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Smart City Portrait Florence
Laura Puttkamer13. February 20245 min read

Smart City Portrait Florence

Florence is the capital of Italy’s beautiful Tuscany region and known for hosting many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. From the famous dome, the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Uffizi Gallery and the bell tower by Giotto, Florence is well known. But did you know that this city is not just focused on its past but also its future? According to the annual ICity Rate report, Florence is the most digital city in Italy, owing to its digital transformation, sustainability in mobility, and solutions for energy efficiency. Read more about the city that has it all – beauty and brain!


Investing in E-Mobility

Florence is leading the push for sustainable mobility in Italy. For example, it was the first city in the country to implement free-floating bike sharing without fixed parking stations. This system is well-suited to the medieval urban structure of Florence, where there is not a lot of space for classic bike racks. The bicycles work with smart locks and GPS, and users have an application to find and rent a bike. So far, over 200,000 people have signed up to the system, reaching peak numbers of over 10,000 users per day. With services such as GEO, Florence also allows its citizens to find information about mobility, real-time traffic situations, construction works, speed cameras, and suggested detours.

 Public transport in smart Florence is also on an upward trajectory: Between 2014 and 2019, the city invested around 450 million euro in the construction of two new tram lines. Around 37 million passengers per year are expected, which would lead to 20,000 less cars and saving 14,000 tonnes of CO2 emission per year.

And with ELECTRA, Florence is promoting a new urban sustainable mobility model that focuses on electric mobility. It wants to increase the use of electric scooters in the city, offering both short-term sharing and longer-term rent of scooters. Since the 1990s, the city has invested in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, taxis and buses. Today, there are almost 200 public charging stations. Two e-car sharing companies operate in the city, as well as a licensed e-taxi fleet with 74 units.


Achieving near zero emissions

Another interesting development in Florence is fuelled by the EU project CITyFiED, which is aimed at replicating solutions for near zero energy districts. Project members follow the “lighthouse” cities of Laguna de Duero in Spain, Soma in Turkey, and Lund in Sweden. Florence’s replica can be found in the Novoli district. Here, the city is developing new methods to make existing buildings more energy efficient and to lower their emissions. Through electrical mobility, IT, and energy efficiency actions such as retrofitting and district heating, Novoli will reach near zero emissions, saving 450 tonnes of CO2 per year. Around 700 families in 300 houses are involved. Around 750 MWh of solar energy will be produced every year, which can be stored in a seasonal thermal storage.


Working with smart street lighting

Florence is also developing its smart street lighting. The idea is to improve visibility and colour perception at night by providing modern LEDs. These will replace the old sodium and mercury lamps in the city, which used to create an orange light. The operation is predicted to save around 2.2 million euro in energy bills, while also drastically improving road safety in Florence. The reduction in energy consumption will also reduce CO2 emissions from lighting the city. And in addition, the new lamp posts are acting as smart objects that can host services like free Wi-Fi, video surveillance, and sensors for environmental and acoustic data.

By the way: We have listed the benefits of smart street lighting here.


Managing Tourism

Florence is also faced with a particularly big challenge in tourism: Up to 16 million tourists visit the city, which has close to 400.000 inhabitants, every year. This places great pressure on the historical centre and on urban infrastructure, while also leading to high energy usage as well as high CO2 emissions and waste production, among other consequences. Since 2018, Florence has a smart city control room to interconnect its various intelligent services. These include an app that helps visitors to skip queues and plan their tours, an app that suggests walking itineraries while also pointing out open Wi-Fi hotspots, and an app for events of interest. With the help of big data and smart algorithms, Florence is working on guiding tourist flows to relieve the city and to allow visitors to move smoothly, while also discovering some sights that are off the beaten track.


Making Open Data Available

In addition, Florence has an innovative approach to open data. The city has long been a pioneer in Italy when it comes to data transparency. Its Open Data website is Italy’s third largest producer of data. Florence wants to open its data up to the public, aiming to be completely transparent and present data very clearly to the public. This includes an Open Budget web programme, which presents a detailed breakdown of city spending.

“Smart zones” are supporting data collection: Several smart trams have been equipped with sensors, cameras, radar and other measurement units. And three tram stops in the city have sensing, computation, and communication capabilities. The data from trams, trams lines, other streets in the city and pedestrian crossings will be integrated using artificial intelligence, creating real-time traffic information for smooth and efficient traffic management with reduced maintenance costs. Ultimately, the city is hoping to enable autonomous tram operation in the future.

Part of Florence’s work with data is the Smart City Control Room, which helps urban governance, addressing stakeholders such as utility companies, public entities, the private sector, and the municipal government. By collecting and processing data in real time, it is possible to provide a series of key indicators that allow urban professionals to make predictions or detect anomalies in the city and its public services. Operators can monitor traffic, gas, water and electricity services, air quality, public lighting, traffic light systems, waste management, parking, and many other elements of the smart city. Rather than collecting this information through different entities, Florence has created a single system that is linked to big data infrastructure and several user-friendly apps for citizens.

Read on: Bologna was named as Italy’s third-smartest city – learn more about the city here!

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Laura Puttkamer

Laura is an urban journalist focusing on inspiring solutions stories from all over the world. She has a MSc in Global Urban Development and currently lives in London.