Today’s entrepreneurs are building the Smart City of tomorrow

How can technology make life in the city better? That’s the question the city of Antwerp and research center imec are addressing in the Antwerp Smart Zone: a digital testing ground for the city of tomorrow. That’s just the kind of sandbox many entrepreneurs are dreaming of today. Start-up Geo Solutions had the opportunity to experience it for themselves this past summer. The company develops smart technology that directly impacts people’s lives—just what the city of Antwerp aims to do as a Smart City. Joeri Vandeperre, account manager at Geo Solutions, tells all.

Meet the heat detector on a public screen in the streets of Antwerp Smart Zone

Antwerp Smart Zone

Sint-Andries is a typical example of an urbanised neighbourhood: narrow streets with bustling shops and cafés where pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and trams find their way. This miniature version of the city is the perfect backdrom for the Antwerp Smart Zone: a “living lab” set up by the city of Antwerp and imec as a space for stakeholders and entrepreneurs to test smart technologies.

“You really feel the will to move forward in Antwerp.”

Heat Detector

Geo Solutions is one of the companies experimenting in the Antwerp Smart Zone with their innovative app: the Heat Detector. Joeri Vandeperre from Geo Solutions: “Due to climate change, heat waves will only increase in the future. High temperatures entail health risks, especially for the elderly and young children or for people with heart or lung problems. With the Heat Detector, we aim to use data to limit those risks.”

How does that work?

Joeri: “We use up-to-date climate forecasts from the Flemish Institute for Technological Development (VITO) and imec’s smart sensors in the Smart Zone to collect data. Those data allow us to send out warnings when the temperature exceeds a threshold value. The app also includes an interactive map with drinking water taps and medical assistance posts, as well as cool public spaces where you can go to escape the heat.”

How did this project come about?

Joeri:Digipolis, the city of Antwerp’s IT partner, posts “challenges” on their online platform. Anyone who thinks they may have a fitting solution, can apply. When we saw the challenge for the development of a tool to mitigate heat stress, our geographers and IT professionals seized their opportunity. When we started working on our first proposal, we immediately decided to focus our efforts on reaching caregivers. Through them, we can reach the elderly, a highly vulnerable group during heat waves. Then we made a quotation and were selected out of five candidates to go ahead and develop the app. ”

That app was tested all summer in the Anterp Smart Zone. Has it been a positive experience?

Joeri: “Absolutely. We have gained a lot of experience that will help us to build on our project, maybe by introducing it in other cities or offer the same information through information kiosks in homes for the elderly. We’ve also received quite a bit of media attention. It makes sense, really: the Antwerp Smart Zone is the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe. When you get a chance to take part in such a project, you don’t think twice.”

Would you advise other entrepreneurs to participate?

Joeri: “Definitely. They should take a look at Digipolis’ current challenges. The possibilities are endless. When you put all those brilliant researchers and entrepreneurs together, who knows what kind of innovative collaborations can come about?”

Are you looking forward to life in the Antwerp Smart Zone?

Joeri: “I do, because life in the Smart City will only become easier. That future city doesn’t just happen, however. It requires investments and policies to support it. I’m not worried, though. You really feel the will to move forward in Antwerp.”

Want to help build our smart city?

Pitch your own project to launch in the Smart Zone. Or take a look at some existing Antwerp Smart Zone projects for inspiration.


The iCapital Award is a nomination made by the European Commission to reward cities for their efforts in innovation. Antwerp is one of the six laureates.
In 2018, Antwerp had twice as many start-ups and scale-ups than in 2012. This is a remarkable finding: in 2018, these innovative companies raised up to four times more capital for their business growth than six years earlier. With this, the city of Antwerp demonstrates a clear ambition: within six years, the city wants to occupy a place in the European top 10 scale-up cities.
The city of Antwerp has a strong track record in fostering innovation, creating the ideal business climate for tech and creative startups. This has not gone unnoticed by UK magazine Courier who recently published a full article on 'Why set up a business in Antwerp?'