ERASMUS MUNDUS – SMACC’S
MSc in Smart Cities and Communities
SMACCs is an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD)
The programme is designed to educate the next generation of engineers and researchers in Smart Cities and Communities by learning best practice from 4 of Europe’s most prestigious universities and by fostering collaboration with industry through research. Students will have the opportunity to acquire new and valuable skills and benefit form state-of-the-art research at regional and transnational level, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, employability, knowledge exchange and multidisciplinary learning.
Smart Cities and Communities (SMACCs) programme is a two-year journey, four countries, four top universities, plenty of opportunities and challenges, and worldwide cultural cooperation. The Belgium…
Discover Brussels by bike
Smart Cities and Communities (SMACCs) programme is a two-year journey, four countries, four top universities, plenty of opportunities and challenges, and worldwide cultural cooperation.
The Belgium chapter started in a post-Covid-19 era, at the beginning of March 2022. Cities were coming back to life, yet based on a new dynamic. SMAACS students met some peers and professors for the first time which marked the start of new personal and professional discoveries.
Leveraging the re-opening of streets, Professors Sesil Koutra and Frederic John prepared a bicycle tour in Brussels City to illustrate on-site some insights shared in their respective courses Sustainable Urban Planning and Buildings and Sustainable Transport in Cities.
In a nutshell, the aim of the bicycle trip was to explore the European capital, gain a first impression and make some initial notes regarding the double course project aiming at making Brussels smarter and more sustainable. Eventually, everyone was committed to put on the table relevant ideas in order to smooth or solve existing city issues.
We all greedily sought possible drawbacks in city infrastructure, facilities, urban and mobility structure to push off from something in our project. However, very soon our attention had been rapidly switched from that narrow approach to the excitement about such an experience and we became charmed by Brussels. We moved with the rhythm of the city. We merged with the traffic flow, listened to facts about the city, observed modern transport modes in operation, noticed some of the climate change aspects impacting the city and saw concrete examples of the city’s transformation for a better mobility. Surely the allotted time was not enough for a proper project research. During this bike tour we however received our preliminary seed of interest and willingness to come back and have a look at the city from diverse perspectives.
Looking ahead, I would admit that thanks to this bike tour we were later more focused (diversity of devices, vehicles, storage, direct and second usage, goals of proposing and outcomes in terms of energy, mobility, society and environment), aware (modes of transport, last-mile offers, innovations, decarbonization impact) and prepared (solution implementation estimation, challenges, advantages and disadvantages) for participating to one of the largest European mobility show: Autonomy Paris & the Urban Mobility Weekly (find out more about this event and other useful topics exploring my brilliant peers’ articles through SMAACs website/blog).
As mentioned before, for most of the class and for professors it was the first significant face-to-face/an ice-breaking gathering. From this angle, I found the organized Brussels trip pretty strategic not only from an academic perspective but also from a social angle (which is extremely important for an international group of students as SMACCs). Moreover, personally, I consider our trip as a prototype of any community, entrepreneurial model which requires teammates to respect, interact and build results together. I do believe this activity excellently delivered useful course material as well as demonstrated SMACCs program great strategy toward an inner social atmosphere.
I am deeply thankful for the bicycle double target tour particularly, and for the inspiring energy shared by our professors, and for the efforts provided by the SMACCs Consortium for developing every step of our study agenda.
With the advent of high-technology implementations in our global cities, along with campaigns to achieve sustainability, the concept of ‘smart cities’ has arisen with the goal of delivering human-cent…
How the SMACCs program aligns with today’s professional challenges and opportunities?
With the advent of high-technology implementations in our global cities, along with campaigns to achieve sustainability, the concept of ‘smart cities’ has arisen with the goal of delivering human-centred services and improving the quality of living of its people. Cities around the world are transforming into smart cities and they strive to continuously develop. These global transformations are affecting millions of lives, especially now that the number of people living in cities is growing. One of the goals of the SMACCs programme is to develop smart city professionals that will address the challenges accompanying the smart transformations of our cities. I describe below some of the most striking opportunities that were offered to me as a SMACCs scholar.
With SMACCs, as part of the international Erasmus Mundus programme, I met and became friends with many talented young individuals coming from all over the world. The experience of working with several personalities, understanding a variety of cultures, studying in various environments, and learning from completely different perspectives, is I believe the most invaluable training I had from the programme. I believe this kind of international collaboration has given me a glimpse of what will be the norm in the future of working. The world continuously faces new challenges, and these get more complex every single time. If we are about to deal with challenges that are global, it just makes sense to solve them through partnerships that are global as well, just like what we do in SMACCs.
On the learning side of the programme, SMACCs taught us about the cutting-edge technologies that are being implemented in the cities of Europe in the sectors of energy, mobility, buildings, and urban planning. We applied these theories by doing challenging engineering projects such as the following:
- Design of heating, ventilation, and cooling system with renewable energy and battery storage of residential structures with the use of TRNSYS software.
- Reliability assessment of power generation units with renewable energy and load flow calculations of power distribution with microgrids.
- Performance study of solar thermal implementation on domestic hot water use.
- Preliminary design and performance verification of wind turbine technologies.
Our projects in SMACCs have given me insights into how technologies in our smart cities are continuously developing through innovations, research, and development. While the number of technologies being taught can be overwhelming, I feel that understanding them gave me the flexibility to develop technical solutions for any kind of problems in cities I would face in the near future. With my new knowledge, I can optimise solutions from various available technologies, either choosing or combining them, depending on the challenge needed to be addressed.
Urban and mobility problems in cities:
One of my favourite parts of the programme is the opportunity to work on real-life urban and mobility project, focusing on one of the most complex cities in Europe: the city of Brussels. Along with our skills acquired during our previous careers, we managed to develop solutions for the city, by applying our new knowledge learned in the SMACCs programme. This activity taught us how to become resourceful, and how to communicate with the right authorities to acquire the figures and data needed to develop solutions that can change the city positively. As I dig down to countless but interrelated problems occurring in Brussels, I had the opportunity to learn from urban planners of Europe the best practices for solving urban challenges. I came up with what I perceived as the optimal solution for the city, which is to implement multimodal transport hubs in its suburbs and outskirts. From this activity, I really developed an entirely different perspective on how cities should be and what they can be. But above all the concepts and theories we learned from the course, I believe the creativeness and critical thinking as a city planner are the most important skills we developed from the project. Because of this, I am more confident to deal with real-world projects and excited to face more challenges in our cities as they continue to become smarter and more sustainable.
Sustainability has lately attracted an enormous momentum within the industry and civil society, as the effects of climate change are becoming more and more tangible, especially in cities. As students starting the SMACCs programme, we thought that we already knew much about sustainability, but after SMACCs exposed us to several discussions and learning activities such as the preparation of a Climate Fresk, we did realize the size of the challenges we still have to address as future professionals. More importantly, as an educated graduate student in smart cities, it will now be my responsibility to create a ripple effect about my knowledge in sustainability, and to become an ambassador for driving positive actions that will address climate change challenges. I feel now that, regardless of my future career and professional opportunities, sustainability will always be part of my working values.
Overall, I believe the SMACCs programme is one of the best available learning opportunities for any city professionals. I can confidently say that being part of the programme changed my life forever. But more importantly, I believe that the knowledge we obtained can be used to change the lives of people around us and the environment we are living with. I will always be thankful to SMACCs because they empowered me to be someone who can bring positive change to cities and to people.
Our planet currently faces a tremendous number of challenges to ensure the transition to a decarbonized society without compromising the quality of life: energy and resources supply and usage, appropr…
How the SMACCs program aligns with today’s professional challenges and opportunities?
Our planet currently faces a tremendous number of challenges to ensure the transition to a decarbonized society without compromising the quality of life: energy and resources supply and usage, appropriate urban planning for our constantly growing cities, health, big data as a support to all these challenges, etc. In my opinion, the SMACCs programme comes up with a plan that appropriately prepare students to study and innovate on four of the main challenges that our cities face nowadays and will have to face for the upcoming years. These challenges are divided into four main domains: energy supply, buildings energy efficiency, urban planning and mobility, and Information and Communication Technologies (Energy supply, Urban planning, Energy Efficiency, and Big data).
The energy supply challenge, and the transition from conventional fossil generation to decentralized renewable generation which can be hosted in cities, is more particularly addressed during the first semester I took at Heriot-Watt University, where I learned a lot on emerging green electricity generation systems and their integration into smart grids and microgrids.
Mobility, as a major source of GHG emissions, is another important lever on which the city planners can act. In that context, sustainable transport and its interconnections with urban planning, together with the integration of energy technologies (heating, cooling, storage, etc.) into efficient energy systems, have been studied during my second semester at the University of Mons, in Belgium.
Acting on the demand side by reducing energy consumption is also of the highest importance to face the decarbonization challenge, in an economical way. In that context, I had the chance to follow amazing courses at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao during my current and third semester, focusing on the energy efficiency of buildings in cities.
Finally, big data analytics appear as key enablers of these changes and can accompany cities into their smart transformation. In order to take advantage of big data to make our cities smarter, the SMACCs programme offers the possibility to study a full semester at International Hellenic University in Greece. The courses focus mainly on big data and Cloud Computing, data mining, web programming and software and mobile applications development. Although I have not followed a semester at IHU (a SMACCs scholar has indeed to choose three out of the four universities in his study path), I have been exposed to these technologies through seminars given by specialists invited from the four SMACCs universities and their partners, and I will have the opportunity to develop these skills during my Master Thesis conducted during the fourth and last semester of study, according to my wishes and needs.
Overall, I believe that the SMACCs Programme offers the possibility to specialize in many different technological fields, while keeping the scope on their integration at the Cities and Communities scale. And as a future SMACCs alumni, with the knowledge that I have gained, I can ensure that I will be able lead the change in this field in my region.
Autonomy Paris is a trade show for innovative mobility solutions. The first edition of Autonomy Paris was held in 2016 and it was the first of its kind in mobility sector. The 6th edition o…
Autonomy Paris is a trade show for innovative mobility solutions. The first edition of Autonomy Paris was held in 2016 and it was the first of its kind in mobility sector. The 6th edition of Autonomy Paris held this past 16th to 17th March 2022. The event took place in Porte de Versailles, in the…
Autonomy Paris is a trade show for innovative mobility solutions. The first edition of Autonomy Paris was held in 2016 and it was the first of its kind in mobility sector. The 6th edition of Autonomy Paris held this past 16th to 17th March 2022. The event took place in Porte de Versailles, in the city of Paris, ironically right in front of a classic car exhibition. The mobility show gathered mobility stakeholders: B2B (Business to Business), B2G (Business to Government), innovators, experts, suppliers, and policy makers to foster collaboration addressing tomorrow’s mobility, latest trends, and expert’s seminar, for city residents and corporates.
This edition of Autonomy Paris 2022 featured one of our own University of Mons (UMONS) lecturer, Frederic John, who had two engagements respectively about urban logistics: understanding, optimising, steering, innovating; data at the heart of the challenge and urban mobility: reducing the stress, keeping the flow – a discussion on accelerating efficiency through data partnerships. The conference was also attended by ten UMONS scholars from the MS. Smart Cities and Communities (SMACCs) as an initiative and part of the Sustainable Transport in Cities (STC) course taught by Frederic John himself.
I was one of the 10 SMACCs students and motivated to join the conference to broaden my understanding on sustainability. Transport sector for instance, accounts for 37% of CO2 emissions from end-use sectors referring to article by International Energy Agency published in 2022. I’m interested how transport and mobility solutions could improve sustainability. Autonomy Paris was organized in 8 verticals, among which is the E-mobility and Infrastructure vertical. One of the presenters in this vertical was from Autofleet, a company providing solutions for fleets and mobility operators. One presentation in our STC class by Engie Laborelec indicated that in the long run electric vehicles (EVs) are more environmentally friendly as opposed to internal combustion engines cars (ICE). The seminar’s title by Autofleet was Accelerating the Path to Electric Fleets which addressed the measures that could be taken to expedite the transformation to electric fleet. Some key take aways from Autofleet presentation were:
- Fleets should be incentivised to adopt Electric Vehicles (EVs). The higher the utilization of EVs fleet, the more likely the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of EVs are becoming less compared to ICE cars. One case study presented was the city of Houston, wherein the municipality is purchasing EVs to replace aging fleet.
- Increase of fleet utilisation could also be achieved by optimizing charging strategy. Instead of implementing one long charging during one course of the day (Naive Charging), an alternative called Optimized Charging should be opted, i.e., repeated short charging period during the course of the day.
- There is a correlation between types of battery chargers to utilization/revenue. The conclusion for the revenue utilization increase is the following: slow charger yields 74.2% increase, 81.5% for fast charging and 82.1% for rapid charging. Considering the cost and benefit analysis, fast charging is the optimum alternative.
The other seminar I participated was in Active and Micro Mobility vertical. It was presented by the authority of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (SQY) who has implemented self-service e-scooters in SQY, i.e., a new town in Paris greater area. E-scooters as part of micro mobility has seen a significant growth referring to one article by Cubic Telecom. I personally tried e-scooter in Brussels with somewhat mixed feelings about the experience. On one hand it was fun to ride the e-scooter but at the same time felt the price was on the higher side compared to conventional public transport such as bus or metro. However, it seemed the e-scooter users in SQY showed positive feedback. The following numbers are some of the highlighted positive experiences from the users:
- About 57% of users use e-scooters to go to work.
- At around 39% of users suggested that they move more and more easily compared to the past.
- When commuters missed the bus or the train, 37% of them will use the e-scooters.
- It’s used for short trips as an augmented walk.
The e-scooter users cited that the service is intriguing due to it is convenient and fast (69% of respondents), it completes other transport modes (57% respondents), and it is generally deemed environmentally friendly. Overall, 78% of users gave averaged rating of more than 4/5 stars. E-scooter seems like viable services to fill peri-urban mobility needs.
In summary, Autonomy Paris 2022 was an enriching and educative experience for me and my peers in SMACCs. Over 200 sustainable mobility players participated with half of the industrial players are international. With such numbers and diverse participants, it paved the way for SMACCs students to network and get the latest insights and innovation for mobility solutions. In the future, this field trip should be encouraged and incorporated in the class-syllabus such that the students could have first-hand experience engaging with industry players and be exposed to real-world challenges facing the industry.
 POLIS, « Autonomy Paris 2022, » February 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.polisnetwork.eu/event/autonomy-paris-2022/. [Accessed July 2022].  Start Ups Magazine, « AUTONOMY PARIS AT PORTE DE VERSAILLES PARIS ON MARCH 16TH-17TH, » 2022. [Online]. Available: https://startupsmagazine.co.uk/article-autonomy-paris-porte-de-versailles-paris-march-16th-17th. [Accessed July 2022].  Autonomy Paris, « About Autonomy, » 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.autonomy.paris/en/trade-show/about/. [Accessed July 2022].  International Energy Agency, « Transport Improving the sustainability of passenger and freight transport, » International Energy Agency, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.iea.org/topics/transport. [Accessed July 2022].  Cubic Telecom, « Micromobility: Going large in 2022, » Cubic Telecom, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.cubictelecom.com/blog/micromobility-going-large-in-2022/. [Accessed July 2022].