Smart City Expo 2023 Wraps Up with Record 25,300 Attendees

Smart City Expo 2023 Wraps Up with Record 25,300 Attendees

Claire O'Neill's practical urban sustainability and the Barcelona Declaration, a crucial moment for collaboration among European cities. Curitiba winner of the "City Award"

The success of the Smart City Expo World Congress 2023 speaks volumes about the global community's dedication to forging a future where smart cities not only flourish but also play a pivotal role in addressing climate change. 

The event witnessed a remarkable turnout, with 25,300 attendees, 1,106 exhibitors, and 577 speakers, showcasing the widespread interest and engagement of governments, industry leaders, and urban experts. The impressive participation from over 800 cities and 140+ countries underscored the event's international significance. The 273 sessions delved into crucial discussions, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and solutions. 

This collective effort solidifies the event as a key driver in propelling the smart city movement forward, with a clear emphasis on sustainability, inclusivity, resilience, and collaboration in the face of the urgent challenges of our time.

Claire O'Neill, Championing Action for Urban Sustainability

One of the prominent figures at the event, Claire O'Neill, Former UK Climate and Energy Minister and Global Decarbonisation Advisor, emphasized the need to address urban sustainability challenges and debunk the misconceptions surrounding cities' impact on the environment. She highlighted the difficulties in achieving sustainability, including institutional involvement, costs, disruption, leadership, and the tendency to wait for perfect solutions. 

Instead, she called for taking action and prioritizing specific initiatives like sustainable tourism, transportation, and renovating old buildings for energy efficiency. O'Neill encouraged a pragmatic and action-oriented approach to urban sustainability, and taking advantage of low-hanging fruit such as tackling methane emissions.

Cities Fighting to Curb the Climate Emergency

In the session titled "Cities Fighting to Curb the Climate Emergency," experts shared their insights on sustainable urban development. Prof. Carlos Moreno highlighted Paris's 15-Minute-city Happy Proximity initiative, a pivotal element of the city's decade-long urban development plan. This effort aims to create a socially diverse urban environment based on proximity, a compact and sustainable city of short distances, transcending changes in mayoral leadership. 

Annalisa Boni, the Mayor of Bologna, emphasized the power of regulation as a catalyst for climate action, highlighting the need for collaboration among stakeholders and public-private partnerships. 

Anne Weidenbach from the EU Commission underscored the importance of local engagement and the creation of tools to support governments and local authorities.

The Barcelona Declaration: European Cities for European Policymaking and Democracy

The Barcelona Declaration: European Cities for European Policymaking and Democracy stands as a groundbreaking testament to the imperative of collaboration among cities, particularly against the backdrop of nations often engaged in competitive dynamics. 

The declaration was recently signed at the European Mayors' Summit in Barcelona and later presented at the event. The declaration outlines strategies for enhancing collaboration between cities and the EU, such as improving cities' access to EU funds, involving them in EU Presidencies across relevant areas, and reforming the European Committee of the Regions to increase city administrations' participation. The summit gathered 30 city leaders, including mayors and representatives from cities such as Athens, Paris, Ghent, Bilbao, and Tirana.

Mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni, emphasized that the true engine of Europe lies in its cities, and the voices of these urban centers must resonate more than ever within the European Union. The declaration, introduced by Mayor Collboni, signifies a united front of cities dedicated to fortifying democracy and amplifying their role in EU policymaking.

Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart of Tallinn passionately urged Europe to involve its cities, emphasizing their readiness to contribute to addressing challenges like climate change, poverty, and migration. Looking ahead to 2024, a crucial year for Europe, Kõlvart highlighted the significance of cities in facing these pressing issues. 

Minister Raquel Sanchez echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the Barcelona Declaration as a call to enhance cities' participation in European policymaking. She urged a shift in understanding the EU as an interconnected fabric of cities, each dealing with shared challenges such as climate change, inequalities, and misinformation.

The declaration thus emerges as a cornerstone for fostering a collaborative, democratic, and interconnected Europe, where cities play a central role in shaping the future of the continent.

New hubs of innovation to spearhead change within the framework of the Smart City Expo

The second edition of Tomorrow.Mobility co-organized by Fira de Barcelona and EIT Urban Mobility, has further solidified its success with an outstanding conference program. This program delves into crucial aspects of urban planning for sustainable cities and the challenges hindering the transformation of mobility. Top speakers this year included Seleta Reynolds, CIO Metro Los Angeles, and Timothy Papandreou, Emerging Technologies Global Advisor. They both stressed the need for governments to wake up, learn, and understand that they hold the policy and innovation keys to the new urban era.

Notably, this year introduces two new hubs for innovation, Tomorrow.Building, which focuses on the pivotal role of building and infrastructure in achieving net-zero sustainable cities, and Tomorrow.BlueEconomy, which explores the integration of cities with their ports and seas. This extension broadens the scope, presenting economic and nature-based solutions that offer additional opportunities for cities to both benefit from and contribute to holistic solutions.

With these valuable additions, the Smart City Expo World Congress is delivering on its commitment to assist cities in becoming not only part of the solution but essential contributors to addressing the world's most pressing challenges, rather than being perceived as part of the problem.

Cutting-edge Technologies at the Expo, Spotlight on Country and City Pavilions

The expo was a dazzling showcase of cutting-edge technologies, featuring a remarkable 1,106 exhibitors offering innovative solutions for sustainable cities, mobility, urban planning, and efficient smart infrastructure. 

The impact of Artificial Intelligence was palpable, revolutionizing diverse technologies and creating a myriad of possibilities for vibrant neighborhoods worldwide. Noteworthy partners like Dell Technologies, Nvidia, and Microsoft provided a robust platform for city intelligence. 

The integration of Digital Twins by companies like Honeywell and Dassault Systemes demonstrated advanced applications in simulation, real-time data, and predictive maintenance. 

Weather monitoring solutions, including cameras from Axis Communications and IoT sensors from Libelium, offer solutions to critical concerns like recurrent flooding, droughts, and air quality emphasizing the significance of tackling the effects of extreme weather. 

This edition witnessed a strong global presence, with heightened participation from Asia, including Korea, China, Japan, and Singapore, and most notably Saudi Arabia, and North America with the USA and Canada. Additionally, the event featured a robust representation from solid European regions and countries such as Spain, The Nordics, Germany, France, and many more, totaling over 800 cities and more than 140 countries.

World Smart City Awards 2023

The 2023 World Smart City Awards celebrated outstanding contributions across various categories, showcasing the global commitment to innovative urban development. The prestigious City Award recognized the City of Curitiba, Brazil, for its remarkable Agency for Development. 

The Leadership Award honored Anna Lisa Boni, Mayor of Bologna, and Claudio Orrego, Governor of Santiago de Chile, for their exemplary leadership. 

In the realm of innovation, the Laboratorio de Innovación Pública de Bogotá-iBO in Colombia and Tetratinu Limited in Lagos, Nigeria, emerged victorious with the Innovation Award

The Tomorrow.Mobility Award celebrated the Konya Metropolitan Municipality in Turkey, while the City of Breda in the Netherlands earned the Living & Inclusion Award

Saudi Aramco received the Infrastructure & Building Award for Dhahran Smart City, and the US Mayors Roundtable secured the Governance and Economy Award

Bordeaux Métropole clinched the Energy and Environment Award, the City of Tampere excelled in the Enabling Tech category, and the Safety & Security Award was claimed by Gangnam-gu Office in the Republic of Korea. 

These winners exemplify excellence in smart city initiatives, setting a high standard for urban development worldwide.

Uniting the global community of cities

The Smart City Expo World Congress 2023, with its record-breaking participation, cutting-edge technologies, groundbreaking inspirational talks, and recognition of exemplary initiatives, stands as a beacon of progress, uniting the global community in forging sustainable and resilient cities of the future. 

Watch out for next year as the event is expanding significantly, occupying the two largest pavilions at Fira de Barcelona Gran Via, namely, pavilions 2 and 3.


Esther Fuldauer The Smart City Journal

Esther Fuldauer

Journalist, The Smart City Journal


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