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A smart city in Italy? Countdown for Milanosesto

24 September, Industria Italiana

Next City in Sesto San Giovanni will start in one thousand days. If everything goes fine, if the schedule is respected and if the whole project is implemented, it might be the first Italian smart city, just outside Milan. According to the schedule, a large part of the infrastructures, buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping centres of this innovative city might be operational by 2021. Developing on a surface of 400 thousand Sq m, including green spaces for 65 hectares, Milanosesto is Europe’s biggest urban requalification plan. Once fully operational, the city will accommodate 15 thousand residents in 8,600 homes between private and public housing, 15 thousand new jobs, ten public buildings including schools and nursery schools. It will include the future “Città della Salute e della Ricerca” (City of Health and Research) with the new national oncology centre and the neurology institute Besta, along with the hospital San Raffaele 2. Hopefully, everything goes according to the plan, for there have been several issues and conflicts among the members. But this is Italy, where getting things done is not an easy task, and where big projects (like Expo 2015, but not only) often speed up at the very end.

What is a smart city

For a magazine such as Industria Italiana, which speaks about industry and technology as essential factors for the social and economic development, smart cities are an important topic. But first, we have to explain what a smart city is, as the term is widely used, and in some cases even abused. The best definition of the term can be found in a report by the research centre of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, written by Edoardo Reviglio in collaboration with Mario Calderini and other professors from Turin’s Institute of Technology.

As the report reads, a smart city is “an abstract projection of the community of the future, an applicative and conceptual perimeter defined by a group of needs that are met through technology, services and applications from various fields. Such fields can be smart building, inclusion, energy, environment, government, living, mobility, education, health and much more. However, these technologies, services and applications do not constitute a smart city, as they need to be integrated on a platform to operate and coordinate them. More importantly, such a platform will have to define the appropriate instruments of governance and finance, essential elements for the implementation of the political and social vision of the smart city. Therefore, a smart city collects the issues to be addressed and the ideas to solve such issues, using the model of inclusion, engaging the public and the private sectors, using new financial instruments, innovating the public administrations, through procurement procedures, simplification and transparency, regulations, through feasible promises by the public authorities on the medium-term”.

From smart street lights to the driverless electric minibuses

Milanosesto will feature last generation platforms and technologic solutions, many of which branded Hewlett Packard Enterprise (Hpe). The American technology giant is currently applying such technologies in other projects for smart cities around the world, like Dubai, Singapore and Toronto. The project requires systems capable of managing a smart district, processing a significant amount of data, optimising consumptions, saving energy, coordinating applications and connections. An example is the “smart” street lights which will integrate different technologies: variable lighting, wifi connectivity, integrated security cameras, monitoring of the air pollution and the possibility, currently under study, to display ads through Led displays and videos. The transportation system will include electric driverless minibuses. They’ll drive through the neighbourhood and will be remotely piloted by artificial intelligence software and applications.

The Edge Computing dominion

All these systems and services are based on Edge Computing Hpe technologies, namely small servers gathering and analysing data on the spot without having to pass first through big central servers. This technology has different advantages: lower costs and quicker operations, more reliability of data, fewer threats of cyber attacks and violations, more safety, less broadband needed, no unnecessary data duplications, immediate synchronisation between different devices. Since a smart city produces terabytes of data which have to be processed quickly and efficiently, servers must have the necessary computational power. Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the system integrator for these hi-tech platforms, and its Italian branch is a point of reference for the entire Milanosesto project.

A three-billion-investment for the biggest requalification project in Europe

Europe’s biggest requalification project is currently developing in the former steelworks in Sesto San Giovanni. The total investment for the implementation of the Next City is assessed around 3 billion euro. Milanosesto, the company leading the project, is composed of six partners: Bizzi & Partners Development (about 47% of the shares), Fas Holding Italy (approximately 26%), Gruppo Sorgente (12,5%), Sesto Futura (8%), Les Copains Holding (5%), Barcos (2%). The big technology corporations involved are, besides Hpe, Siemens, Edison, Philips Lighting, Vodafone, Huawei, Ey. The other participants in the project are the architecture firm Tectoo, the company specialised in safety United Risk Management, along with TechnoGym and Airlite.

The innovative solutions will be developed in six areas: the new neighbourhood, transport, safety, the park, the shopping centre, and the Smart Grid for the houses and the buildings.

Masseroli: we’re working on an advanced and integrated hi-tech system

“The resources and the technologic platform will create an advanced and integrated system”, commented Carlo Masseroli, Milanosesto general director, with a background in urban planning for the City of Milan – “the system will include digital connections, the safety of the buildings, transport, and Smart Grid networks to combine functionality and energy saving of the buildings”. Also the new shopping centre, with a park annexed, will feature all the latest technologic solutions to combine quality of life and environmental sustainability, starting from the smart street lights. The partners are currently studying them, and they’ll be ready by the start of 2019.

Investing today makes sense if it offers an advantage in the future. For this reason, it’s essential to evaluate the business plan for each project. For instance, concerning the smart lights, “we plan to use them also to broadcast ads, and video contents through led displays placed on them”, explained the people of the team working on the project. “But we have to consider the necessary investments, how much this application is worth in economic terms”. In the transition from the strategic vision to the technical designing of the components, it’s necessary to combine architecture and design with hi-tech. We design the parts and check them with the potential administrators, and we also evaluate them from an economic point of view”.

“The project is remarkable and its implementation challenging”, commented the Milanosesto management, “it implies a huge and deep requalification operation on an industrial area that used to be one of the biggest in Europe. To achieve the goal, we’ve created an Open Innovation process where every participant from any sector can give his contribution”. The objective of the district Milanosesto is “to create an environment and to create a product that looks at the future. It won’t be only a technologic city, but also a place where technology improves the quality of life enables work and research”, clarified Masseroli during the 2018 Hpe Italian Summit that took place in the summer in Milan, where he presented the strategy and the guidelines of the project.

Stefano Venturi and the Smart City

During the event, Stefano Venturi, Hpe Italia Ceo, stressed: “we have been given a great opportunity. That of “enabling” the innovation, to be able to put companies in the condition to evolve according to the technology. Today, technology influences all the sector like it has never done before. We want to offer the best hi-tech architectures that gather, aggregate, analyse, and compare data, that make information available efficiently and quickly, in real time, using technologies that didn’t exist before. There will be a lot to do in the next years, as all the technologies applied to business are going through major changes, as they will replace the current technology which will become obsolete very soon. We need to invest in new technologies and new professional roles”. Venturi, who worked for four years for Confindustria in the division Agenda Digitale e Startup, remarks: “the choices that any local administration will take in the next couple of years will determine its success on the long-term. We must start with collaborations between public and private sectors, with goals shared between the community and the companies, with the development of strategic projects that translate into practical actions and operations”.

The project

As already mentioned, the partners are acting in six different areas: the new district, the Smart Grid and the connectivity system, transport, safety, the park, and the shopping centre. For each area and application, Hpe has to define and develop the corresponding architecture, follow the developments of the plan, coordinate the partners. First thing, the architectures and the platforms needed for Milanosesto will have to create an environment suitable for the functioning of lighting, electricity, heating, connectivity and safety through the use of the Smart Grid networks which will manage the various devices from remote, optimising consumptions, and saving energy. Moreover, it will be necessary to create the hi-tech infrastructure which will be the foundation of the new transport system. This will include a train station, connections with the main roads, parking lots and public transport. “There will be a network of electric driverless minibuses which will be operated through sensors, cameras, GPS, software and real-time data processing, as they anticipate from Milanosesto. “To implement this solution, we’re in contact with the only four companies in the world that can provide such advanced minibuses”.

The Mall will provide spaces and commercial services to the neighbourhood. The shopping centre will include 360 shops. It will be interconnected and multimedia, while a vast area will be converted into a park, featuring installations and information points, as well as a smart lighting system, able to modulate the energetic consumption according to the solar light and the weather conditions. The mall and the park will be monitored through sophisticated security systems featuring cameras, sensors, alarms and control centres. Every area and section will be operated by the most advanced technologies which Hpe Italia and the other partners are working on.

The role of the Intelligent Edge solutions

The Intelligent Edge solutions will have a crucial role. The term refers to the defined space of a place: the place where the actions are executed. It can be a production plant, a building, a city, a house, a shop. It can be in any place where objects and tools are connected through the Internet of Things (IoT). For instance, a shop may connect the products and the digital prices on display on the shelf through a network. The shop owner will be able to immediately access the investor and see how long it takes for a product to sell. This information, along with the data regarding sales from other locations, can be used to monitor in real time the prices of the products. Connectivity allows the reseller to maximise sales and reduce warehouse and shipping costs, offering at the same time a multimedia experience to customers. The Intelligent Edge applications refer to data analysis and the development of solutions right in the same place where data are generated, resulting in a more efficient management of shops, buildings, neighbourhoods and companies.

Various types of buildings and the masterplan by Renzo Piano

The world-famous architect Renzo Piano signs the masterplan of the whole project. His Next City is characterised by the presence of various types of buildings (public, private and a mix of the two), different intended uses (apartments, offices, shops, hotels, production, leisure), for a total surface of approximately one million square metres. The Milanosesto explains: “The project will also include hospitals, healthcare and research facilities which will compose the Città della Salute e della Ricerca (the City of Health and Research). An actual project within the project. It will lead to the harmonic integration of excellent healthcare and scientific facilities (public as well as private) with the other spaces of Milanosesto. We’ll also build a train station and an underpass to link the existing Sesto San Giovanni with the new neighbourhood”.

From an operational point of view, in order to transfer the strategic input into a technical plan, “it’s necessary to define the perimeter of the project, granting the integration and sustainability between architecture and technology”, commented the Hpe engineers. “It’s important to assess the possible solutions with their potential administrators. It means creating the new city of the 21st-century from scratches, make it welcoming, functional, a good place where to live and work, a hub of scientific research and healthcare, a shopping centre and a business district”.

Milanostesto is located inside the limits of the Metropolitan City of Milan, which has four million residents, making it the most populated city in Italy and the third in Europe, after London and Paris. The Milanostesto taskforce commented: “It will become part of Milan’s metropolitan system. A critical territory in demographic and economic terms, as the population here, has an income almost the double of the national average and half the unemployment. The district will unite two realities, Milan and its hinterland, both solid, modern and close to the territory as well as to the main European capitals.”

Sesto San Giovanni between past and future

Sesto San Giovanni has been for years Lombardy’s industrial heart, representing the economic boom that allowed Italy to get back on after the Second World War. The Falck steelworks (Acciaierie e Ferriere Lombarde Falck) is still the symbol of the industrial and social revolution represented by Sesto San Giovanni. “The memory of this piece of Italian history won’t be lost”, the architects explained. “The historical buildings, all Unesco heritage candidates, will be recovered and renewed. Once brought to new life, they’ll be integrated with the rest of the city, hosting activities open to the community. Among such buildings, there are Bliss, Camino Fumi, Treno Laminatoio Omec, whose fascinating architecture will enhance the skyline of Milanosesto. The added value of the whole project is given by innovative solutions originated by the synergies between companies and partners. They will have to think about which the needs in the future will be, from 2021 onwards, and work together with the architects to share ideas and skills.

Source: Industria Italiana

Translator: Cristina Ambrosi

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