The motivation for SMURBS rises from its aspiration to promote and coordinate the “smart city” concept primarily into a European network of cities but also to cities overseas, illustrating the experience and learnings from a number of cities at different stages on the smart city journey.

  • A group of cities of varying sizes, geographies, environmental pressures and levels of progress in terms of ‘smartness’ are selected with a multi-criteria analysis.
  • Specific stakeholders and citizens’ needs and requirements are gathered, clustered and classified allowing for the hierarchy of urban pressures and the optimum issue-to solution correspondence.
  • Cities implementing an integrated plan of a series of solutions, to one or more of the pressures addressed, act as Lighthouse Pilots, while Follower cities observe, interact and contribute to the exploitation of the smart city concept.

SMURBS utilizes each partner’s knowledge of their geographic area of influence and local city particularities, advantages and resources, and combines it with the lessons learnt from the pilots’ implementation to construct the most feasible and cost-effective way to tackle the environmental issue at hand. This constellation of cities employing solutions from the portfolio showcases their effectiveness and helps establish the urban component of GEOSS in Europe.

SMURBS smart-city network (under development). PC -Light house Pilot Cities: implementing an integrated plan of a series of solutions to one or more of the pressures addressed. TB – Test Bed cities: testing or demonstrating specific, targeted solutions. CS – Case studies: implemented to address the complicated and high-priority EU issues of air pollution health impacts and social inequalities and the on-going migrant crisis. FL -Follower cities: observe, interact and contribute to the exploitation of the smart city concept of SMURBS.

Needs and gaps

SMURBS reaches out local/regional authorities, urban planners, city level stakeholders, specific citizen communities and humanitarian bodies early on, to map what is out there and understand what the users want, in order to stimulate strategic planning throughout the project.

Simply put,  decision makers of various levels require “access to the information they need, when they need it, and in a format they can use“. To this end, the partners – offering a very effective geographical distribution of local knowledge and key contacts- either by existing projects’ results or by new surveys and interviews, engage the aforementioned stakeholders to identify specific user needs, define the locally particular urban pressures in order to design and implement tailored smart city solutions. Additionally, an inventory of the state-of-the-art regarding smart cities (technologies, projects and smart city solutions) brings forth best practices and bottlenecks to be avoided. A thorough policy and legal framework complements the “need”,  as the degree of relevant national and European policies – including  specific targets and indicators, established (e.g. UN SDGs, Sendai Framework) or new ones- penetration to local legislation and the observational ability to support these, is documented.

Gap analysis is the culmination of the above efforts, a crucial document for the overall implementation of SMURBS. This usual reaching out method for a H2020 project is, however, two-fold. Early engagement that will enable feasible, replicable and meaningful interventions is the decisive second aspect.

EO platforms

SMURBS employs different types of EO platforms as a critical part for the achievement of its objective to augment cross-validated EO information and create synergies between these different platforms for city scale applications/solutions that comprise the Portfolio of Smart Urban Solutions. The consortium of SMURBS has honed its skills, scientific excellence and technical know-how of these platforms and moves these beyond the state-of- the-art:

  • In-situ
    With respect to AQ, SMURBS employs state-of- the-art instrumentation for monitoring of additional to standard pollution parameters, with higher temporal resolution, that primarily allow source apportionment of major pollutants, secondarily create direct interlinks with health impacts and lastly link the regulatory networks of basic pollutants (moderate cost and coverage), with IoT/smart sensors (low cost – dense coverage) and supersites (high cost – high temporal resolution and specialization of measurements). In this aspect SMURBS brings and tests several novel methodologies that are being long used for pure research purposes. An indicative list contains on-line source apportionment and composition data, distinguish between biomass burning from fossil fuel contributions in real time, ultrafine aerosol specialized measurements, online estimation of oxidative stress induced processes of aerosols on human cells.With respect to disasters, SMURBS platforms include 2D/3D mapping as well as the use of GIS/Geospatial Decision making systems for pre- and post- assessment of disasters combining RS data acquisition mechanisms (i.e. satellite and aerial/UAV imagery) with in-situ data collection (i.e. GNSS control point measurement, Mobile Mapping Systems, laser scanners, etc).
  • Satellites
    SMURBS brings to the forefront a unique European asset, the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites, it capitalizes on technical methodologies for the fusion of optical and radar data, and implementation of radar interferometry techniques, and exploits specific remote sensing methodologies in the context of specific urban monitoring applications through core and application methods. Sentinel images are provided for free by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Copernicus, while they become available in SMURBS through NOA’s Collaborative Ground Segment1 for the collection, management and distribution of Sentinel data.The core methods include satellite data fusion of land and atmospheric products which allows assessment of the urban growth and the environmental pressures while the use of these data, combined with suitable systems of processing and classification, results in a concise and objective representation of the territory and its development, in particular of the environmental impact of anthropogenic activities. radar interferometry is another core method where SMURBS brings into play advanced radar interferometry techniques such as DInSAR and PSI and tailors them for the urban environment for estimation of ground velocity rates, landslides, ground subsidence, along with surface deformation induced from man-made activities.Application methods include (i) Land Cover classification based on foreknowledge of spectral properties and developed algorithms (e.g. Spectral Angle Mapping algorithm) that is customized to meet the mapping needs of cities, (ii) Urban Patterns recognition for defining effective policies for limiting soil sealing and utilizing spatial metrics for studying land cover change in urban areas (iii) Urban Disaster monitoring where multi-temporal analysis using differential interferometry (DInSAR) increases accuracy to estimate land deformations caused by natural or various anthropogenic activities.
  • Modeling
    In SMURBS great emphasis is given in homogenizing existing and developing unique, common methodologies for AQ modeling at the city scale. Developing more locally representative, high resolution emissions inventories (both bottom-up and top-down) to support fine-scale AQ modeling is the first step. The emission processing system combines information from a variety of sources, incorporating high resolution demographical, habitual, constructional and socio-economic information for specific sources (e.g. residential wood burning), data from in-situ networks or supersites (e.g. from ACTRIS), and space-borne data, to assess the spatial and temporal profiles of various emission sectors. CAMS products may be evaluated and adjusted to the established model system, providing boundary conditions, AQ index prognoses and European wide prognoses for non-local sources. The next step regards bridging of state-of- the-art regional atmospheric models with city-scale models for high resolution AQ simulations. The SMURBS model ensemble consists of a number of state-of- the-art chemical-transport models (e.g. COSMO-ART, CHIMERE, WRF- CHEM, CMAQ), already set up and evaluated by expert modelling groups at the regional scale. Enhanced prognostic models (e.g. TAPM, CITYCHEM), which simulate the atmospheric processes at the local scale (down to 200 m 2 ), including gas-phase photochemical reactions, are installed and nested to the regional system. The modeling methodology finally includes emission scenarios (e.g. GAINS) to facilitate co-benefit analysis of reduced emissions of GHG and air pollutants, and receptor modeling (e.g. PMF – positive matrix factorization), to identify key sources, and prioritize emissions inventory improvement work, in conjunction with specialized measurements.
  • Smart Sensors
    UAVs: SMURBS accomplishes a game-changing result by bringing together complementary sensors (e.g. for AQ monitoring) onboard aerial platforms to be adjusted to the needs of the pilot studies (within ACTRIS JRAs several campaigns took place (incl. Athens) for the investigation of Black Carbon vertical profiling). Other synergistic use of UAVs in SMURBS, include optimization of advanced sensors and imaging capabilities for LU/LC and post- disaster monitoring.Internet of Things (IoT) – smart sensors: New IoT sensors and technologies are being developed and introduced into the market. SMURBS will assess, further develop and deploy field smart sensor package nodes in selected pilot cities that measure atmospheric and terrestrial variables, in an attempt to forward exploitation of the main advantage of IoT sensor networks, i.e. low cost, and thus capacity for denser networks and continuous measurements. State-of- the-art open source technology is improved and special emphasis is given on improving QA/QC issues for selected metrics (like particle number/PM2.5), and the
    data exploitation from fixed and mobile sites (e.g. TROPOS, NSCR) is valorized (e.g. fixed and mobile platforms (bicycles, backpacks)).Building synergies: Within its pilots and case studies SMURBS will pursue multiple synergies between IoT sensor networks with EO, COs and UAV data for tailored services provision. Indicatively, we refer to the following fire mapping and crowd-sourcing example:NOA has developed FireHub a novel, multidimensional, highly robust and efficient WebGIS platform that provides support for Disaster Risk Management and Emergency Response regarding forest fires. It is exploited operationally by the Greek Fire Brigade and Civil Protection authorities, and is comprised by: (i) the Real-time Fire Monitoring module (continuous downscaled information – at 500 m – on active fires detected from the Meteosat Second Generation SEVIRI instrument, 5-minutes frequency); (ii) the Smoke Dispersion Forecast (Lagrangian model); and (iii) the Burn Scar Mapping and Damage Assessment module (Sentinel-2 and Landsat data). Building upon this, DisasterHub bridges the communication gap between FireHub and citizens and decision makers alike, introducing a mobile application as a middleware between a mobile user and the rich suite of FireHub services, building on the concept of COs in support of Copernicus, GEO, GEOSS, and UN- SPIDER.
  • Citizen Observatories
    Citizen Observatories (COs):
    COs refer to an environment and infrastructure supporting an information ecosystem for relevant communities and decision makers to discuss, monitor and intervene on situations, places and events. Despite their increasing popularity and acclaimed potential, COs are not “plug and play” solutions or simple technical fixes for citizen-based in situ data collection, stakeholder engagement or participation in the decision-making process, thus SMURBS will adopt best practices collected within WP2.SMURBS aspires to create a new generation of smart citizens that will be more capable and more active in local governance and decision making. This ambition will be pursued in two ways. Firstly, Citizen Observatories, under the innovative observational platforms task (T3.4), will transform citizens to “early scientists”. Although some projects are already exploring this perspective, scientific guidance is one of the not yet fulfilled requirements for successful CO and is what SMURBS will heavily bring into play. Secondly, the output of the array of EO platforms will be translated into easy to grasp indicators for the urban population and smart distribution of this information via online platforms or smart-phone apps will boost awareness and engage citizens.

GEOSS and Copernicus

The reinforcement of the European Leadership within GEO post-2015 is one of SMURBS key goals. The activities of SMURBS pushes forward the strategic priorities laid out in the GEO Strategic Plan 2016-2025 regarding the implementation of GEOSS. The ambition of the project is to contribute to GEOSS activity in the component of urban areas. This will be achieved by reaching a critical mass of partners, stakeholders involved and EO smart-urban solution developed, tested and deployed. A special mention should also be given to the geographical extent as the project also does some ground work outside Europe, in Bolivia and China laying the foundations for future interactions.

A feedback effect is conversely expected, that of bringing the partners of the consortium closer to the GEO vision and modus operandi. A “bring your science under the GEO umbrella” paradigm resonates throughout the consortium, both for the advancement of GEO's objectives and the multiplying effect such a collaboration would bring to the individual researcher.

Concerning the Copernicus advancement, currently “the information from the Copernicus data collection and services needs to be combined with national, regional and local information, combining EO data with other data from various sources including those on which GEOSS is focused on”. SMURBS will combine Copernicus data and downstream services with regional, national and local data. The exploitation is currently anaemic and the project aspires to pave the way for active, hands-on uptake of the Copernicus Services including Atmospheric Monitoring (CAMS), Land Monitoring (CLMS) and Emergency Management (EMS). Additionally, the validation of Copernicus products with a variety of platforms in a wide geographical area will also advance the Copernicus Programme.


At the core of the proposed actions lies the creation and exploitation of a portfolio of Smart Urban Solutions, based on the full exploitation of Earth Observation (EO) products, towards the targeted environmental pressures. The portfolio will entail tools and solutions in support of urban planners, decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders. This also involves support for monitoring of indicators (e.g. relevant to SDGs, Urban EVs, indicators for Disasters Risk Reduction (DRR)- Sendai Framework).

SMURBS brings together an interdisciplinary team of highly-performing scientists (atmospheric scientists, EO experts, software engineers, semantics scientists, etc.). The perplexed urban environmental issues necessitate interdisciplinary action. This was apparent from the get-go of SMURBS and during the synthesis of the proposal, where scientific and technological background and advancement were shared and cross-fertilized between the partners to develop the conceptual basis of the project. This effort will culminate in the portfolio of smart urban solutions, where “hard-sciences” will work together to provide concrete solutions and, conversely, each partner will extend his ideas to a more service-wise innovation.

The portfolio resolves around a constellation of partners and cities each of which contributes to and takes up accordingly from the portfolio. The portfolio will be exploited in WP5 in the pilot cities which will provide invaluable feedback for the fine-tuning of the portfolio’s elements, which, by the closure of WP4, will have reach a deployable status paving the way for replication.

Finally, SMURBS will introduce individual portfolio elements into the EO marketplace.