by the guest editors German Castignani (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology) and Georgios Mylonas (Industrial Systems Institute, Athena Research Center)

In recent years, urban environments worldwide have focused on sustainability to tackle rapid urbanisation, climate change, and resource constraints. This ERCIM News special theme “Sustainable Cities” highlights recent research and technological advancements in computer science, data science, AI/ML, and digital twins that drive this transformation through European research projects.

Diverse and interdisciplinary efforts are essential for fostering sustainable, resilient, and inclusive urban environments. However, the varying digital maturity levels of cities can pose significant barriers, such as inadequate infrastructure, insufficient funding, and unpreparedness to implement and sustain smart city technologies. Additionally, neglecting citizen engagement and co-creation can hinder the integration of advanced technologies, slowing the transition to a sustainable society. Addressing these challenges is crucial for all urban areas to progress towards becoming truly sustainable cities.

This ERCIM News special theme reports on academic and industry research addressing technologies, systems, applications, and services for sustainable smart cities, covering a range of crucial areas.

Sustainable Mobility
In the area of mobility, in recent years a plethora of approaches have been proposed and tried, with the electrification of transportation and the expansion of public means of transport, such as railways, gaining ground. In this setting, Constantinou et al. explore renewable energy hoarding for electric vehicle charging, while Basile et al. focus on the digitisation of railway transport. Cintrano et al. showcase a human-centred approach to rethink urban mobility solutions. Finally, Marius et al. showcase a Local Digital Twin (LDT) toolbox to allow cities to evaluate electromobility deployment strategies.

Sustainable Energy
Energy management is vital for urban sustainability, involving grid transformation, digital twins for system modeling, and new sustainable energy markets to support evolving energy production models. Puecker et al. propose an approach for predicting energy prices using cloud services while Klikovits et al. investigate the role of data intermediaries within data spaces to promote sustainable energy practices in cities. Stravropoulos et al. explore how integrating IoT and smart grid technologies in residential settings can significantly enhance energy efficiency and management. Briguglio et al. propose a framework to include AI ethics and regulatory governance in the development aspects related to the digitalisation of the EU energy sector. Also, Kogut et al. highlight the value of LDTs for their role in achieving positive energy districts.

AI for Sustainability
AI and novel approaches feature prominently in this special theme and are huge enablers of sustainability in cities and urban environments, also reflecting the rapid transformation of the field in computer science and the inclusion of such methods across the spectrum. Lämmel et al. propose an AI-based anomaly detection mechanism for secured IoT data exchanges in smart cities. Edinger introduces an innovative concept to assess the use of renewable energy to compensate increasing demand for computing in smart cities. Additionally, the use of responsible AI techniques for public transport transformation is explored by Leone et al.. Finally, Troulaki et al. introduce an AI, data and robot-based portable material recovery facility, enabling the decentralised treatment of recyclable waste in cities.

Inclusivity of Sustainable Cities
Responding to the need to create sustainable, resilient and inclusive urban environments, in this cluster, several articles address aspects related to inclusivity and interaction between ICT systems for smart cities and citizens. Interfacing with inclusive smart cities encompasses various facets, such as the importance of social acceptance and human components in smart city cybersecurity, highlighted by Volpini et al.. Gallo et al. introduce the use of human control mechanisms like conversational agents and mobile augmented reality in green smart homes. Schwartz et al. present different approaches for the design of IT tools that address environmental concerns. Abu Qasem et al. investigate the role of decision support systems for inclusive urban design. Technology’s role in communal spaces for social sustainability is examined by Ali et al.. Sioutis et al. explore citizen-centric and data-driven approaches to urban design and mobility management, and Mannari et al. investigate the challenges of the socio-technical process necessary for the digitalisation of rural areas.

Sustainable Cities Powered by Snap4City
Snap4City is an example of an open-source platform developed in Europe providing an integrated environment for managing smart city services, utilising big data, IoT, and AI to enhance urban sustainability and decision-making processes. In this thematic cluster, Nesi et al. highlight the value of multidomain digital twin platforms for city managers and decision-makers, and Bilotta et al. introduce the use of digital twins for CO2 emission reductions through traffic flow optimisation. This cluster concludes with a Snap4City use case in the Italian city Merano, where Mitolo et al. demonstrate how to enhance city sustainability through smart light management.

We invite you to explore these insightful articles within thematic clusters, offering innovative solutions that shape the sustainable cities of tomorrow and showcase Europe’s vibrant research ecosystem.

Please contact: 
German Castignani, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Luxembourg, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Georgios Mylonas, Industrial Systems Institute, Athena Research Center, Greece, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Next issue: October 2024
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Software Security
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