Smart Cities in Hungary: Comments on Some Recent Experiences

Mariann Majorné Venn

By Mariann Majorné Venn, on August 26th, 2015

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The term „smart city” is definitely becoming more and more often used in Hungary when urban development or city management is concerned. Here we are commenting on some of the recent ‘smart city’ initiatives in Hungary.

T-city Szolnok: improved safety and democracy or Big Brother?

The most coherent smart city model that has been put into practice in Hungary is undoubtedly the T-City project in Szolnok launched in 2009. Szolnok is a middle sized city (75000 inhabitants) situated by the river Tisza, in the middle of the Great Plain of East Hungary. It has never been considered as a particularly lively or touristic town but in 2012 it won the title of the “most liveable city” in Hungary. This might have been one of the reasons why T-Com chose it for its smart city pilot.

The aim is to cover all the main aspects of city life – such as health, education, public administration, tourism, culture, transportation and economy – with smart solutions using the best of information & communication technology (ICT). The development of the programme involves the local community and it contains a capacity building element, such as ICT school programmes and an “Internet Academy” open to the public.

At the core of the many initiatives of T-City is the set of intelligent community cards or smart phone applications. These provide access to different services for users, but also provide information on the users to the service providers. A key aspect of these cards – besides them giving easier access to services – is safety.

• An integrated school entry card helps schools to monitor the children movements and to keep doors closed for strangers. Access to data of the students’ entrances and exits facilitates school administration but some say it may also create a ‘big brother’ situation for the children.

• An intelligent community card serves many functions: it can be used in the public transportation network, can replace tickets and passes, or can help monitor data of night club guests, thereby increasing safety. It can also be used in local stores as a discount card. Thanks to the card, new types of community decision making is possible – a kind of eDemocracy – with options for cardholders to vote or give opinion on city issues.

With the use of cards or applications, the city gathers a lot of data, which allows real time monitoring of community services. This is completed with other ICT solutions, mobile applications and city monitoring device to create a more liveable and sustainable environment by monitoring traffic, water quality and energy consumption. The company and the city hope that ideas and devices piloted in Szolnok will be spread to other towns and cities.

Smarter Transports in Budapest

Naturally a special attention is given to any smart solutions applied in Budapest, the capital city, where nearly 1/5th of the Hungarian population lives. A comprehensive smart strategy is still missing but some elements of a smarter city are already in place, particularly in the transport system.

Public transport vehicles located in real time

Budapest Transport system operator, BKK, launched its online journey planner application in 2014 under the name FUTÁR. The application gives detailed information on schedules of each stop and is also able to show the real-time position of the public transportation vehicles in operation. It can be used either on the internet, or via the application on smartphones and tablets. Such information is also displayed in many of the stops, giving the precise waiting time for the next bus or tram.

Bike sharing systems with solar cell operating stations and GPS locators

MOL Bubi”, Budapest’s community bike sharing system was inaugurated in 2014, with 1100 bikes and 75 terminals. The bikes are equipped with a GPS-based tracking system. MOL Bubi features some innovative solutions such as solar cell-operated stations and terminals with large-screen touchpads. The next step envisaged is the development of an electric-car sharing system.

Lechner Knowledge Centre designated as ‘smart city knowledge centre’

Lechner Knowledge Centre – which is also the URBACT National Dissemination Point – was nominated in July by the government to create a knowledge platform for the introduction of smart city solutions in Hungary. Such an initiative proves that the government supports strongly Hungary’s cites in their efforts to integrate smart solutions.

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