Smart City Project: Leuven

Leuven is the capital of Flemish Brabant, a province in the Flemish region of Belgium, with a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. The city is known for its vibrant student life and is home to one of the oldest universities in North-West Europe: the KU Leuven. The city’s historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to numerous museums, galleries and cultural institutions.

On the Urban Sense platform, the city of Leuven shares data about their noise management project. This way, they are becoming a Smart City.

Carbon neutral city goals

Leuven made a commitment to become a carbon neutral city by 2030. To achieve this, the city formed a cooperation model with its citizens, companies, and research institutions through the NGO ‘Leuven 2030. Furthermore, with the ‘Leuven 2030 Urban Lab’, the city, Leuven 2030, KU Leuven, UCLL and imec are working together to tackle urban sustainability challenges.

On the Urban Sense platform, the city of Leuven shares data about their noise management project. This way, they are becoming a Smart City.

Noise monitoring: nudging toward better behavior

Leuven is at its heart a student city. Next to studying, students tend to party from time to time. This can result in disturbing night noise for the citizens. The noise monitoring project aims to reduce this noise in the streets. Sound level sensors are placed at several points in a specific street, connected to the Urban Sense data platform. With the help of these sensors which collect the level, pitch, type and frequency of the sound, among other things, the noise can be measured in an objective way.

These noises are then classified by origin through artificial intelligence to see whether it is a human, music, or motor sound. When the system detects disturbing nightly noise, identified as coming from people, we can, instead of punishing, try to nudge the people toward better behavior. This is done by dimming or brightening the streetlights to alert them of their disturbing behavior and by posting a message on the ground indicating for example that children are sleeping nearby and need to go to school tomorrow.

The city learns at what times and during which days most nuisance is detected, and tests which type of nudge works best. The city can use this knowledge to further predict when noise can be expected and take appropriate measures where needed. Another advantage is that it is technically possible for the police to make interventions based on real-time data, provided that there is enough manpower and a short response time. 

Leuven as a part of Urban Sense

Leuven is also part of the Urban Sense consortium, a collaboration between Leuven, Bruges and Roeselare, three Flemish cities, to build an urban data platform managed by a consortium of our company, Sirus, and Cegeka. On this platform, the city’s data about their noise management project can be shared so that other cities might gain insights from this project as well.  

We – and Cegeka – received the World Smart City Award and the Agoria Digital Society Award in 2022 with this project.