The London and Madrid bombings were a wake-up call for European authorities to find new ways to harness the power of technology, especially developments in the Future Internet, to make our cities a safer, better place to live in.

Imagine a city where citizens live without concerns about safety, a place with secure neighbourhoods, where police and first responders, faced with dangerous or hazardous situations, use the latest technologies to make ‘smart decisions’, in real time.

This is the vision of SafeCity, an EU-funded ‘Net Innovation’ project, which set out in 2010 to enhance the role of the Future Internet in guaranteeing the safety of urban populations living in ‘smart cities’.

Cities consume some 75 % of worldwide energy production and generate 80 % of CO2 emissions. Experts argue that a sustainable urban model means cities have to do things in smarter ways. EU initiatives for smart cities focus on ‘quality of life’ and sustainability issues, such as building practices, energy networks and transport systems, and how modern ICTs can boost not just the physical (infrastructure) capital, but also the human and social capital.

“For the first time in the history of humankind there [are] more people in cities than rural areas,” comments Eduardo Serra, former Spanish Defence Minister, in a SafeCity video. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future, adding to urban density and related challenges of crime, life quality, service provision, healthy environment, etc. Advances in technology are needed for smart cities to cope with this level of complexity, Serra suggests.

SafeCity focused on several key application areas, including decision support, video analytics, data fusion, 3D mapping, road and vehicle sensors, and CCTV and citizen networks, all tied together through the EU’s FI-WARE generic enablers.


Several use-case scenarios and early trials of novel systems to collect, analyse and share urban emergency information more effectively were considered by SafeCity. These included a road accident involving a chemical fire and injuries in Athens, derailment of a metro train in Stockholm (see side box), measures to maintain public safety and improve crime prevention in Helsinki, and real-time suspicious events monitoring in Madrid.

The Madrid scenario sees security staff getting real-time intelligence on a potentially dangerous situation because smart systems, including facial recognition software, pick out suspicious behaviour, such as loitering, people entering restricted areas, or abandoned objects. This means investigators save time pouring over thousands of hours of footage from CCTV stations!

“These scenarios represent crisis situations where public safety and emergency responders may take part. Cities have been chosen considering not only current technological potential, which will be improved, but also several criteria such as geographical size, population, standard of living or social and cultural diversity,” notes the team led by Ingeniería de Sistemas para la Defensa de España (ISDEFE), Spain, on their informative website.


Related FI-PPP projects

  • Instant Mobility … has created a concept for a virtual ‘Transport and mobility internet’
  • FI-WARE … provides innovative infrastructure for cost-effective creation and delivery of services
  • FInest … a platform to optimise collaboration and integration within international transport and logistics business networks
  • Outsmart … development of five innovation eco-systems which facilitate the creation of diverse pilot services and technologies that contribute to optimised supply and access to services and resources in urban areas


SafeCity trial in Stockholm

While Stockholm residents slept in the early hours of the morning, researchers and engineers in the EU-funded SafeCity project carried out their first proof-of-concept (PoC) hazard-detection trial near the city’s main airport, Arlanda.

SafeCity simulated a train accident in the tunnels under the airport. Using the latest in network technology and harnessing advances in ‘sensing’ technology, 31 sensors were installed in the tunnel and on the train, monitoring and collecting data such as temperature and levels of potentially dangerous materials, including smoke, CO2, CO and other gases.

The PoC was a success, thanks to the dedication of the SafeCity team, supported by the Arlanda Express train staff and local fire brigade. SafeCity is the first real-life demonstration using ‘generic enablers’ running on the Seville FI-WARE test-bed platform. According to Diego Gimenez, R&D project manager at partner ISDEFE in Spain, SafeCity was the first EU pilot, under the EU’s Future Internet Public-Private Partnership (FI-PPP) programme, to test and validate the FI-WARE concept.

FI-WARE is an EU initiative to promote new, reusable, shared elements and functions of Future Internet service infrastructure (so-called generic enablers). The performance of the FI-WARE test bed and generic enablers during the PoC was “flawless”, according to the team.

More info