plastic pollution

Act now to beat plastic pollution

Data about plastic pollution is daunting: more than 430 million tons of plastic are produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10% is recycled, according to UN figures, and an estimated 19-23 million tons end up in lakes, rivers, and seas annually – approximately the weight of 2,200 Eiffel Towers.

But plastic pollution can be reduced by a staggering 80% by 2040 if we act now to reuse, recycle, and pivot away from plastics, says a new report from the UN Environment Programme. And that’s why the World Environment Day chose #BeatPlasticPollution as the motto of its 2023 edition.

“We must work as one – governments, companies, and consumers alike – to break our addiction to plastics, champion zero waste, and build a truly circular economy,” stated UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Together, let us shape a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.”

The problem of plastic pollution is particularly acute in urban areas: 75% of the total plastic waste generation comes from municipal solid waste streams, as high population densities and concentrated economic activity generate relevant amounts of consumption and waste.

In Europe, the EU Commission is reviewing the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation to set more ambitions targets for reducing and recycling packaging, and requiring certain levels of recyclability and recycled materials in new packaging. Cities applaud these revised rules, and are working to locally promote compostable and biodegradable items whenever possible, implement deposit and return schemes, teach people how to correctly separate household waste and increase reuse and recycling.

City-led programs are being launched in many countries around the world. In Kenya, the city of Mombasa joined WWF’s Plastic Smart Cities Initiative and committed to solve the plastic pollution problem with practical actions and educational activities. The town of Kamikatsu, set on the island of Shikoku, was the first municipality in Japan to make a “Zero Waste” declaration and is successfully managing to reuse or recycle everything it produces, with a specific focus on plastic objects and packaging. Last week, the city of York, Pennsylvania, announced its goal of becoming America's first plastic waste-free city: sites will be available for anyone to dispose plastic waste in an environmentally safe way and all plastic trash will be diverted into a global reuse program.


Is your city seeking innovative technologies to better manage municipal solid waste and tackle the problem of plastic pollution? Deep dive into our Smart Waste solution!

Zurich as human-focused City

From technology-centric to human-focused Smart Cities

Zurich, Oslo, and Canberra are at the top of the latest Smart City Index by IMD Business School. Having surveyed about 20,000 people from over 140 cities, the index delves into technology and how it is used to tackle urban challenges. European and Asian cities dominate the top 20, and – quite surprisingly – the 2023 ranking has a significant number of medium-sized cities such as Lausanne, Munich, and Bilbao in high positions, showing a strong ability to improve and move up.

This reflects a meaningful shift in the general understanding of Smart Cities. When we started talking about Smart Cities more than a decade ago, local governments were mainly challenged by energy efficiency and cost saving, so digitalization and process automation were their top concerns. That was the time – back in 2011 – when Paradox Engineering introduced its first solution for the remote monitoring and control of urban services.

Today, sustainability continues to be a mandatory goal, but there is a pressing call to move beyond and build open and innovative communities. This is not merely a semantic change. The IMD report flags it is a change in the way Smart Cities are nowadays designed and managed: no more technology-centric urban conglomerates, rather human-focused communities where sustainability and inclusion play a much larger role.

It’s the time of carbon neutral and climate friendly cities, where equity and diversity are among the key benchmarks for success. All these dimensions are now part of smart strategies and variously linked to quality of life and the ability of engaging tourists, talents, and investors. Simply put, today being smart means more than pioneering advanced technology, and relates to city attractiveness.

Smart technology increasingly supports urban planning and management. That’s the direction our Smart Urban Network evolved over time: we integrated key vertical applications such as streetlighting, parking management, solid waste collection, environmental monitoring, and more. Above all, it has become the open, interoperable network platform for cities willing to start and accelerate their smart journeys.

Learn more about our Smart Urban Network!

smart junction management

Smart junction management to improve road safety and urban mobility

Road safety is under a close scrutiny in many countries and cities around the world. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that almost 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways in 2022 — about the same number as 2021, but traffic fatalities increased by 10% from 2020 to 2021, and this is the largest year-to-year percentage increase since the agency started collecting data in 1975.

In Switzerland, the federal agency USTRA reported 241 fatalities and over 4 thousand severe casualties last year, with a relevant increase of accidents among car and e-bike drivers. In the UK, over 1,500 young drivers are killed or injured every year, so the government is in talks to ban new drivers under the age of 25 from carrying passengers in the car for the first six to twelve months of driving. At the same time, the Department for Transport confirmed a £47.5 million investment to enhance the safety of some of the most high-risk roads in England and support local councils in improving signage and making safer pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, junctions, and roundabouts.

As traffic volumes increase and the mix of circulating vehicles changes, managing road networks has become more challenging for city managers. Many cities have traffic signal control systems in place, but in most cases they are not designed to manage junctions and intersections dynamically or to dialogue with connected cars or vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems.

Smart technologies can make the difference by enabling a more accurate collection of data from critical junctions and road intersections, and making them available for quicker and more effective decisions for adaptive junction and traffic management.

Smart junction solutions should feature three core elements: smart devices to capture vehicle and pedestrian movements (motion sensors, vehicle counters, IP cameras, Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems, and more); a robust and interoperable wireless network to collect and securely transmit data; a user-friendly central management software to allow efficient junction monitoring and management. AI-based algorithms can be beneficial by aggregating real-time information from various field sources and providing actionable predictions for data-driven decisions.

The immediate benefits of smart junction management relate to enhanced urban traffic management and improved road safety. But smart junctions can add value to the city experience by supporting medium- and long-term mobility and urban planning, reducing air and noise pollution, contributing to sustainable and climate friendly communities.


How can junction management solutions be integrated in smart urban networks and smart city infrastructures? Ask our experts!

data-driven environemental action

A data-driven approach to environmental action

Dramatic global events and the climate crisis have made cities acutely aware of the need to increase resilience in all areas: energy, health, food, manufacturing and production, supply chains and more. We are constantly and sharply reminded of how much these areas are linked and the knock-on effects they can have on each other.

While it is impossible for a city to control everything, it’s clear that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why cities are increasingly investing in smart technologies that help them better understand what is going on and how environmental changes impact critical areas such as public health, energy resilience, transportation, and general liveability.

The need to provide accurate data is driving the development of the environmental sensor industry. Research house MarketandMarkets estimates the environmental monitoring market will be worth almost USD 18 billion by 2026, up almost a third from USD 14.5 billion in 2021, mostly due to augmented public awareness and stricter government regulations around air and noise pollution, or the growing need to manage extreme weather events such as rainstorms, flooding, or heat waves.

As effective as these sensors are, though, deploying and connecting them is not enough. Pressure is coming from all sides for cities to not just collect more environmental data, but to correlate and interrogate pieces of information across different areas to identify patterns and trends, and consequently take action.


Are cities mature enough for data-driven environmental action? And how can technology vendors support them? Find more in our paper ‘Building a data-driven approach to environmental action’ (free download upon registration) and watch our webinar to have insights from Jaromir Beranek (City of Prague), Guillermo del Campo (CEDINT-UPM, University of Madrid), and Julia Arneri Borghese (Paradox Engineering).

Any question? Contact us today!

ChatGPT for Smart Cities

Crazy for ChatGPT? Some cities are going for it

It’s hard to predict if ChatGPT will live up to the hype. The first-of-its kind technology backed by Microsoft debuted in November 2022, followed a few months later by Google’s version called Bard. Like any other potentially disruptive innovation, it was welcomed by both enthusiasm and skepticism, but it quickly and indisputably became a hot topic and triggered conversations about Artificial Intelligence and how it impacts society and business.

Which benefits may ChatGPT bring to cities and local governments? Administration and finance may be the first departments to take advantage of it. In Vietnam, the HMC City Department of Information and Communications is encouraging researchers and scientists to apply ChatGPT to the state management system to streamline workflows and make procedures more efficient, also acknowledging it could contribute to the design of new services to better serve people and businesses. In the US, a new ChatGPT-based tool for municipal budgeting has just emerged from beta testing, ready for cities that seek help to produce their budget books, completed with figures and text narratives about spending.

But some cities are taking some steps forward in piloting ChatGPT applications. As reported by Cities Today, Singapore is using AI language models, such as those that underpin ChatGPT, to support civil servants in ordinary tasks such as crafting policy papers, summarizing news, answering citizen queries, or managing long documents. The tool was developed by Open Government Products, Singapore’s in-house team that shapes technology to solve public sector challenges, and proved to be effective in speeding up researching and writing processes, while ensuring consistency and quality of the output.

The first utility globally to use ChatGPT is the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, which announced a new application to improve customer support. It leverages ChatGPT’s ability to interact with users through natural language to better dialogue with them, providing quick and reliable answers to their enquiries. The technology is also being piloted to write programming code and solve coding problems.

Of course, ChatGPT isn’t without criticism and its use by public bodies raised attention about possible risks related to privacy and data protection, cyber security, and other potential misuse. The opportunities for tech companies are clear enough – and the BigTech rush may soon be tied by China’s giants: Beijing is supporting key firms to invest in an open-source framework to challenge ChatGPT and develop a rival platform.

truck parking

Truck parking is a pain point for road transports

The lack of available truck parking is a well-known issue for drivers. An EU-funded study carried out in 2019 tracked only 300,000 parking places currently available in the EU, with a shortfall of 100,000 to meet total demand. Only about 7,000 of the existing parking places, less than 3%, are in safe and secure areas. The alarming data pushed the European Commission to adopt new standards and procedures for the development of a network of certified truck parking areas, but the situation for lorry drivers and their cargo hasn’t shown significant improvement so far.

Conditions in the US aren’t any better. After fuel prices and driver shortage, the lack of parking is the third-ranked issue for truck drivers, says the American Transportation Research Institute. It is directly tied to driver recruitment and retention issues, including the efforts to attract more women to the profession, as it creates safety issues for workers who often have to drive fatigued until they can find available parking or stop in undesignated parking, such as a highway shoulder or ramp.

According to the Truckload Carriers Association, 70% of drivers admit to violate federal hours-of-service rules to find parking and 96% to park in areas not designed for trucks. On the other hand, lost wages for those who park prior to running out of hours-of-service limits to find a safe parking place are estimated around 4,600 USD annually per driver.

While European and US authorities are called to expand truck parking capacity, smart technology can contribute to the improvement of rest areas along highways and frequent itineraries for heavy goods vehicles. Highway operators – such as Sanef in France – are implementing Smart Truck Parking solutions to offer safe and secure rest areas to professional drivers.

By monitoring vehicle occupancy in existing truck lots and transferring data to a centralized management system, information about parking availability can be shared in real time with drivers through variable message panels, dedicated mobile apps, or onboard truck infotainment systems. This allows drivers to plan their rest in respect of hours-of-service rules, appreciate safe rest areas, and minimize risks for their own security, as well as for other people and vehicles.


Discover our portfolio of wireless vehicle detection systems for Smart Parking and Smart Truck Parking applications: click here and don't hesitate to contact us for any additional information.

night sky in the city

Safeguarding our night sky

The world is losing its night sky. A new study published in Science calculated that between 2011 and 2022, global sky brightness increased by about 9.6% per year. Researchers leveraged the community science project Globe at Night and collected data from more than 50,000 people from around the world who recorded the number of stars they saw on clear, dark nights.

The study revealed a certain place-to-place variability: Europe saw a 6.5% increase in light pollution per year, while North America faced a 10,4% increase. The global average of 9.6% means sky brightness is doubling about every seven years, and this is not good news.

“Increasing sky brightness is a sign we are doing lighting wrong. It’s a sign we are using energy inefficiently, wasting money, exacerbating climate change, and increasing environmental impacts,” states the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

Over lighted districts and streets affect human health by possibly triggering insomnia and other diseases, but it also has negative impacts on animals and plants, disrupting wildlife, the migrations of birds, the blossoming of flowers, and more. We may object that increased light at night improves safety and discourages crime – but having bright, empty parking lots may serve little purpose.

The true question is not about more lighting in our cities, but about more intelligent lighting. As streetlights are deemed useful and necessary, IDA advises cities for responsible outdoor lighting following a simple principle: light where and when you need it, in the necessary amount, and no more.

“With dimmers, movement sensors and more, the tools exist to light our nights differently,” writes professor Paul Bogard on the Washington Post. Indeed, smart technologies can help a lot. By connecting lamps and controlling them from remote, cities can define customized lighting patterns for single districts and areas. Streetlights can be turned on/off and dimmed according to programmed schedules (ie. setting a default combination for working and festive days, for residential and industrial areas, etc.), changing them whenever necessary to mirror specific local circumstances or events.

Specific sensors allow brightness to be adjusted upon ambient light levels. Lamps may also be integrated with motion sensors, vehicle counters, tilt sensors, and other devices, triggering condition-based dynamic lighting. This is particularly useful in low-traffic areas, where lights may be further dimmed only when no vehicle or pedestrian is passing by.


Interested in a Smart Lighting solution to manage outdoor lighting responsibly? Download our paper 'Smart Lighting: how switched on are you?' and learn more about our Smart Urban Network: you will save up to 80% of power and greenhouse emissions in your city, while safeguarding your night sky.

air pollution

Air pollution: you can’t manage what you don’t measure

Air pollution is a major threat. According to the World Health Organization, it affects 99% of the world’s population and represents one of the three main causes of premature morbidity, resulting in nearly 7 million deaths globally in 2022.

Soot (fine particulate matter air pollution, PM 2.5) is among the most hazardous pollutants and many countries around the world have specific regulations in place. In Europe, the Zero Pollution Action Plan set the ambitious goal of having an environment free of harmful pollution by 2050 and cutting the annual limit value for PM 2.5 by more than half by 2030.

The United States has made major progress in reducing air pollution thanks to the Clean Air Act, but about 20.9 million people still live in areas exceeding current legal limits. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to strengthen the annual soot standard from a level of 12 micrograms to 9-10 micrograms per cubic meter, reflecting the latest scientific evidence to better protect public health.

However, the environmental organization NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) found that 118 US counties out of the 190 with average soot levels within current legal limits completely lack soot monitoring systems. “This area is home to more than 8 million people. This lack of local data collection reduces the accuracy of federal air quality forecasting […] and deprives people of crucial information they can use to better understand local air quality and protect their health”, writes the NRDC.

Can you manage air pollution if you don’t measure it? The answer is obviously no.

Governments and cities need real-time, localized, and accurate data about air quality – but also about temperature, urban heat, humidity, noise, and more – to watch changing environmental conditions and their impact on people’s health, while ensuring compliance with sustainability targets and regulations. Being environmental sensors a mature technology, nowadays they can turn from simple monitoring tools into the enablers of decision-making processes for healthier, safer, and more liveable cities.


Eager to learn how air quality and environmental sensors can contribute to citizen-centric, safe, and climate resilient urban communities? Watch our webinar – available on demand, free registration required – to have insights from Jaromir Beranek (City of Prague), Guillermo del Campo (CEDINT-UPM, University of Madrid), and Julia Arneri Borghese (Paradox Engineering).

Any question? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

zero waste cities

How to improve garbage collection in zero waste cities

The effort to reduce waste and increase recycling dates back to the late 1990s, when keywords such as ‘circular economy’ were yet to come. As climate change mitigation became a priority for national and local governments, the early 2000s saw a growing hype towards ‘zero waste’, an idea that the Zero Waste International Alliance officially defined as “the conservation of all resources (…) without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health”.

The ambitious goal was picked up by cities in the 2010s, given the improvement of solid waste management and recycling was acknowledged as one of the most effective ways to cut carbon footprint at local level. Policies and actual measures to achieve the zero-waste target (in most cases, it is set as a 90% diversion rate or higher) vary a lot, with many communities pausing or hindering their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Europe, Barcelona has recently committed to becoming a zero waste city by increasing separate waste collection rate to 67% by 2027 (the European average is about 48%) and reducing garbage generation per capita to 427 kg per year by 2027. The German Munich is walking a similar path, with local waste management company AWM acting to cut waste from households per capita to 310 kg per year by 2035 and reduce municipal garbage in landfills and waste incineration to a feasible minimum.

In the US, even cities with a stagnant recycling performance such as Chicago are hurrying up. Organics recycling was the initial focus of educational events and programs (composting systems were offered to community gardens to give residents an option for dropping off food scraps and use finished compost), but the city is also rethinking collection services to make them more efficient and effective.

Solid urban collection is indeed a pain point for many cities, which struggle to assess the best possible frequency and routes to ensure an adequate quality of service (bins to be emptied when and where needed) with cost and operational efficiency.

Here is where Smart Waste solutions can help. IoT-based technologies allow trash bins to be remotely connected and monitored, with data showing the fill level and the date and time of the latest collection, and generating alerts in case of fire, vandalism, or unauthorised bin movements.

By analysing bin-generated data, and correlating it through an intelligent routing software, waste operators can predict when containers will need emptying and dispatch trucks when really needed, or when the city prefers. This improves the quality of collection, generates efficiency and savings, and adds relevant benefits in terms of health, safety, and liveability – even in cities heading towards zero waste.


Want to learn more about our Smart Urban Network and how we help cities and utilities enhance solid waste management? Contact our Smart Waste experts!

Smart buildings are pivotal for carbon neutral cities

Smart buildings for carbon neutral cities

Residents in New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston and St. Louis should better pay attention to local regulations limiting large buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage. As reported by Smart Cities Dive, these five cities will soon start to fine building owners who fail to comply with newly enacted or updated rules.

In New York, fines will start in 2024 for commercial buildings larger than 25,000 gross square feet exceeding the GHG emission limits set by the Climate Mobilization Act. San Francisco unveiled the goal of zero GHG emissions from large buildings by 2035, while specific emission and energy consumption standards will apply in Washington D.C. for privately owned buildings larger than 50,000 square feet starting 2026.

The decarbonization of buildings is a multifaceted challenge and, despite the urgent call for climate action in cities, it seems like the gap between building performance and the decarbonization targets is widening. According to the latest report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, in 2021 operational energy demand for heating, cooling, lighting and equipment in buildings increased by around 4% from 2020 and 3% from 2019.

The building sector is seeking sustainable innovation. The use of alternative materials is increasingly explored, together with the integration of energy generation systems and CO2 capture and storage technologies. Today, a growing number of large buildings features IoT-enabled Building Management Systems (BMS) to monitor and control key equipment for lighting, heating, cooling, and video surveillance, as well as occupancy levels and operational effectiveness.

Tenants, building owners, and management operators can benefit from connected sensors, algorithms, and advanced analytics to live and work in a safer and more efficient environment. Lights are automatically switched off or dimmed if nobody is around, heating and cooling are adjusted to minimize power consumption without compromising individual comfort. These Smart Buildings technologies are successful in minimizing the environmental impact and the consumption of natural resources such as energy and water.

Energy-efficient buildings also generate cost saving opportunities and are even more inclusive. Think of automated door opening, voice control devices, and fall detection systems, providing easier accessibility for disabled people.

Smart buildings are pivotal for carbon neutral cities, said the UN Environment Programme during recent COP27 Climate Summit. Let’s not forget the building sector accounts for over 34% of overall energy demand and around 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions.