Transforming Breda into a smart city and a great place to live

Published on 24 May 2022

With mass urbanisation spreading across the globe, cities are at the epicentre of today’s societal and environmental challenges. How can we continue to modernise facilities and provide smart services to users while reducing the environmental impact of cities? Like the Dutch city of Breda, smart cities are coming up with new solutions to make these challenges an opportunity for residents to live better together. 

Cyclist in the streets of Breda in the Netherlands Daan Quaars, city councillor, Breda, the Netherlands
Daan Quaars City councillor in charge of digitalisation, housing, sport and land management, Breda, the Netherlands

What are the main challenges for a city like Breda?

Located in the southern part of the Netherlands, Breda is a beautiful city with 183,000 inhabitants and a rich history. Looking to the future, our priorities lie in three areas: sustainability, attractiveness and the health of our residents. And so, with these areas in mind, we’ve set ourselves some ambitious objectives, including a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2044. Examples of the initiatives we’re rolling out to help us meet these objectives include our air quality program, as well as planting trees all over the city. 

Breda has also set out to be a pioneer in digital innovation. Why is that?

Digital innovation is essential to meet the societal and environmental challenges facing a city like ours. We are one of the first Dutch cities to have appointed a city councillor to head up digital innovation. We also have a city-wide digitalisation action plan with two specific features: a global vision that includes all the areas in which we want to take action and an experimental approach to finding solutions that allows us to learn from our mistakes. This is not typically how things are done in the public sector! 

What are some concrete examples of solutions you are testing?

We are investing in 5G, Wi-Fi and fibre optic networks in order to put in place an optimal digital infrastructure, the cornerstone of any smart city, as shown recently, I think, by the coronavirus crisis, which has forced millions of people in Europe to work from home. This same infrastructure has allowed us to install a network of air and water quality sensors, a fairly unique move at a local level. We are also running a smart lighting pilot project that automatically increases the intensity of street lights when a car approaches. In partnership with SPIE, we are planning to install sensors that will immediately alert us when streets require maintenance.

What do you expect from a partner like SPIE?

SPIE has the expertise and innovative digital tools that a local authority like ours does not. We expect the Group to share its knowhow with us but also with those who manage our essential infrastructure, like hospitals, schools and transport providers. We need SPIE to help us test new ideas, building on past mistakes to make Breda a smart city that’s also a great place to live.

Future cities challenges

Key figure

70%

of greenhouse gas emissions are generated in cities (IFP Energies nouvelles, January 2019)

Key figure

92%

of the urban population does not breathe clean air (World Health Organization, 2016)

Key figure

€81bn

in investment in smart city technology (French consumption inequality index, 2018)