Posts Tagged ‘smart cities’

By Claire Thorne

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Hosted by the Greater London Authority (GLA)


Koen, David, Richard and I made our way to City Hall for the iCity Breakfast Briefing [agenda]…

views - enroute to City Hall

The attendees – policy, local government, academic and private industry representatives spanning the architecture, construction, energy, health, transport, and technology sectors – were invited to hear about the European project’s recent progress, with the event promising to “combine structured presentation from leading speakers with interactive working and shared learning”.

Andrew Collinge (Assistant Director, Intelligence and Analysis, GLA) set the scene with a galvanising introduction. The speakers delivered informative talks, outlining examples of international ‘mega’ smart city projects (for inspiration/learning/duplication?) and the challenges and opportunities for London in the age of ‘open data’. These didn’t disappoint.

action shot - courtesy of @djdunc

[action shot – courtesy of @djdunc]

Nick Bromley’s (Programme Manager, EU iCity Smart Cities, GLA) brief update on iCity outlined the short-term plans to unite the project with the London Datastore, to build a software development toolkit and an open apps store.

Here’s a summary [png] of the key points I took away from the morning:

Schematic summary of notes from the morning's presentations

There’s no doubt this event proved useful for making new connections, for catching up with the familiar faces – against all the rhetoric of user engagement and citizen-centric design, it seems ‘smart cities’ is fast becoming a (private) members club – and I learned a lot about the innovation in Masdar City right now.

However, there are a few things I left querying…

  • We assembled, eagerly anticipating some big announcement on iCity’s progress, its plan for phase two, driving London’s transformation from a functioning, energetic cultural and economic hub, to a truly smart city paragon… And then came the confirmation: iCity will focus on ‘app creation’. Thud. Why?? App creation doesn’t demand any innovation in infrastructure – its already happening. Anyone can make use of existing/emerging data-streams through the London Datastore. This is ‘present’ not ‘future’. How does this fit with Boris’ 2020 Vision of London as “the greatest [smart] city on Earth”?
  • With private sector organisations like Foster + Partners and Deustche Telekom already pioneering innovations in Masdar City and T-City respectively, what’s the role for public bodies (like the GLA) in the driving and delivery, in the ownership, adoption and governance, of smarter cities? There are many stakes in the ‘smart cities’ ground but few seem to be jointly placed there by private-public partnerships, and even less by citizen collectives.
  • One agenda item read: What type of ‘Smart City’ model best suits London?” I’m not clear how any existing smart city model will fit London – especially those created for ‘blank canvass’ sites like Masdar City (possibly the most far removed scenario from historic London and its retrofitting needs) – or indeed if it should. Forget a replicable/transferable/scalable model and the popular ‘one size fits all’ approach. Why not strive for a solution, so particular to London and its specific needs, that not only does it enable (not dictate), it is inclusive and sustainable (it all forms), it is simple and it engages, and above all, it is fit-for-(London)-purpose? Undoubtedly, from this, we’ll learn lessons and generate new products and business models along the way. And these in turn will (perhaps in a more piecemeal fashion) be applicable to other, emerging smarter cities, ticking that (all essential) commercial box.
  • Unfortunately our chance to input into the discussion and shape iCity’s second phase, hinted at in the agenda (“interactive working and shared learning”), didn’t materialise. Given the high profile, captive audience with such a breadth of expertise, a view from the windows to inspire, and free-flowing coffee, this seemed like a misspent opportunity… A Q&A session for all to provide feedback on Boris’ vision, to debate both the socio-economic and technological benefits and risks, and to steer the iCity project going forwards? Now that would have been the smart thing to do.




By Claire Thorne

Wednesday 1 May 2013 #rcaktn

Hosted by Innovation RCA, the Technology Strategy Board’s Knowledge Transfer Networks, and Open City Labs


What is citizen-centred design? And what does it mean in the context of future transport? What could, and should, future transport modes, networks and offerings look like? And how do we get ‘there’?

Whatever insights the day’s discussions promised, I turned up to the Dyson building, Battersea, sure of at least one success: The Royal College of Art had managed to bring a hugely diverse group of people [delegate list, pdf ] together under one (very stylised) roof.

Dyson Building, Royal College of Art, Battersea

The aim of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) workshop was to scope out one/more potential ‘citizen-centred design for future transport’ multi-institute research programme(s) to take forward.

Here’s my summary of the day’s discussions and key themes:

Schematic summary of notes from the day's discussions

In a lecture theatre that resembles no other natural sciences, engineering or business school lecture theatre I’ve ever seen* the facilitator (with seemingly endless enthusiasm!) brought together representatives of Open City Labs, local authorities, the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities, the Technology Strategy Board, Transport for London, the Greater London Authority, and organisations like Useful Simple and of course Digital City Exchange (Imperial College London’s smart cities research programme).

* There are a host of reasons, but for a start, it had windows. And lots of them.

View of London transport from the Dyson Building, Royal College of Art, Battersea

There wasn’t just variety to be found in the participant’s disciplines and sectors; all age groups were represented – refreshing indeed…

[Multi/cross/intra-disciplinary, multi/cross/intra-functional, multi/cross/intra-sectoral, multi/cross/intra-institute, multi/cross/intra-… we hear it everywhere in HEIs (and there’s no denying its value) but it never seems to go far enough. Where’s the equivalent promotion of multi/cross/intra-generational research and academia-industry collaboration?]

Nevertheless, I noted that we seemed a tad short on ‘techies’ (engineers, developers etc) whilst Beatrice Rogers (Creative Industries KTN) was wondering where the policymakers were… Perhaps they were there, or perhaps they got waylaid by other, more outdoors-y activities…

View from the bridge, Royal College of Art, Battersea

That special combination of a creative space coupled with creative minds led to, well, creative thinking and lively (but friendly) discussions… all manifested through the power of the humble post-it note, taking over every wall.

The discussions captured in post-it notes

[By the way, is there an app that can take a photo of multiple post-it notes, and generate a word (or other) document with all the content? (with the text appropriately coloured, and sized proportional to its importance). Anyone? That could be handy/slightly terrifying…]

Duncan Wilson’s  (Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities)  keynote [full slides, via slideshare] highlighted his ‘top 10’ thematic issues/opportunities for citizen-centred design for future transport:

1. Interfaces e.g. wireless electric vehicle charging mechanisms

2. Systems approach

3. Transactions

4. Peer-to-peer

5. Business Models

6. Nudging (i.e. often incentivised, behavioural change) e.g. Chromorama (gamification of London journeys, using Oyster card data)

7. Connected

8. Integrated

9. Feedback

10. Personal space

(and note they’re not sector-specific, and hence pretty much apply to any ‘smart cities’ initiative). Check out the city issue map – presented at the World Economic Forum approximately five years ago. Now in 2013, how has this landscape of issues changed?

City Issue MapDuring our very first task there was a struggle to get past the wording of the workshop’s title: Should we be talking about Citizen-centred design? People-centred design? User-centred design? Or other?

I wondered what role future transport could play in, not just moving people between sites, from A to B, but in building communities along the way. Jump on a bus in, say, Aberdeen, and if you don’t see someone you know, soon enough you’ll have sparked up conversation with someone you’ve not met before. (Of course this is in stark contrast to London, and undoubtedly some prefer it this way). Could the journey on the city bus become our modern-day ‘village hall’, or ‘community centre’?


Aside from the access to existing data-streams, I think Digital City Exchange would be keen to explore

  • the role of big/open data (and particularly real-time predictive modeling)
  • incentivising users’ behavioural change

in citizen-centred design of future transport solutions.


A great day, a tonne of data (thanks Rakesh Gaur, Head of Reliability, Availability, Maintainability at TfL!!) and… some transport trivia:

  • A London black cab costs £38,000.
  • In 1900, 90% of travel was on public transport (e.g. street cars).
  • There are 300,000 users of mobility scooters in the UK.
  • The majority of transport use in London is for journeys of ~3-5 miles.
  • What’s the most common reason why older people don’t use public transport? (it’s not about fare prices, fear of unsociable behaviour, or waiting for connections in the cold weather)… Guaranteed proximity to public toilet facilities!
  • The reason why General Motor’s genius (or dubious?) business model was really a success(!)





Imperial-Government Digital Service joint ‘teacamp’

February 12, 2013
by Claire Thorne

Thursday 7 February 2013, Queen’s Tower Rooms, Imperial College London

DCE co-host ‘teacamp’ event on Open Data and Smart Cities


On February 7th, Imperial’s Digital City Exchange, the Digital Economy Lab and Sustainable Society Network+ hosted a special, one-off teacamp.


So, what is ‘teacamp‘?

Teacamp is an established series of informal, free, discussion events hosted via the Government Digital Service (GDS, Cabinet Office).

“Teacamps are informal gatherings for digital people who work in and around government and also outside of government. They are usually two hours long including a slot for a speaker and chatting over a cup of tea, hence the name ‘teacamp’…”


What made this teacamp special?

The February teacamp, hosted at Imperial’s South Kensington campus, was planned to coincide with the launch of the Urban Prototyping London 2013 festival, and to focus the discussions on to big and open data.



Around seventy people from a range of disciplines and professions came along to interact with the panellists during this one-off event, organised by teacamp founder (Jane O’Loughlin, @teacampLondon) and DCE’s Dr Cathy Mulligan (@API_Economics, DCE Research Fellow) and Claire Thorne (@clairethorne, DCE Programme Coordinator).


(After some last minute tweaks!!) The panel consisted of:


The discussions

For an overview of the discussions, check out Ross Atkin’s comic-style sketch notes (@rossatkin) and @Puffles2010‘s blog post, capturing all the action!


If you’d like more info on upcoming teacamps, keep an eye on the teacamp site/Twitter feed




World Intelligent Cities Summit 2012

September 21, 2012
by Claire Thorne

Istanbul,13-14 September 2012

By Pantelis Koutroumpis

The first of its kind World Intelligent Cities Summit took place in Istanbul on the 13-14 September. The agenda included prominent figures from the Turkish government and local authorities together with international experts presenting best practices for the development of connected and sustainable cities. While primarily a business and policy summit it was a rather interesting meeting in terms of the common direction towards a more sustainable future where ICT plays a critical role.

Idris Gulluce, Deputy & Chair Committee on Public Works, Reconstruction, Transportation and Tourism of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) talked extensively about the importance of local culture and social understanding for the success of smart policies in cities. He underlined the increasing impact of behavioral sciences in designing, implementing and benchmarking policies and took some distance from ‘all-purpose’ EU guidelines and regulations that often oversee social cohesion and wellbeing in favor of preset targets. Gulluce outlined the list of major transport projects planned or underway in Istanbul like the Marmaray rail tunnel under the Istanbul Strait, the Istanbul Strait Road Channel Crossing, the Gebze-Orhangazi-Izmir Highway and the North Marmara Highway including the third Bosphorous Bridge in the city. In response to the decision to go on with these projects, Gulluce was criticized by the press in the room for a lack of planning and communication in the design and launch phases. From the lively discussions it became evident that Istanbul has changed dramatically during the last fifteen years. As he noted, Hurriyet – a newspaper with national circulation – offered coupons for gas masks back in 1994 to address the problem of air quality in the city. Today the most significant problems come from excessive traffic primarily due to the size of the city (~13m residents) and a historic lack of urban building plans. Besides the economic performance of the area continues to lure more young people to the city from the other regions of the country further affecting the local traffic.

Egemen Bagis, Minister of EU Affairs, went on to explain the increasing impact of cities’ social capital in the development of sustainable-living strategies. Transport, energy, water management, manufacturing and financial services all need to change their practices to address the evolving techno-economic ecosystem. He also highlighted the major improvements in Istanbul describing his experiences when access to drinking water was a major issue for the citizens and ‘hair dressers used soda water to work with’. Moving beyond the darker past he mentioned that people are now already beyond the hostilities of the past and that ‘asking for more tulips’ to decorate green areas is evidence for this improvement. In terms of actions by the government Bagis said that 16m tablets have been distributed to students and identified this policy as a critical broadband demand stimulation measure. The gradual shift from military expenditures towards education is another clear sign of the set of policies that Bagis continues to support.

Pierro Fassino, Mayor of Torino, discussed the transformation of a former industrial city into a modern sustainable landscape. His policies include a successful cycle hire scheme and a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, in line with the 20-20-20 EU agenda. As explained policy-makers have to find the right mix of tools to ‘marry’ digital applications with social cohesion. Direct communications to the officials through social media or simple apps are a global trend that redefines active participation and democratic representation. His policies include a system of systems approach in managing the city linking all information feeds from energy, water, transport, telecommunications and manufacturing to a central location. Fassino described himself as a proponent of the digitization of public data as the only way to efficiently manage modern metropolises.

Hakki Tok, Chief Information Officer of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, pointed to the progress of the city in the digitization domain and announced that a domain name TSD extension has been granted to Istanbul; from 2013 local servers will have the option to be host under the .ist extension, slightly departing from the country’s .tr TSD. Along with mayors and municipal authorities he showed iPhone and Android apps already in operation that notify the IT centers of local municipalities for urgent or everyday citizens’ needs.

Other presentations included pilots for real life Living labs in cities (Hungary, Switzerland and Turkey), water and wastewater applications as financially viable solutions with significant reuse of resources, smart grid applications and local generation of electricity, applications for buildings and retrofits for households to meet the new model of ‘Plus Homes’ by the Fraunhofer Institute and many more.

In a nutshell, this summit showed that Istanbul is turning into a city-model for Turkey and the world both in terms of its size and the digital applications coupled with policy initiatives already in progress. It is also a great place with nice views to Bosphorous early in the morning and exquisite dietary combinations in Taksim Square a little bit later.