[FOCUS SMART CITY] Milan smart city: top of the class in Europe

       The city of Milan has been able to leverage its investments from the 2015 Universal Expo to strengthen its urban and technological redevelopment policy with a view to becoming one of Italy’s most influential smart cities. Milan has inspirations as a connected city, a green city and above all an innovative one. Its ambitions are reflected in particular in its desire to be an attractive European metropolis with projects such as the “Milano Smart City”, a project supported by the city and the Chamber of Commerce. Like influential smart cities like London, the Italian city is associated with London in the “Sharing Cities” project, a European project of the Horizon 2020 programme, which aims to “transform the concept of the smart city into reality and develop economically affordable solutions“.

Milan ranks 12th among the smartest cities in the world, according to the latest ranking of the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. On a regional scale, the “2018 iCity Rate of FPA”, which highlights around fifteen indicators, “such as mobility, research, waste management, social innovation or air and water quality“, places Milan at the top of the most intelligent cities in Italy for the fourth consecutive year, ahead of Bologna and Florence. The “smart city” effort is also illustrated in figures, in 2018, there were 2000 car-sharing users, 49 co-working spaces, 10,000 electric bicycle users and more than 22,000 square metres of unused space for associations, start-ups and citizens.

Milan Smart City. Actors and thematic dimensions Source: “Milano Smart City” website. (Translation of terms in blue rectangles clockwise: Public administration, Universities and Research, citizens and the tertiary sector, Finance, Business)


The Porta Romana and Porta Nuova districts: an open-air experience

     The Porta Romana district is one of the materializations of Milan’s new ambitions. Described as “the first Italian experiment of an intelligent district with a neutral environmental impact“, it demonstrates a desire to combine urban planning, Information, and Communication Technologies in the heart of a district. This former industrial district has been redeveloped and has all the characteristics of a “smart district”, such as electric cars or high-speed Wi-Fi provided by connected LED street lights. This district has intelligent buildings, such as the new building of the Internet and telecom operator Fastweb.

The Porta Nuova district has so-called “green” buildings, a real masterpiece of “green” architecture and nearly 25 intelligent buildings. Thousands of trees and plants cover these towers. It should be noted that they are automatically watered with the water recovered in the air conditioning system. They also include solar and geothermal panels. This district is home to the headquarters of the “Unicredit bank”, a connected skyscraper and, above all, the highest in Italy. Porta Nuova would have a market value of approximately €2 billion. Such works and redevelopments in the heart of the city are attracting ever more investment, as Qatar, which has been the sole owner of the Porta Nuova district since February 2015, is doing. The cost of the real estate works will amount to around 20 billion euros over the next ten years. Milan therefore does not hesitate to rethink certain districts, even to make them undergo real transformations to offer its citizens and the city a better quality of life and a better internal economy.

The urban experience rethought

     By participating in the European project “Sharing City”, the Lombardy capital has been confronted with the main environmental challenges, in particular the reduction of carbon emissions from buildings and means of transport and the improvement of air quality. The Milanese government has been able to think big and practical, especially in terms of lighting. The city’s street lighting has been replaced by LEDs. Since the 2000s, Milan has been the most “fibre-optic cabled” European city and today continues to deploy and offer free Wi-Fi in a large part of the city. It should be noted that 5G technology is currently being tested and the operator Vodafone, in partnership with Huawei, plans to provide full coverage for 2019. With the application of shared mobility, citizens therefore benefit from full Internet access and they have at their disposal electrical devices such as bicycles, scooters and electric commercial vehicles available in stations or free-floating.

Milan is therefore part of the “Sharing Cities” project, which consists in “providing a life-size experimental ground and a shared methodology to transform the concept of the smart city into reality“. Milan has therefore targeted some of its districts as demonstration objects on which it aims to “deploy replicable urban digital solutions based on innovative methodology and collaboration models“. Shared mobility, which is essential in the city, rethinks the urban experience of citizens. 60 electric car-sharing vehicles are available on the road, 150 electric bicycles and 14 new stations. 76 charging points for electric columns (20 for fast charging). Finally, 125 intelligent parking spaces and 10-shared electric vehicles for freight transport are self-service.

A multitude of smart projects

       Lombardy capital is therefore trying to respond to new economic, social and environmental problems. It constantly invests in “innovation, research, technology, sustainable development and social inclusion“. Considered the most “smart” city in Italy, it is one of the “10% of the most innovative cities in the world“. It is ahead of Bologna and Florence, respectively second and third in the national ranking according to the ICityrate survey, because it is currently promoting 70 smart projects, which is equivalent to more than 200 million euros of investment. These projects include the Open Data portal, which is available to researchers and users. There are also more than 500 Wi-Fi access points in the city called “Open Milan”. This service is also considered very competitive.

The government has set up a system for sharing connected vehicles, with no less than 120,000 subscribers. It should be noted that scooter sharing is also being implemented. In terms of turnover, the smart sector in the Lombardy capital represents 128 billion euros of the 460 billion euros in turnover at national level, or 28%. It should be noted that more than 43,000 companies and 344,000 people, or about one in five Milanese, are concerned, according to the municipality. The sectors most affected are technology, with €49 billion, energy and waste treatment, with €45 billion, and e-commerce with €700 million.

The Milan Smart City project is based on exchanges and dialogues between the public and private sectors, between the administration and citizens and through the establishment of a participatory government. The government has put social innovation as “the common denominator of urban transformation, from mobility at work and business creation, from housing to the use of green spaces to digital infrastructure“. The digitisation of the territory is a priority. The city has set up the distribution of fibre optics, Wi-Fi access points, and digital islands, portals with open and protected data. Through its “smart projects”, the city aims to build intelligent buildings, whether public or private, intelligent districts with zero energy, allowing the development of integrated energy management systems for interiors and the installation of intelligent street lamps with sensors.


      The city of Milan has introduced the concept of “co-city”, which encourages citizens to be more responsible and participate in the implementation of the Internet of Things in the heart of the city. In addition, this concept makes the city an infrastructure for cooperation, sharing and participation in participatory decision-making in production by peers and is based on “collaborative polycentric governance based on ICTs“. According to Roberta Cocco, Councillor for Digital Transformation and Public Services of the Municipality of Milan, the city has put the well-being of its citizens at the heart of its priorities through the implementation of “digital services”. In recent years, the city has set up a digital payment service that allows you to pay a tax, particularly the tari (garbage collection tax), directly in digital form. The municipality is currently working on a data interoperability plan. The city collects data from a database for information purposes. In short, the city is a large-scale experimental ground for and by its citizens.

Sources :