Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Research Result

Towards a Smart Flanders through open data

Great expectations and realisations

Expectations around the internet of things and Smart Cities in general remain very high, but the potential real-life impact and return remain elusive. The Smart Flanders programme focuses on the question which urban challenges we can start tackling in a better way today, by bringing together data in smarter ways and making them available for reuse? This means supporting cities in providing open and linkable data. This way cities themselves, large and small companies or even individual citizens can make smarter use of them. Already in the first year of the programme, several cities are providing real-time occupancy data of off-street parking garages.

Developing the Smart Flanders programme

In order to develop a programme that wants to undertake this challenge and aim for true collaboration, it is key to listen. The goal of the programme is to open up all kinds of relevant data related to urban life, but not go for the low-hanging fruit (again). The ambitious aim of Smart Flanders is to address urban challenges by ensuring data on the topic is available and as easy to reuse as possible. This means having cities formulating challenges they are faced with and identifying if and how open data can play a role.

Next, a common approach to opening up data is required. To provide guidance in this context, the cities in Smart Flanders are working hard to formulate an Open Data Charter. This charter contains the common principles and ambitions the cities have regarding open data. By the beginning of 2018, these principles will be available on the Open Data Charter webpage.

Finally, the most interesting way to learn something is by doing it. As Smart Flanders takes an implementation-driven approach, the cities and imec have made great strides towards opening up real-time data on off-street parking spot availability. This was the first challenge that was identified by all participating cities. Less than a year after the start of the programme, this real-time information is now available for a number of cities as linked open data. The data is joined by a proof of concept that illustrates what (re-)users could do with this data. Given the complexity and interplay between public and private actors in this pilot and the level of ambition of the programme, these first results are very encouraging for the future of Smart Flanders.

Want to know more about the Smart Flanders programme?

Smart Flanders started in January 2017 and will run for three years. The project is funded by minister Liesbeth Homans and carried out by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from imec (VUB and UGent) and coordinated by imec-SMIT. The programme would not be possible without the enthusiastic and constructive support of the participating cities, cabinets and administrations. More information on the programme can be found on and more details on the real-time open parking data and our proof of concept can be found on