Frans Anton Vermast, Source: Frans Anton Vermast

Frans Anton Vermast: Amsterdam has been at the forefront of smart mobility for many years

Frans Anton Vermast: Amsterdam has been at the forefront of smart mobility for many years

We discuss intelligent and sustainable mobility solutions with the Strategic Advisor and Smart City Ambassador of the capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam Smart City, which consists of a public-private partnerships and an international community, is the innovation platform that brings together proactive citizens, innovative companies, knowledge institutions and public authorities motivated to shape the city of the future. Frans Anton Vermast MBA (1969) is Senior Strategy Advisor for Low Carbon and Connected Urban Planning at Amsterdam Smart City since 2008. Also, he is member of the Board of Directors with extensive global knowledge and experience in facilitating the participation of local governments, municipalities and communities in these initiatives.

Mr Vermast, please tell us about the role of the Smart City Ambassador: what are your duties, what does your usual day consist of and most importantly - why does a city need to have someone to play this role?

I have the privilege to share Amsterdam Smart City’s best practises and more importantly share our lessons learned with a global audience. As I travel over 100 days a year, I do not have a structure in my day or days. It very much depends on where I am in or where I am on my way to. As mentioned, I think it is valuable to share knowledge, expertise and experiences between and amongst (local) governments as sooner or later cities and their regions face similar challenges and opportunities and we can learn so much from each other.

Could you tell us more about the origins of the smart city programme in Amsterdam and what are the steps towards its implementation under the six themes: Digital City, Energy, Mobility, Circular City, Governance & Education and finally – Citizens & Living?

Towards the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 several public and private partners started to collaborate on reducing CO2-emmissions as a result of climate change discussions. Since then we have broadened our scope to basically all areas that can improve the quality of life of citizens who are the end users. Imperatives for a smart city journey for basically all themes are:

  • Political leadership
  • Holistic approach
  • Citizen centric approach and citizen’s engagement
  • Learning by doing
  • Open (data - innovation - source - algorithms)
  • Social inclusion
  • Trust
  • Ethics
  • Allow for uncertainty and allow for failure

The capital of Netherlands is widely regarded as the world capital of cycling. Carpooling and the use of electric cars are also on the rise. Could you share the highlights of local policy when it comes to sustainable mobility for the short-term period?

Looking at a city so in love with cycling as Amsterdam, you might be forgiven for not considering there might be a need for other eco-friendly modes of transport. But in fact, Amsterdam has been at the forefront of smart mobility for many years. Its relatively small surface area and high density of people and vehicles mean that as much as 90% of the city’s population don’t have their own parking space. A forward-thinking city government and a creative and enterprising local population make a virtue of necessity: the Amsterdam Area is buzzing with research, initiatives and businesses around smart mobility.

Boats, cars, buses and scooters are all going electric, as are all taxis going from the international airport Schiphol. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is booming, with ViaVan, Felyx, Car2Go and others picking up where the extensive public transport system doesn’t quite fit the need. Next to this, Amsterdam has a record number of public EV charging stations globally and there are many social apps available to help you to find those charging points or a parking space. Charging station manufacturers EV Box and New Motion are also established in the area, as is the office of Tesla Europe.

Smart mobility even goes off-road and into the water with developments such as Roboat, a futuristic and autonomous robot boat that multi-tasks as a taxi, bridge, floating stage, waste collector and freight transporter, depending on what residents and the city need. And it doesn’t just end with mobility: batteries no longer suited for use in cars are being used to power entire football stadiums, and smart office buildings such as The Edge are known for their innovative and sustainable architecture worldwide.

The city of Amsterdam has the ambition to provide every citizen with a solar panel in the upcoming years. Can you tell us what changes is this initiative expected to bring about and how you plan to implement it?

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What can Amsterdam teach other cities in terms of smart governance?

Every city and region is different and has unique characteristics. So, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works in Amsterdam is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) on arm’s length of the local government ...

Which is your favourite smart city project?

Personally, I am a big supporter of the data projects that touch on many many projects. To highlight one: TADA:A manifesto for responsible digital cities. Data. They are a promise for life in the city. With data we can tackle major problems of contemporary cities making them cleaner, safer, healthier, more habitable. With the use of data, it can be achieved. But, only as long as people maintain control over data, and not the other way around. Designing a digital city is a team effort: companies, government, urban communities and citizens. We take action together, we benefit together. That is why we have set the following shared principles and agreements. We want to be a leading example in this for all other digital cities spread across the globe. Tada! See also:

Another project that I like a lot is: WeMakeThe.City: our unique annual smart city festival that improves cities and the region. Focus in 2019 is how we can make cities inclusive for and by the people. Where everyone has a place, everyone participates, and everyone shares equally. See also: WeMakeThe.City - 17 - 23 June 2019 Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

Finally, what is the International smart community of Amsterdam? Would you invite our readers to join?

The Amsterdam Smart City community unlocks an ecosystem of innovation.

Our community, of more than 5500 innovators, connects everyone with energy and ambitions to improve the liveability in urban areas. Via this online platform and offline events, Amsterdam Smart City creates the overview of what is happening in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, connects communities to share expertise and strengthens new projects that make the region futureproof.

We invite you to become an active participant, work together with companies, knowledge institutes, local organizations and governments. Through sharing knowledge and expertise, you will be able to connect with others and base your work on the most current information available.



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