Urban problems/pressures, user needs and possible smart solutions in the areas of air quality and health, urban growth and migration, disasters, as well as on general aspects have been collected through different types of interactions with a number of stakeholders from authorities, the science community and the public.
The methods used included an online survey, a workshop with round table discussions, individual interviews and a SMURBS relevant screening of the “Copernicus Users’ Requirement uptake” prepared by the NEXTSPACE consortium.
The results are here synthesized into the below key messages:
Higher spatial resolution is demanded, at least in monitoring basic air pollutants, and new pollutants, with potentially high health risks, should be gradually incorporated in regulatory urban AQ monitoring. Online, real-time delivery of AQ information should be the driving target and both smart sensors and citizen participation emerge as promising additions to a city’s AQ monitoring arsenal. With respect to AQ in-situ measurement networks and especially to the new mobile sensor technologies, the certification of measurement devices is of utmost importance for the credibility of the observation platforms.
Bridging regional with city scale air quality models, and utilizing them in a complementary fashion, to balance between high spatial resolution needs, overall accuracy and available resources, is the way to fill spatial monitoring gaps, provide trustworthy forecasts and develop effective mitigation strategies.
Near-real time and offline source apportionment are necessary in modern times, in excess to standard monitoring and model forecast, in order to determine individual source contribution and to assess the impact of mitigation strategies.
The need to understand the perplexed linkage between air pollution and health symptoms/diseases is imperative. That would increase the perception of health impacts on behalf of the public and policy makers and would unfold a great number of tools for personal exposure information, which is the request.
Tailored AQ information needs to be communicated through the appropriate channels and current facilities - Services should be adjusted to provide localized and personalized information.
EO is able to overcome the strong dependence on locality manifested in urban densification or urban sprawl and should be effectively incorporated in decision making mechanisms to feed scenario-based city planning and/or uphold city standards.
Monitoring of loss of green areas and soil sealing should be intensified and the reciprocal relations with other urban aspects (natural disasters, micro-climate etc.) must be delineated. Smart solutions like the “localization of urban services” empower citizens to actively participate in the city’s planning decision making.
Important indicators for land use degradation are land cover, productivity of land and carbon stocks. Indicators of the degree of fragmentation and connectivity of ecosystems are also critical. Monitoring of carbon stocks and greenhouse gas budgets requires the combination of urban planning strategy and urban maps with a suite of EO methods (satellites, LIDAR, optical remote sensing).
Data quality improvement and the enrichment of geo-information layers should be the focus of EO activities in the domain of urban growth. New, smart indicators should be tailored towards covering a wide range of the perplexed urban growth elements, in a comprehensive and ready for uptake fashion from decision makers.
Migration is a sensitive issue with particular aspects of locality and synergistic effects, along distinct phases of evolution. EO combined with multiple natural hazard risk assessment mapping and safety hazard risk assessment can help address these aspects inter alia with respect to the suitability of hosting areas and prevention of emergency situations.
The critical nature of disasters makes better data quality, higher spatio-temporal resolution and enrichment of geo-information layers with more data/information imperative. Mapping of areas with high risk is a prerequisite for establishing modern disaster management systems. Exploitation of Copernicus EMS needs to be more efficiently disseminated and intensified.
Disasters present the ideal ground for new EO technologies deployment. Scientifically guided crowd-sourcing, in particular, holds great potential in upgrading the urban disaster management arsenal.
Disaster impacts are amplified by several critical factors. Services should be tailored to address them in an integrated manner and disaster management protocols are needed to enclose and coordinate these services and tools under unified platforms.
Stakeholders favour the incorporation of a uniform data and services platform in decision making processes. This entails easy linkages to tailor-made services, facilitation of access (i.e. free access, one-stop shop) and straightforward information.
Continuity of procurement of data and offered services is a reoccurring theme among public, local and regional planners, stemming from the failure to sustain projects’ results and proceed with the necessary structural changes.
Citizen Observatory (CO) initiatives’ awareness is low. In their actual implementation, issues arise on: low participation, declining interest with time, unwieldy amount of crowd-sourced data, as well as reliability and personal data use. These facts do not diminish the potential, as scientific robustness may receive second billing, in cases where crowdsourced data is used as supplementary, rather than the primary source of information.
Incentives for empowering citizens’ participation include: increase of perception of impact, gamification and achievement-based awarding, financial incentives etc. Special note is made on “dedicated crowdsourcing” from trained groups of citizens (e.g. students, public servants).
In many cases, public authorities present a lack of enthusiasm for the integration of EO data in their decision-making processes. This could be due to inertia and bureaucracy or to deficit of trained personnel, and can be healed by the establishment of a systematic collaboration between the scientific community and policy-makers, plus among policy-makers themselves.
Public authorities present reluctance in actively involving citizens in data gathering, as they fear misinterpretation of data by the public and unwarranted alarm or panic. This rising trends however, seems inevitable. Therefore, embracing and fostering such initiatives, offering the necessary scientific guidance, and sensitizing authorities to the benefits citizen participation brings, seem to be the way forward.
Public access to environmental information needs to be more transparent and an increased effort should be made in raising public awareness. Regarding dissemination of information, direct provision enhances actual registry by users. Web-portals are considered more suitable to stakeholders, while direct-to-your-phone information is deemed irreplaceable for citizens.
Clustering of EO capacities strengthens the perception of scientific evaluations by the public. In particular, providing citizens with first-hand explanations on possible impacts of environmental pressures can balance the lack of knowledge of non-experts.
Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining and other statistical analysis techniques should complement EO, to unfold the full spectrum of capacities that can be brought forward in addressing urban pressures.
The need for cooperation among research institutions and public administration is evident for moving science-based solutions into practice.
Focus on robust science though keeping it under the hood, and delivering impactful solutions to the public, should be the modus operandi for smart-city services against the environmental-related urban pressures, as well as to battle the excessive amounts of information and overlapping applications (of questioned quality), in an environment quickly becoming saturated.