Intelligent City Performance Platforms: The backbone of smart cities

Cities are plagued by congestion, high levels of pollution, traffic-related emissions, and inefficient transport. In addition, more and more companies and commercial offerings are withdrawing from urban areas, making cities less attractive as a place to do business. But not all is lost!

Urban administrations often have access to data that could eventually transform cities into sustainable locations worth living in. City planners and decision makers could build liveable cities and neighbourhoods based on available data and smart city concepts.


What smart city projects have in common?

In general, two different approaches could be seen. On one side, investors are pushing ambitious visions that start city building from scratch. On the other side, city planners, politicians or citizens are improving existent cities with smart city solutions. Aspects of novel smart city visions or approaches to improve existing cities or neighbourhoods could be clustered in similar areas. Let’s dive into a few aspects.

From the early days of mere digitalised smart city visions, the concept has evolved into more practical and social aspects. Smart cities follow a human centred approach with focus on community building, liveable areas and short distances for daily tasks. Cities like Paris lead the so called 15-minutes city movement. Visionary new city and community building approaches, engaging citizens, are implemented from the beginning. These ventures are sustained by digital services and participatory platforms to support communication, simplify access to critical information and exchange opportunities between all stakeholders.

Urban space is allocated to green areas and parks to create enjoyable neighbourhoods and to bring down heat and emissions. In the near future, the liveability score of neighbourhoods could be further improved through thoroughly deployed autonomous mobility solutions, supporting the roll-out of car free neighbourhoods giving space to more sustainable micro mobility modes.

How far some cities drive the boundaries of what is perceived as the smart city concept, show recent endeavours to reach zero waste. Optimised waste management and treatment is one area that is part of many smart city concepts. Visionary cities that are planned from scratch, try to implement underground infrastructure for transportation, logistics or utility services in order to use limited ground-level space more efficiently.

More close to the urban reality that we are living in today, are current projects optimising parking. It’s a top priority for citizens to search and find parking spaces in their city with a minimum effort. Being able to use single sign-on for all mobility services can be a huge added value for citizens further promoting multimodality and uptake of sustainable transport means.

The list of accessible benefits and near-future opportunities arising from smart digital services has been growing over the past decades and will evolve further as long as the digitalisation area is driving the transformation of our cities. What is essential today is to start making connections, create efficiencies and find synergies for the benefit of the citizens, as it has never been easier to make these synergies between public and private services thanks to their growing digital availability.


The backbone of sustainable smart city performance

The challenge is that the digital services used to collect and manage this data are often implemented as standalone solutions. And it is not just the disconnected silos of data that become a problem with this approach. Without a strategy for integrating the individual services or utilising them in other ways – all these natural interfaces of urban life remain largely unused.

The base of a successful smart city is envisioned to be a digital platform that is connecting the different service verticals and related data pools on a horizontal layer. Those platforms can go beyond just urban mobility services, as they could also simplify access to digital health services, public services, education, and cultural activities. The platform is the digital connection of all relevant areas and services within a city, including interfaces for citizens and organisations to interact with the city as well as for authorities to orchestrate, manage and control the city’s performance.

Cities around the world already work on smart city platforms, also called Intelligent City Performance (ICP) platforms.


ICP platforms as a digital hub for public and private services

Offering ICP platforms as open-source and neutral digital hub enables cities and corporates to jointly develop use cases that directly impact the liveability of cities. Available urban data sources can be integrated and supplemented with any information that is required for a holistic decision process. Additional inputs can be delivered by local business through an open partnership model. This way, the ICP platform becomes a full-scale network that functions as a marketplace for company and city services in the urban ecosystem.


Use case #1: Achieving strategic climate and sustainability goals through partnerships

An ICP platform can help cities to actively manage and monitor its climate and sustainability goals. Existing strategic KPIs for sustainability targets can be used to guide the city’s activities. The ICP platform gives cities a way to manage climate and sustainability actions based on AI methods, monitor their effectiveness, and benefit from best practices in the ICP city network. For this purpose, previously unconnected data sources and services are integrated, creating an open ecosystem of digital services from globally and regionally active companies and cities.


Use case #2: Active traffic flow management & parking service operations

Sensor data related to emissions and air-quality could be implemented into an ICP platform. Data can then be used to manage traffic-flow intelligently to control and steer the emission levels both by short-term operational and mid/long-term strategic measures such as the promotion of electric mobility services. Conditionally utilised parking spaces and charging stations gain additional attractiveness through value-added services such as connected mobility, delivery services and parking space reservations. The impact could be maximised by upgrading existing car parking spaces with charging stations (Charging + X) and access to other mobility options and services (Parking + X). These services help to reduce urban traffic and incentivise intermodal journeys.

All these actions ultimately improve citizens' quality of life in urban areas and make cities smart and worth living in – now and for future generations.

Research conducted by MHP and German publisher Motor Presse Stuttgart in 2021 indicates that all relevant stakeholders (cities, companies, and citizens) can see clear added value in ICP services and are also willing to invest in or pay for these services:

  • Almost 70 percent of the cities involved in the survey believe that integrated smart city platforms are valuable tools for achieving their climate and sustainability goals. Cities would regularly invest in building such platforms.
  • Businesses can primarily generate added value through the horizontal integration of different services via a central platform.
  • The study indicates that 70 percent of citizens are willing to spend one or two euros per month to use a single platform.


Augustin Friedel is a well-known expert and advisor for smart city and mobility transformation solutions. He teamed up with his MHP colleagues Thomas Schäfer and Björn Alt to share the relevance of smart city solutions. The mobility transformation team at MHP is working with cities, private and public corporates, and authorities to solve today's mobility challenges and to prepare for the future. Thanks to the competencies and the network of MHP, customers could implement concepts and solutions for smart city and mobility platforms. In the region around Aachen, Germany, the ICP approach supports municipalities to offer solutions for the Healthcare & Mobility sector. A pilot (Smart and Worth Living in – The City of the Future with the Intelligent City Performance Platform) is underway in Leipzig.


Reach out to Augustin and the authors of this insight if you would like to discuss the ICP platform approach and smart city solutions further. 

Published on 13 October 2022.