'Technology is just one part of making a city smart'

We are extremely excited to see our 2nd Smart City 360° Summit finally live in Bratislava, starting tomorrow the 22nd and finishing late on the 24th of November, 2016. Here, we bring you the moderator for the Smart City Summit, Radoslav Mizera, who currently acts as the vice president of Solved, and who is looking to engage participants with progressive and forward-thinking conversation. Let us hear more from the man himself…

Could you introduce the scope of your current work and what you are coming to share with everyone at the Smart City 360° Summit?

I am Radoslav Mizera, one of the co-founders of Solved, which is a company based in Finland as well as here in Bratislava, Slovakia. We are a cleantech collaboration platform for experts to design sustainable solutions. For the most part, our clients are cities, but we also collaborate with industrial companies and real estate companies. As for the Smart City 360° Summit, I will be the moderator of the event, so I hope that I’ll be able to nicely open all the sessions and ignite interesting discussion among the participants.

Given that you know about a lot of projects that are currently in development all over Europe – are there any discernible trends in sustainable solutions? Any sectors where the uptake of cleantech is noticeably faster than elsewhere?

When we look at cleantech, it’s not an industry as such, it is more like a cross-industrial phenomenon, meaning that cleantech basically spreads through all industries. It’s very comparable to IT in that regard, because when we speak about cleantech sustainability or smart cities, it is a very multidisciplinary approach. It is not, and shouldn’t be considered as one specific industry, since cleantech and smart solutions are relevant in all industries. Starting from agriculture, in terms of sustainable ways and forms of producing food, all the way to very advanced, sophisticated financial services. I think that the beauty of cleantech as such is that you can trace it back to basically everywhere.

But if you try to indicate what are perhaps the most urgent ones, I think this varies from region to region. For instance, in Slovakia, most relevant ones are energy, mobility, the connections between cities and regions, and even cross-border cooperation with neighbouring countries. Especially since the concentration of the automotive industry is so high in our region, I think we are going to see innovative strategies in the automotive industry in particular.

What are some examples of cleantech solutions that can be applied on the city scale when we are talking about smart city specifically? Perhaps some solutions that, aside from being nature-sensitive, also fulfill the needs and improve lives of city dwellers? 

You know, when we speak about cleantech and smart cities, quite often we tend to think about technology. For instance, we often talk about new forms of households or buildings improved through some sort of home automation. But I think that technology is just one part of the solution. A lot of it could actually come also from, let’s call it “behavioral change”. I’ll give you one example of a smart solution that came to my mind today.

Next time you need to go to the second or third floor, how about you just don’t take the elevator, and instead take the stairs? You do something good for your health, and maybe you save some waiting time for people who want to take the elevator because they need to go higher.

A lot of what we consider smarter solutions or cleantech doesn’t actually have to be about technology, it can be related to behavioral change. So for instance, that we prefer taking the bicycle instead of taking the car or that we prefer to walk. I also see these as smart solutions and the question for cities becomes how we combine behavioral change and technology to really enable a better quality of life. This is something that we can say is a smarter solution.

But in our case, if we look at Bratislava, we might have different needs than other cities. Let’s say Slovakia might have quite different needs than in the western part, the central part and the eastern part. So it’s very difficult to generalize. Bratislava might have different needs in terms of smart solutions than cities in the eastern part of Slovakia. So there is no general formula, a sort of magical technology, which will solve all of our problems.

How the whole process should start, is by really trying to understand what the specific challenges are and then choosing what would be the best options of solving them. For example, looking at Bratislava, we talk quite often about mobility, how to better move around the city, or how we could use cleaner form of energy. Or how we could make our buildings more energy efficient, because if we look at how energy is used nowadays, we find that most of it is being used in the cities. Around 75% of energy used in Europe, or even globally, is actually used in the cities, and most of that is used in the buildings – around 40%, while around 30% is in mobility. So if we really want to start improving things, we need to tackle these areas first with smarter solutions for mobility and housing.

Actually, when we spoke to Tamás Vahl, he also touched upon this, saying that especially in the Western Europe, the trend is that young people don’t really want to own a car anymore. Since you are based in Slovakia, what is your opinion on how this cultural wave is developing there?

This is a very good question and I actually think we are starting to see a change happening, and I also believe that a lot of that will actually be driven by technology and new business models. For instance, once we reach significant uptake of driverless cars and new business models like car-sharing keep growing, people may actually realize that it’s no longer so important to own a car. Now, it’s still more of a question of status.

If you look at Norway, their king actually has the nickname “the tram king” because he always travels by tram, even though Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It’s definitely a signal that this is not about how rich you are and how you should prove that by owning a car. What we really need are these key role models, people who can show us that we can have a different lifestyle, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are compromising our quality of life. That it’s okay to use bicycles.

In our culture, it remains quite important to get positive inspiration from these role models, and I hope that once these people show us different ways of living a healthier, more sustainable life, society will slowly begin moving towards that.

But this is just one aspect, of course. It really comes down to convenience, and the need for solutions which integrate smarter technologies with new business models and social innovation, and how that can really enable us to keep a lifestyle of comfort without compromise, but no less sustainable. I am starting to see positive developments in this area, but we need more.