We will move our cities toward real innovation that will lead to increased efficiency through the use of greater technology, Haim Bibas, chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel and mayor of Modi’in, said on Wednesday.
He spoke to The Jerusalem Post at the federation’s annual conference, run in collaboration with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, at the Tel Aviv Convention Center.
Bibas stressed the need for urban innovation and the incorporation of new technologies by local authorities.
“In order to manage cities as needed, today we can, with existing technology, reach as many people as possible,” he said, noting that any citizen can contact their municipality with the “click of a button.”
According to the federation’s head, however, the incorporation of additional innovative technologies is necessary in order to increase efficiency and improve the lives of Israeli citizens.
The two-day conference included some 16 professional panels dedicated to this idea, addressing innovation across a wide range of fields, including energy conservation policy, education and welfare services of the future, national preparedness in emergencies, and municipal funding.
Business leaders, professionals, academics, foreign dignitaries and government officials – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog and many other notable figures – as well as 257 heads of municipalities throughout the country took part.
In addition, this year for the first time, the “Muni-Expo Smart Cities in Israel,” a NIS 3.5 million innovation fair featuring of state-of-theart urban renewal plans was held alongside the conference.
Some 120 Israeli companies featured their advanced technologies at the expo in the areas of city development, education, culture, personal security, accessible technologies and smart infrastructure – advances that will be available to citizens of smart metropolises in the near future.
“Take for example the idea of garbage collection, which you have in every locality. Today, garbage cans can incorporate smart chips that make tracking and pick-up more efficient and cost effective,” Bibas said.
“A lot of funds are saved because of this effectiveness and we can use those funds to better education, welfare and other important issues,” he said.
One innovative technology featured at the expo was by Urban Digital, a company which developed interactive digital signs for bus stops and train stations.
“The idea developed out of a need for non-static signs at bus stops that could interact with passengers, provide them with information and update them in real time on the next bus,” Urban Digital CEO Yuval Remeny told the Post.
These innovative stations, one of which was on display at the fair, are equipped with colorful interactive touch screens available in three languages: Hebrew, English and Arabic, and are also handicap friendly.
“Because these signs are interactive, there are so many features that you can customize in each city or [bus] stop to fit the specific population needs, and this is what makes the signs a much more efficient and effective alternative,” Remeny said.
To date there are some 30 interactive stations at bus stops throughout the country in cities such as Yavne, Ashdod, Haifa, and Beersheba, with plans to add more signs soon.
Other initiatives featured at the expo included underground garbage cans, smart lighting, playgrounds that can double as bunkers during time of war, groundbreaking applications and software that protects against cyber hacks.
“These technologies work toward the effectiveness and efficiency of the services we can provide to citizens,” Bibas said.
He noted though, that building smart cities requires “a lot of resources and funds.”
“We can’t just have this in certain cities; we need to bring this to all cities in the North, the South, the Galilee and the Negev – to the periphery,” Bibas said.
“And in order for it to reach these cities we are required to do whatever we can so that [the technology] reaches them, and for this we need government funding,” he said.
When asked how local municipalities in the Start-Up Nation compare to other smart cities in developed countries, Bibas said that Israel still lags behind in the implementation of these innovations and technologies.
“Today, Israel develops perhaps the best professionals in the world, but there is a big gap between what they do abroad and what they do here. We need to take these brains and put them to use here,” he said.
“Everywhere I visit in the world, I’m shown that this is Israeli technology and this was developed in Israel, or this is an Israeli company,” Bibas said. “There is no reason why we can’t have all these innovations here in Israel.”
“The more we realize that we need to incorporate innovative technologies, the more we will be able to improve the lives of citizens,” he said. “It is in our interest [as local authorities] and in the interest of the citizens.”