Smart Cities

What’s Shaping EMEA’s Smart Cities? (It’s Not Just GDPR)

Nicolas Roger
What’s Shaping EMEA’s Smart Cities? (It’s Not Just GDPR)

Cities around the world are facing enormous challenges as urbanization accelerates. Cities already consume the majority of the world’s energy, water and food, while producing most of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste. And, with over 90% of the world’s urban areas located near coastlines, cities are also vulnerable to climate change hazards such as hurricanes, storms and rising sea levels.i In light of these challenges, many governments are exploring how to combine innovative policies, investments and technologies to mitigate these kinds of risks.

Smart city initiatives provide an ideal platform for change by enabling diverse stakeholders to collaborate together on solutions that can work, such as smart emergency management, resilient energy and infrastructure, intelligent transportation and more. Solutions like these require very tight, real-time interconnection between sensors collecting the data and the analytics engines calculating the response.

Interconnecting EMEA’s smart cities

As an established market, Europe will continue to have the majority share in smart city technology spend for the region, while the Middle East and Africa (MEA) will generate the fastest growth. Altogether, the EMEA region will account for 25% of the global smart cities information and communication technologies (ICT) spend by 2022, or $39.5 billion, according to the IDC.ii Europe may dominate the smart city spend in EMEA for now, but MEA is growing fast. Entirely different challenges, such as avoiding a water crisis in the driest region on earth, promise to shape MEA’s smart city strategies going forward. As an example, Israel gets half of its drinking water from desalination and its water treatment systems recapture 86% of the water that goes down the drain – the second-best performer, Spain, recycles just 19%.iii

A large part of the ICT spend will go towards Interconnection, the private and direct exchange of traffic between a diverse set of participants at distributed IT exchange points inside carrier-neutral colocation centers. Interconnection between sensors, people, applications, data, content, clouds and analytics engines is the glue that enables smart city solutions to work and scale to meet growing needs and data points. In Europe, Interconnection growth is expected to contribute 23% of global Interconnection Bandwidth by 2021, per the second annual Global Interconnection Index (the GXI), a market study published annually by Equinix. With a projected 48% CAGR from 2017 to 2021, Europe is expected to reach over 1,900 terabits (Tbps) in installed Interconnection Bandwidth capacity by 2021.

Source: The GXI, Volume 2 published by Equinix

Smart city trends in EMEA

So where is Europe headed in smart city development? There are a few smart city trends unique to the region:

  1. Public trust in smart city data

There’s no doubt about the fact that smart cities need data, and lots of it, to thrive. But worries about intrusive surveillance, combined with the reality of increasing data breaches, is cultivating public distrust of government access to citizen data. That’s why Europe may be ahead of other regions when it comes to maintaining public trust toward smart city development. GDPR may be the most well-known European data privacy regulation that was recently enacted, but Europe has long been at the forefront of protecting personal information.

As an example, Estonia, a small country in Northern Europe, built their e-government system from the ground up based on the philosophy that the citizens own their data. Each citizen has a secure digital ID that’s used for transactions such as riding public transit to obtaining government services. All citizen information about taxes, land transfers, healthcare, etc. are stored in thousands of separate databases that are managed by those government agencies. There is no central or master database, and all of the information is encrypted and cannot be shared without a citizen’s knowledge and permission. The databases are linked together in a secure data exchange system that can transfer data instantly and securely at citizens’ discretion.iv A solution like this depends on private interconnection to ensure that data is kept safe in transit, avoiding the public internet. And key management technologies like Equinix SmartKey™, can help to ensure compliance with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR, by providing a control layer between the data controller and the data processors to meet requirements for data auditing, control and erasure.

  1. Smart partnerships

Smart city initiatives require support from diverse stakeholders to be successful. In Europe, smart partnerships provide a mutually beneficial path for getting smart city projects off the ground. As an example, the European Innovation Partnership on smart cities and communities (EIP-SCC) was established in 2012 to help meet Europe’s targets of reduced GHG emissions, improved energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. It aims to foster smart city development among diverse stakeholders in the areas of energy, ICT and transport. To accomplish this, the EIP-SCC hosts an innovation platform for public and private stakeholders to submit ideas, find a project or funding, and collaborate on smart city initiatives. So far, the platform has received 370 commitments to fund and develop smart city solutions, and 78 cities in Europe have started smart city development.v

As a case in point, a change of legislation in the Netherlands meant that municipalities were facing increasing workloads with no change in budget. Three municipalities decided to partner with each other on administrative tasks and join forces with DUO+ to implement a hybrid cloud solution for secure and effective collaboration. By leveraging Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA®) best practices, DUO+ was able to create a hybrid multicloud solution for the municipalities to collaborate and provide services with optimal security, reliability and performance via Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute on Platform Equinix®. “We entrust the gold (the data) of the municipality to Equinix,” said Andre de Vet, Coordinator ICT-Services, DUO+. “Equinix offers a combination of instant cloud access (Cloud Express) and on-premises-the proper place for a hybrid cloud strategy. That is important if you want to take advantage of the cloud’s efficiency and have complete control over sensitive data and specific applications.”

  1. Intelligent transportation

Smart transportation is one of the top smart city investment priorities for Europe according to the IDC.ii Use cases include autonomous vehicles, smart parking, advanced public transit, intelligent traffic management and more. Intelligent transportation use cases could cut commuting times by 15-20% on average, and, when combined with other smart city use cases like real-time air quality monitoring, could potentially reduce GHG emissions by 10-15%, according to

Rail transportation is a common mode of transportation in Europe. Siemens, a leader in engineering solutions for the rail industry based in Germany, was the first company to provide digitalization in rail transport dubbed the “Internet of Trains”. By collecting and analyzing data from more than 300 sensors on each train, Siemens can better predict when trains will fail, ensuring greater uptime for operators, fewer delays for passengers and more cost-effective maintenance. Siemens uses the Teradata Analytics Platform to manage and analyze the huge variety of data coming from 300+ sensors per train. Platform Equinix® ensures high availability of data in real time, as well as direct and secure interconnections to leading network and cloud providers which enables the company to scale capacity up or down as needed.

Source: Equinix Siemens Success Story


Regional differences may determine which smart city use cases rise to the top, but they all have a common goal of improving the quality of life for its citizens. Smart policies and partnering, combined with digital technologies, put data to work, helping policy makers and citizens make better decisions for their communities.

Watch the Interconnections blog for upcoming articles on smart city perspectives around the world. To learn more about how Interconnection is powering digital transformation in the midst of urbanization, read the Global Interconnection Index Volume 2.

Don’t want to wait? Check out the whole smart city series below (more to come!).


Part 1: Introduction -Build a Smart City in 3 Easy Steps

Part 2: APAC – Why Are Smart Cities Booming in Asia Pacific?

Part 3: EMEA -What’s Shaping EMEA’s Smart Cities? (It’s Not Just GDPR!) (see above)



[i] C40 Cities, Why Cities web page and infographic.

[ii] IDC, Smart Cities: New Insights into Key Use Cases and City Opportunities, Oct 2018.

[iii] BBC, Future Now: Is the world running out of fresh water?, April 2017.

[iv] SmartCitiesWorld, The smart nation where everyone owns their personal data, Oct 2018.

[v] European Commission, Digital Single Market Policy: Smart Cities and Climate Action: 2020 climate & energy package.; Energy Post EU, Europe aims to have 300 smart cities by end of next year, June 2018.

[vi] McKinsey Global Institute, Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future, June 2018.


Nicolas Roger Senior Manager, Global Solutions Architect