Trikala, a small farming city in the center of Greece, may be an unlikely site for change, but it is now a shining example of the future of smart city living.
Set right in the heart of Greece, Trikala is a city that for all intents and purposes should be a paragon of old living and agricultural economics. However, thanks to increased investment in the town by tech firms and EU research groups alike, the city is now a shining example of the future of the smart city.
Faced with a massive debt crisis over the past decade, Greece has struggled economically and politically, leading to riots, upheavals, and a general stagnation in the economy. Many small towns have suffered due to a loss of jobs or emigration, including the city of Trikala.
To counteract a municipal debt of almost $50 million USD, the local government chose to redirect the path of the city towards a smarter, more efficient style of administration.
The city has fully adopted an electronic system of analysis for its municipal problems. From broken street lights to litter complaints, everything is logged and measured in order to increase efficiency.
Using a new online complaint system, people can now report local issues directly to the departments needed to rectify the issue, lowering the average response time from one month to just eight days.
The city also welcomed the introduction of tech companies and research projects such as a limited testing of a driverless bus system and motion activated streetlights to increase efficiency and reduce municipal costs. The local government, with the help of tech firm E-Trikala, also funded the purchase of Lego and Raspberry Pi robotics kits to all its 120 public schools.
With these efforts and its slow transition into becoming a true smart city, Trikala has managed to cut $25 million USD off of the city’s municipal debt — along with being shortlisted as one of the top 21 smart cities in the world.
Although economic benefits are at the core of the city’s move towards becoming a 21st-century city, the government is also trying to focus on changing the minds and opinions of people towards technology and, in turn, the cultural direction of Greece. One of the biggest issues facing Trikala, along with the whole country of Greece, is “Brain Drain”.
Due to a lack of employment opportunities and facilities, many young, educated Greek citizens have chosen to emigrate to other countries rather than stay in their home nation. Over 420,000 Greeks, mostly young graduates, have emigrated since the financial crash in 2008.
In their efforts to create a new, modern version of the Greek city, Trikala is encouraging these young graduates to return home and use their skills and expertise to improve their local area.
In the next decade, it is likely that the smart city will become the norm rather than the exception. With new developments like urban farms, autonomous vehicles, and advanced renewable energy systems right around the corner, smart cities are certainly here to stay.