Home » City SmartUp: The tools to fire up your project in Turkey

City SmartUp: The tools to fire up your project in Turkey

by Can Uludag

(Special Article)


The world’s urbanization process is definitely the main argument used to justify the urgent need of smarter cities. The world is facing an incredible increase in urban problems due to the population growth. The most common argument to justify Smart City projects is related to United Nation reports showing that by 2030 it will probably be over 70% of the world population. But the question is if this statement alone is strong enough to convince the most sceptic ones. Since this problem is more related to developing countries, how to make it a relevant topic to be discussed in Europe? The first argument of this paper considers that as cities are definitely collapsing due to the world urbanization, the discussion about smart cities must go deeper than only the application ICT in “smart solutions” to assuage the current problems, but undoubtedly should also focus on the concept of smart villages, making the discussion deeply relevant to European players by avoiding the migration from countryside or non-urban areas to the metropolis, It can solve big part of the problems we will face in the near future and can keep European rural areas alive. Turkey is one of the leading countries grasping the importance of smart rural areas at the very beginning although it has been living some complicated situations geographically and politically. In this paper, we will explore a smart village example from Turkey and various issues providing hints about the Turkish Smart City market. The paper also explore some aspects of the creative economy revolution that makes now the projects not only faster, but cheaper than ever before. The nature of the Smart City project, applied to a metropolis or a village, does not really matter, some tools can be useful to boost it and to assure a long-term economic sustainability. This paper covers four preeminent trends, described as tools and illustrated with some global cases: (1) Rethinking the Smart City Pitch; (2) Smart City Concept Design; (3)Appsation” Reconnecting with Citizens and (4) Attracting and Promoting ICT Pilot Projects. We are now certainly facing a new era of smart city development. More cities are adopting the philosophy and citizens are becoming the main stakeholder in the process. All the long, costly and hard path taken by the pioneers can be now effectively shortcut. What are you waiting for? Let’s SMARTup!CV 2City SMARTup: the tools to fire up your Smart City project in Turkey

The world’s urbanization process is definitely the main argument used to justify the urgent need of Smart City projects. The world is facing an incredible increase in urban problems due to the population growth. Natural resources management, environment conditions, industrial policies and economic power have shaped the cities and directly influenced the modern urban lifestyle. The most common sentence in Smart City projects is: By 2030, according to United Nation reports, it will probably be over 70% of the world population concentrated in the so-called global cities, imposing dramatic changes in our lives. But the question is: Is this statement alone strong enough to convince the most sceptic ones? Or, did we get so used to hearing that we lost the real dimension of the problem? In Turkey’s case, urbanization stands at 75% and it is projected to skyrocket to 90% by 2050.

If we start measuring it in hours instead of years, how would it look like? The picture 1 addresses this issue in a different way. Taking Nigeria as a reference, according to UN World Urbanization Prospects 2014, Lagos is already attracting 85 people per hour. It means more than 2.000 people per day or 740.000 a year. Some European cities are also in the list such as London, attracting 9 people per hour. Doesn’t it sounds as a real problem now? In Europe, the problem is that migration is also an issue for the small towns. The problem is not new, but due to the severe crisis started in 2008 it got worst.Urban Growth per HourWe can already find the so-called ghost towns along the continent. An urgent action should be done to help these cities not only to attract people, but mainly to retain their local young population. Bringing smart city concept can be definitely a potential solution.

Picture 1 – Urban growth per hour. Source: UN World Urbanization Prospects 2014/LSE Cities

The rising of Smart Villages

Following the same argument and trend, in 30 to 40 years time we are expecting to have a domestic “Rural-Urban” migration in India of more than 300 million people. It means that whatever efforts we do now to mitigate the urban problems they will not be enough. Cities will definitely collapse. So, to discuss seriously about Smart City means not only apply ICT in “smart solutions” to assuage the current problems but undoubtedly to focus on the concept of smart villages. To avoid the migration from countryside or non-urban areas to the metropolis can solve big part of the problems we will face in the near future. Until now it was still a feeble trend, but it is becoming popular. In Europe, countries like England, Italy and Spain have been already for a quite long time discussing about the next generation sustainable communities in order to promote the progress also in small towns. It means that the discussion about Smart City philosophy is not only related to mega cities, but also to small villages.

The pilot project led by the superior guidance of TABİT Agricultural Information & Communication Technologies, which is a new generation social enterprise mainly in collaboration with Vodafone, Kocarli Municipality and Kocarli Chamber of Agriculture in Kasaplar Village of Aydin City in Turkey, is a good case to illustrate the paradigm shift of today towards Smart Village Vision. Kasaplar is 12km away from the center of Aydin at the west of Turkey with 749 people residents in.

In order to bring conventional agriculture practices together with the potentials of advance technology, TABİT has started the first smart village project as an exemplary pilot practice not only for Turkey, but also for other villages of the world because it is one of the first thematic projects ever performed intentionally in an inhabited rural area almost all residents of which are digitally illiterate. It is a poor area and main sources of income for Kasaplar are just agriculture – especially cotton, olive, melon – and livestock. Therefore, Turkey’s first smart village project represents a new generation approach for rural lifestyle that aims;

(i) to introduce a micro model creating an opportunity to increase efficiency of production in rural areas to the world standards,

(ii) to improve the living standards of the farmers in the countryside and to develop permanent & innovative solutions to problems,

(iii) to record that period of change in the life styles of farmers with scientific and visual techniques and to present useful results

Combining the traditional agricultural methods with advanced technologies. In this model, TABİT focuses on making farming a preferred profession through social innovation and ICT,  yet it presents a good example to make the model customize out of agriculture according to the demographic, strategic and economic features of different living areas.

Kasaplar has 93% of the botanical production diversity in Turkey, so it is one of the villages to provide fast results of smart village practices. Total investment is expected to be about $6 million over the three years and the project is considered to be completed in 2020. In this context, 88-decare land was leased for 25 years. Raising livestock, milking and irrigation automations; farmer decision support service, renewable energy solution center, mobile applications, digital library, education hall and social life programs are just a few of practices of the project.

The project includes two phases;

(i) At Phase I: The social life of the village, agricultural production routines, economical efficiency, migration rates, the rate of the return among young generations after the military duty, education level and the environmental effects of the current agricultural production is measured step by step,

(ii) At Phase II: Technological investments will start with information sharing and training practices for agricultural production. All the devices that are used for agriculture will be smart in the activities. IoT will make people’s lives easier, and all automation systems & the measures will be performed via mobile devices. High-quality data will be centralized. Educational programs will be developed for the young people and women. In parallel with all those efforts, the programs which combine entertainment, education and socialization will start immediately. Branding, packaging and selling strategies will be developed so as to increase the sales of agricultural products in Kasaplar and to help the development of the village.

Can remote villages have the same opportunities as urban centers? Can rural residents have access to careers, clean water, healthcare, education, communication, clean power supply, robust IT connectivity and sustainable environment without leaving their villages? The smart village project is just a beginning of the new paradigm in the frame of agriculture. Life can be better in a Smart Village – better for people and better for businesses. Turkey has started looking for the answers and it believes that people in remote villages deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Collaborative innovation, integration and citizen inclusivity are the keys to transformation of smart villages, today and in the future.

Source: www.tabit.com.tr and TABİT presentations

Reviewing Smart City projects in Turkey

 Turkey, like many developing countries, faced rapid urbanization following the World War II. Later mechanization of agriculture resulted in a flow of much the rural population towards cities. Turkey’s rapid urbanization has transformed the country demographically and economically. Urbanization rate has grown from 24.2% in 1927 to 75% today. Despite important progress made across Turkey’s System of Cities, there are significant and critical challenges at the city level, particularly in second-tier metropolitan cities that are still experiencing significant population growth rates of 4% or more annually. Urban growth has shifted from Turkey’s mega/primate cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir etc. to its secondary cities like Gaziantep, Eskisehir, Kocaeli, Kayseri, Mersin etc. over the last ten years and the country is now getting ready to enlarge its strategies into Smart City Vision. Energy, Mobility and Security are especially the outstanding common practice areas in smart city strategies of the country, which creates a significant potential for the market worth to tens of billion dollars.


Turkish power sector is a mix of both public & private entities and it has the 13th largest electricity market in the world. Electricity demand has continued its steady growth at 5% CAGR so far. Turkey is expected to double its power generation capacity by 2023 and all existing meters are aimed to be replaced with smart meters pursuant to the 2023 strategic vision.

Turkey hopes to achieve investments of over $5 billion a year in the electricity sector through 2020. It is planned to invest more than $10 billion to introduce electricity smart grids by 2035 across the country. Smart grid technologies in Turkey is driven largely by the need to decrease electricity distribution losses, to increase power quality & reliability and to solve problems encountered in forecasting & balancing the market.

At this stage, smart grid investments are made in Turkey through automatic meters and various SCADA systems. Investment activities for grid monitoring and distribution system management, conducted independently for real-time monitoring and management of the grid are also included in the foregoing scope. In addition to organized industry zones, electricity & natural gas distribution networks and water administrations of municipalities have also started to switch to the automatic meter reading system.

Smart meters are conceptually straightforward, but their details are complex. Initial focus should be on the business process, with selection of proven IT systems before adding the meters. Therefore, utilities should adopt an open architecture to enable them to select from technologies in the market.

Capacity is there and the need is to unleash the potential.

Source: Doing Business in Turkey: 2014 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies


Istanbul is the financial heart of Turkey. It has more than 15 million inhabitants and attracts 12 million visitors each year. There are 3.5 million registered motor vehicles in the system and 30,000 new cars join in every month (!) As seen, a notable example that’s felt by many of its citizens is the traffic congestions. Istanbul loses $2.5 billion each year just due to the excessive traffic jam.

Electronic payment systems reduce waiting times. There are more than 20 million contactless smart transportation tickets (“Istanbulkart”) in circulation. The smart card system covers 98% of the total payments in the city’s transportation system with over six million daily trips. All bridges connecting Asia and Europe have automated and fast electronic payment systems.

The city has advanced traffic monitoring systems, mobile traffic applications and live mobile traffic density maps. Most of the drivers use mobile applications routinely. The municipality and the government are also experimenting new smart traffic lights, smart bus stops, traffic signalization systems managing right of way, bicycle routes, variable message systems used for informing the drivers and so on. The city hosts both of opportunities and chaos simultaneously. And there are still lots of things to do.

Source:  www.turkstat.gov.tr

Smart City Case: Eskisehir Tepebasi

Turkey does not have a national Smart City program, but has many local projects at various sizes performed by technology companies and municipalities. Gaziantep, Konya, Antalya, Ankara, Istanbul, Karaman, Eskisehir, Izmir and Samsun are only some of the cities having Smart City projects.

Eskisehir Tepebasi district (population of 315,000) is a part of Eskisehir city (population of 800,000) a second modern urban region in Middle-Anatolia after Ankara. Tepebasi has been selected as one of the three lighthouse cities together with Spain Valladolid and UK Nottingham municipalities for the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. According to the grant agreement, Eskisehir municipality is entitled to get €5 million over the 60-month project life. In this regard, 53% energy saving, 63% CO2 emission decrease and 6,000 direct citizen involvement are planned. The project includes comprehensive systems approach to enable a sustainable management of complex urban spaces and financial mechanisms to guarantee the replicability of the model at European level.

Some other benefits can be seen at below;

(i) Energy efficient building retrofitting (10,750 m2)

(ii) Central district heating / cooling and Domestic Hot Water (“DHW”)

(iii) Expansion of the cycling lanes (6.8 km) and 150 bicycles (50 e-bikes)

(iv) 4 electric buses and 22 hybrid cars

(v) City cloud and management systems for energy & mobility

(vi) Smart control of the district heating, alternative energy usage, smart lighting

(vii) Citizen’s engagement and empowerment

Source: http://tepebasi.bel.tr/ and introductory booklets

Getting ready for the battle

It does not matter if you are planning a new project for a metropolis or a village, some tools can be really useful to boost it and to assure an economic sustainability. The first wave of Smart City projects, also known as SC 1.0, was basically focused on technology. Big players such as IBM, CISCO and SIEMENS were fighting for leadership, in an open competition to be the main protagonist and for world recognition in this field. Time has changed and situation now is different. We are facing a boom in the so-called sharing economy. Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp and other icons of this revolution have changed the main order and for Smart Cities it is not different. As a result, we can do projects now not only faster, but much cheaper than ever before. So the approach to plan and manage a smart city project has also changed. Here, I will try to point out some tools that can be used to fire up your project.

Tool  #1 – Rethinking the Smart City pitch

With all this new perspectives, the whole concept has to be adjusted. Previously, the success of a Smart City project was a matter of “fighting” for budget, non-repayable loans or grants from national government or international organizations, but this game is almost over. Projects were designed to fit to the requirements related to these funds rather than to be economically sustainable. Solutions were ICT oriented instead of citizen centered. It does not matter from what point of view you analyze the Smart City concept, people should be the essence of it! Problems are rising due to people migration and concentration, and smart solutions are being deployed to make people’s life better. So, the word “citizens” should be in the core of the new pitch, followed closely by economic sustainability.

Action: If you have already a Smart City planning, take your report with hundreds of pages written in a precise technical approach and summarize it in a 3 to 5 slides storytelling-style presentation to be performed in 5 minutes. Another communication tool for Smart Cities the is becoming very popular is the illustrated talk.  If you starting now to plan your smart city project, your are lucky, do it already in the right way!

Case: smartalk is a brazilian startup specialized in developing professional presentations and pitches for startups and governments and storytelling illustrated talks.Pet Book LifePicture 2 – professional presentation specially designed for startups / smart cities pitch. Source: http://www.smartalk.com.br/portfolio/pet-book-life/

Tool #2 – Smart City Concept Design

For me, one of the most fascinating phase of smart city project development is the masterplan designing. All concepts and applied technologies can be observed in a harmonic combination. The question is, who will be funding the execution of the project in long terms? Do we have a plan B in case of “loosing” the main source? As mentioned before, in the past, smart city projects were very reactive to the possibility of non-repayable loans, but not any more. How about attracting private funds to sponsor it? Doable? Definitely! ,

Action: Wait to invest a huge amount of money in a state-of-the-art masterplan. What you need to start is just a SCCD Smart City Concept Design, a kind of pre-masterplan, showing your full potential, but flexible enough to be adjusted to your future partners (private investors) interests.  While a final masterplan can cost over one million dollars, you can get a fantastic concept design for less the one hundred thousand and even better, you can get it done in a couple of weeks.MobilitaPicture 3 – Mobility planning proposal for Expo Milan Smart City project. Source: Paolo Verducci Architect – InsiteOut project – http://www.maryfil.it/inglese/e_index.html

Case: A case to illustrate is the concept design project developed by an italian team named InsiteOut for a call-for-solutions to transform the Expo Milan area into a Smart City. The picture 3 and shows the mobility plan. Other dimensions were also considered as smart energy, social innovation and accessibility as illustrated in picture 4. The full proposal, including a 3D presentation, was developed by InsiteOut team in only 5 days. Table 4Picture 4 – Concept Design for Expo Milan Smart City project 2016.  Source: Paolo Verducci Architect – InsiteOut project- http://www.maryfil.it/inglese/e_index.html 

 Tool #3 – “Appsation” reconnecting with citizens

 The old-school mayors were doing politics using two strong communication tools:  going to the city market on Sundays to talk personally with the citizens and “employing” the local barber to the butcher as a sort of personal adviser and city hall ombudsman, they were definitely one of the most informed and influencing people in town. Time has changed but basic concepts not! Our lives got highly digitalized but the need for interaction is still the same. Maybe we don’t meet and talk in person in the city market on  Sunday so often as before, but we absolutely do it on line. Cities have already done huge investments in digitalizing the operations and procedures, but are they talking to citizens? Good news are that all the infrastructure investment for it is already done. You don’t need even to give a smartphone neither to citizens or city hall staff, you just have to call for the platform. A “simple and basic” app to connect the two sides. Apps can also be used as new source of monetization for cities.

Action: Several companies, mainly startups, are offering affordable solutions for city-citizens interaction. Just be aware that you need to manage it in a professional way. You don’t need just a chat tool, but a solid political weapon designed to watch every single dimension of this complex relationship. Remember, citizens will not complain more if they have a tool for it, It will be city hall that will start to see the real picture. Maybe you get some mess in the beginning but when the system come to balance all stakeholders will deeply benefit from it.

Case: Altarix is a Russian company specialized in developing Apps and platforms for Smart City projects. Among the most popular apps we can highlight one called City Listens, the successful case of an app that has helped the government of Moscow to solve almost 1.000.000 of problems in the last 5 years.AltarixPicture 5 – App City Listens designed for Moscow municipality. Source: http://altarix.net/ourcity 

Tool #4 – Attracting and promoting ICT Pilot projects 

Creative and sharing economies are the new black. As I mentioned before, startups oriented to urban solutions are emerging around the world. Some of them were already born with pedigree and incubated in the new eldorados such as Silicon Valley or London Roundabout. But also the developing markets are offering solutions. Newbies from Russia, China, Brazil and India are astonishing the world with new smart solutions. Probably the challenging reality faced in these countries is helping companies to develop creative and affordable solutions. But the problem is that they don’t have a vibrant startup ecosystem as the ones found in the USA or UK. Here it is the real opportunity for Spanish Smart Cities: these companies are striving to go global and prove the effectiveness of their solutions and they need international cases to enhance their portfolio.  It means that you can get good deals in win-win terms with these companies.

The picture below shows some of the startups offering solutions in several dimensions of Smart City that can be your next potential win-win partner .Table 5Picture 6 – Companies building smart cities. Source: https://cbi-blog.s3.amazonaws.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Startup-Smart-City-Map1.png

Action: Focus on the competitive advantage of your city highlighted in your Smart City pitch to understand what you can offer and what is the exchange-value. It can be visibility, consumers, credibility, access to market or any other asset that for startups can weight more than gold. Try think out-of-the-box keeping the financial payment as last option. However, don’t forget that your partner will be also heavily investing on it, so sharing operational costs is a fair element of the win-win game.

Case: An excellent case to illustrate is the cooperation between Rio de Janeiro’s city hall and the Israeli tech company Waze, currently owned by Google and the world’s largest community based traffic and navigation app. Data collected from Waze’s users is helping the city’s operation and command center to manage the traffic in a better way and quickly respond to accidents. The cooperation was signed in 2013, before google’s acquisition, and the main basis for deal was the “win-win game”.

 Let’s start?

We are now certainly facing a new era of smart city development. More cities are adopting the philosophy and citizens are becoming the main stakeholder in the process. All the long, costly and hard path taken by the pioneers can be now effectively shortcut. Public-private partnership are assuming a new dimension and playing an important core role.

It is definitely a remarkable moment to witness that Turkey is trying to generate its own smart village frameworks and its own smart city solutions. There’s a great need for Turkish cities to become smarter. It is clear that this is still a beginning just like it is at the rest of the world and Turkey has a multi-billion huge market potential to skyrocket.

Local government of small municipalities can use this as a great competitive advantage to attract investments from the private sector. What are you waiting for? Let’s SMARTup!

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