympic, EDGE is breaking new ground – literally – in taking the real estate sector into the IoT world. From customisable work spaces to IT lawyers now a common occurrence in construction negotiations, the company and its work is spearheading Amsterdam’s evolution into a smart city.


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