Earth observation: An integral part of a smart and sustainable city


Over the course of the 21st century, a century in which the urbanization process of the previous one is ever on the rise, the novel smart city concept has rapidly evolved and now encompasses the broader aspect of sustainability. Concurrently, there has been a sea change in the domain of Earth observation (EO) where scientific and technological breakthroughs are accompanied by a paradigm shift in the provision of open and free data. While the urban and EO communities share the end goal of achieving sustainability, cities still lack an understanding of the value EO can bring in this direction, an next a consolidated framework for tapping the full potential of EO and integrating it in their operational modus operandi. The “SMart URBan Solutions for air quality, disasters and city growth” H2020 project (SMURBS/ERA-PLANET) sits at this scientific and policy crossroad, and, by creating bottom-up EO-driven solutions against an array of environmental urban pressures, and by expanding the network of engaged and exemplary smart cities that push the state-of-the-art in EO uptake, brings the international ongoing discussion of EO for sustainable cities closer to home and contributes in this discussion. This paper advocates for EO as an integral part of a smart and sustainable city and aspires to lead by example. To this end, it documents the project’s impacts, ranging from the grander policy fields to an evolving portfolio of smart urban solutions and everyday city operations, as well as the cornerstones for successful EO integration. Drawing a parallel with the utilization of EO in supporting several aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it aspires to be a point of reference for upcoming endeavors of city stakeholders and the EO community alike, to tread together, beyond traditional monitoring or urban planning, and to lay the foundations for urban sustainability.
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