smart cities

Citymart teams with Barcelona City Council to break the public procurement mould

Citymart and Barcelona City Council have partnered to launch a trailblazing public procurement initiative. BCN|Open Challenge turns urban challenges into opportunities by opening them up to local and international innovators, with the aim of promoting economic growth while transforming public services to improve the lives of Barcelona’s citizens.

For the first time, companies – especially SMEs & start-ups – are directly linked into the public procurement process. Barcelona City Council has further committed to acquire and support the winning solutions with a comprehensive development package to ensure their fruitful implementation.

Barcelona City Council in partnership with Citymart launches BCN|Open Challenge, an international call for innovative businesses and entrepreneurs to propose pioneering solutions to six challenges carefully designed to address key issues that affect the citizens of Barcelona in their daily lives.

Companies have until 16 June 2014 to present solutions to the six challenges. Finalists will be announced in late July, while the winning proposals for each challenge will be contracted by the end of the year.

Rather than prescriptively defining the solutions they are looking for, Barcelona publishes six urban and social challenges they are facing and asks for new solutions. Companies with new technologies and innovative approaches stand to gain from this simultaneously inclusive and disruptive model.

Backed by a 1M EUR innovation fund, BCN|Open Challenge will welcome the winning companies with a comprehensive business development package including dedicated landing space as well as financial and human resource training.

Using public procurement as a vehicle to stimulate development and attract new talent, BCN|Open Challenge offers a model that will catalyze innovation and accelerate business growth and job creation in the city. In line with the Barcelona Growth initiative, which designs the economic strategy of the city, this programme enables Barcelona City Council to strengthen its position as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The six challenges are:

1. Reducing bicycle thefts in the city 2. Empowering support systems to reduce social isolation 3. Monitoring pedestrian flows in the city 4. Tools for digitisation of museum and archive collections 5. Automatic detection and alerts of damaged road surfaces 6. Empowering local retail through technology

BCN|Open Challenge

“Citymart is proud to partner with Barcelona to pave the way towards a more open, entrepreneurial and innovative city government” remarks Citymart CEO Sascha Haselmayer. “This is a unique and bold step to improve the lives of citizens, and an unprecedented commitment to support the global innovation community.”

The Deputy Mayor for Economy, Business and Employment, Sonia Recasens, highlighted this pioneering initiative as one that will “accelerate efficiency and transparency in public procurement so that it becomes a powerful tool to strengthen the Barcelona brand, attract investment to the city and establish synergies with local companies.”

BCN|Open Challenge sets a new standard for accountability and transparency within Barcelona’s regulatory and procurement decisions. Through this programme, Haselmayer says, “Barcelona is positioning itself as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship by opening up and inviting entrepreneurs to transform the city.”

For Recasens, the benefits for the city of Barcelona are similarly apparent: “The proposals arising from this international call will enable us to build a more innovative, competitive and global Barcelona at the hand of local and international companies. It will also encourage foreign investment projects that will undoubtedly strengthen the role of the city as an economic and knowledge hub.”

Together, Citymart and the Barcelona City Council are proving that even in times of austerity and budget cuts, it is indeed possible to shift the public procurement landscape to enable business-led innovation to transform the lives of citizens in a more direct and transparent way.

To learn more about BCN|Open Challenge, visit bcnopenchallenge.org.

About Citymart Citymart supports cities in transforming their communities by strengthening their innovation capacity and sharing inspiring solutions & methods to address urban and social challenges. The company provides tools and methods adopted by 52 cities to-date – such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Boston, Fukuoka, Cape Town and Mexico City – to leverage entrepreneurship and markets early-on in the public procurement and regulation processes. As a result, cities invest less public resources to greater societal effect, and create more sustainable, resilient and responsive communities.

Over the last 5 years SMEs from around the world have won 98% of the Calls published on Citymart.com. By opening procurement and finding new approaches, cities stand to save between 5-10% of operating budgets, according to a study by McKinsey Global Research. More competition reduces costs, creates local jobs and increases entrepreneurship. The role of Citymart is to bring such city-innovator partnerships into being.

For more information, visit citymart.com, follow us @CitymartTeam or on facebook.com/Citymartcom

About Barcelona Growth Barcelona Growth is an initiative led by the City Council of Barcelona that brings together public and private representatives from various fields to guarantee the conditions for economic growth. It was born after the City Council called the main economic agents of the city together and invited them to work jointly on researching specific measures to restart the local economy. Barcelona Growth is at the centre of a package of policies and measures aimed at promoting the economic development of the city of Barcelona over the next few years. With this programme, the City Council aims to be practical, work in a network, alongside the actors and in a fast way, taking into account the situation, with the clear aim of achieving growth and acting as a motor for the country.

To find about more about Barcelona Growth, visit http://w42.bcn.cat/barcelonabusiness/en/.

Urban Systems & Services - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

The Urban Systems & Services Parallel Session was moderated by Barbara Hale, the Assistant General Manager of SFPUC. Barbara focused the session on how cities are becoming massive interconnected systems and how to use technology as a tool to improve the quality of life of citizens. Parallel Session C

Speaker 1: Modupe Ajibola, CEO, OTG Playa

First up to speak was Modupe Ajibola of OTG Playa whose presentation centered on the role of technology in Africa and how it is slowly moving from a luxury to necessity. For example, there are already over 140 million cell phones in Nigeria making it one of the world’s largest mobile telecom markets. These devices had a multiplier effect creating many new jobs and services that were not available before. The problem is that many in the educated workforce are content in taking these newly created middle class jobs when they should be working in the white collar sector. For example, many of the electrical engineers end up working in call centers because it creates a life much better than they had growing up. While the progress is noble, it should be taken a bit further. These engineers should be working in R&D creating products for Africans by Africans. People in Africa want iPhones and iPads, but they don't want to pay a premium price. They end up buying Chinese knockoffs that break a few months later. Perhaps Africa could copy the U.S. and move to the subsidy model for mobile phones? By encouraging these engineers to start developing products and services for Africa and the rest of the world, the needs and wants of the people can be addressed while keeping the money inside the continent.

Speaker 2: Gianni Minetti, President & CEO, Paradox Engineering

Gianni Minetti followed by focusing on the open standards needed to network all the infrastructure for our cities. The shift from rural to urban is only accelerating, and he presented several facts to back this up. For one, 1.3 million people are moving to cities every week. This means that there are now 21 cities with over 10 million people. Paradox Engineering wants to put lighting, pollution monitoring, and power all together in one open system. While this may seem like something obvious to do, the problem is that many cities have separate systems for each infrastructure component. Not only is it expensive to build redundant infrastructure, it creates a spectrum crunch. By building an urban multi-utility network, we can make technology a tool, not a hurdle. By using open standards we can future proof the networks ensuring ROI protection for cities.

Speaker 3: Bill Oates, Chief Information Officer, Boston

Bill Oates spoke about how the city of Boston was using technology to solve its problems. The smartphone application, Citizen's Connect, has proven immensely popular, which isn't all that surprising considering 35% of the city's population is between 20 and 34. With the application, citizens can report potholes, streetlight outages, graffiti, and other problems. After seeing how much citizens loved using the app, city workers got their own version allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch workers and catalog repairs. Version 4.0 of the app, slated to be released by the end of the year, will allow citizens to be notified when the problem they reported is fixed. Embracing the recent trend of gamification, the new version of the app will allow citizens to thank the workers who fixed their problem. The app has allowed citizens of Boston to interact with government in ways previously not possible. Taking the application a step further, the city of Boston unveiled Street Bump, which uses a smartphone's accelerometer to passively detect potholes. Interestingly enough only 10% of the bumps reported were potholes; the other 90% were the 307,000 utility castings in the city. Using technology is essential for cities that wish to thrive in the 21st century. Bill Oats highlighted the point that if you stay at the status quo, you're falling behind. Historically, government has been very risk averse, but technology doesn't have to be risky. Those that avoid it completely will be left in the dust.

Speaker 4: Philip Playfair, CEO, Lowfoot

Last to present, Philip Playfair explained how his company pays people to use less energy when consumption (and thus prices) is peaking. The main purpose is to encourage consumers to shift power consumption from peak to off peak. His company has contracted with 6 companies with over 5,000 smart meters. In a way, the software can act as a virtual peaker plant. When demand exceeds supply, energy usage can automatically be reduced. The consumers are compensated for this inconvenience via monthly payments. Additionally, the software measures carbon savings to show consumers how shifting their energy usage benefits the environment. In order to increase engagement Lowfoot has added gamification aspects to the product. For example, users get badges for saving energy and can brag to their friends over Twitter or Facebook. While solutions like Lowfoot can marginally reduce power consumption, the main problem is that energy is too cheap to motivate people’s decision making. In order for huge shifts in consumer behavior, energy prices need to go up.

Conclusion

Whether it’s using mobile applications to encourage engagement or unifying infrastructure communication systems, technology is changing how cities operate. While governments have been traditionally viewed as slow and cumbersome, in order to keep up with the ever evolving world, cities need to speed up deployments of innovative solutions. The problem is that government procurement has been very slow and risk averse. In order to help solve this problem, cities need to adapt new processes to accept technology with open (but vigilant) arms.

Reported by Chris Mojaher

21 world cities reveal the winning solutions to improve lives of 110 million citizens

Twenty-one cities from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America have announced the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2012 (LLGA 2012) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Award presented major urban challenges faced by cities such as Barcelona, San Francisco, Cape Town, Mexico City, Birmingham, Rio de Janeiro or Lagos, to which 555 companies from 50 countries responded by presenting their innovative solutions. Cities spend EUR 3.5 Trillion annually in public procurement, and technologies promise major efficiency, accessibility and service quality gains.

During the first world meeting in Latin America on the smart use of technologies and services, public leaders from 21 global cities have revealed the winning innovative solutions that best meet strategic challenges like Affordable Housing Units for Lagos (Nigeria), Data to Help Fight Obesity in Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Changing Private Car Use in Lavasa (India), Wireless Control of Urban Systems in San Francisco (USA), a Knowledge Square to enhance digital inclusion in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Participation in Service Design and Delivery in Sant Cugat (Spain), Digital Public Transport in Mexico City (Mexico) and Engaging Visitors Experience in Barcelona (Spain). Winning solutions of the LLGA 2012 will now be piloted in the 21 participating cities over the next 12 months, to evaluate their impact to meet the pressing challenges.

 The winning solutions are:

 City of Barcelona (Spain): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Birmingham (UK): Composting on-site in Green Communities, by Susteco AB

City of Cáceres (Spain): Sustainable Cities. Motion is Energy, by OTEM2000 - Green Solutions & Management S.L.

City of Cape Town (South Africa):  Cape GeniUS!, by SCY

City of Coventry (UK): HLG SYSTEM, by GLASS COVER Europe S.L.

City of Derry~Londonderry (UK): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Eindhoven (The Netherlands): The App that gets teenagers moving, by GGD Brabant-Zuidoost

City of Fukuoka (Japan): Smart PathFinder, by Where 2 Get It, Inc.

City of Glasgow (UK): SmartCity Málaga, by Endesa

City of Guadalajara (Mexico): Guadalajara: Keeping Road Surfaces in Top Condition, by Falcon Road Maintenance Equipment

City of Hamburg (Germany): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

City of Kristiansand (Norway): City Direct, by Innovation Center Iceland

City of Lagos (Nigeria): Lagos state Housing Solution, by TEMPOHOUSING NIGERIA LIMITED

City of Lavasa (India): SKYBUS, by Skybus

Mexico City (Mexico): Modern Urban Transport Information, by Clever Devices

City of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil): Contactless tags to bridge real and physical worlds, by Connecthings

Rome - Lazio Region (Italy): Get on board and play with bUS, by Placemaking srl

City of San Francisco (USA): From Street Lighting Management to Advanced Smart City Services, by Paradox Engineering

City of Sant Cugat (Spain): MindMixer, by MindMixer.com

City of Santiago de Chile (Chile): SFpark - A New way of managing parking, by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

City of Terrassa (Spain): CityWalking, by UPC BarcelonaTech

In a unique global effort, 555 technology solutions from about 50 countries submitted to the Living Labs Global Award 2012 in February, while 109 were shortlisted in March. Winners have been selected after an international two-round jury process involving 147 jurors, under the auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen and Barcelona working with 50 cities and 1,000 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities. The Living Labs Global Award is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The LLGA 2012 was promoted by 21 global cities in partnership with Living Labs Global, Citymart.com, Oracle and The Climate Group.

The LLGA 2012 Ceremony of 2 May was attended by 200 participants from 22 countries in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.

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 “Today we have witnessed a major commitment towards meeting some of the world’s pressing urban challenges, with the goal of improving the lives of more than 50% of the world’s population by using clean technologies, smart services and better accessibility. The winners will now have the opportunity to implement their solutions in real-life, and work together with stakeholders in the 21 partner cities to prove their impact,” said Sascha Haselmayer, Co-Founder of Living Labs Global.

 The Living Labs Global Award 2012 has been an important event for the City of Rio de Janeiro, which will soon host the Football World Cup and the Olympic Games. We thrive upon knowledge and innovation and this Summit exchanges experience and cutting-edge solutions. It has been a very successful event. Through the Living Labs Global Award 2012 we received 109 solutions that will help us to develop our Knowledge Square, which is being implemented in 6 areas of the city and aims to enhance digital inclusion across Rio de Janeiro,” said Franklin Coelho, Secretary of Science and Technology of the City of Rio de Janeiro, host city and partner of the LLGA 2012.

The cities will be considered at the cutting edge of innovation and progress, as contactless technologies and associated mobile services are about to revolutionize mobile usages. They will also enjoy a new two-channel interactive communication tool, visible and accessible to everyone which is particularly important for an emerging global city. Connecthings will be glad to benefit from such prestigious international references and to demonstrate that its solutions are flexible and adaptable to cities’ diverse challenges,” said Damaris Homo, Business Development Manager at Connecthings, winner of four LLGA 2012, including the categories of Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

With initiatives like the Living Labs Global Award 2012 we are transforming Barcelona into a platform for innovation. We would like to see successful projects in the city being replicated in others, such as Rio de Janeiro or Paris, to name a few. The city of Rio as the host of the next Football World Cup and the Olympic Games must also think about their legacy and how the infrastructure will bring benefits to its citizens in the future, said Josep M. Piqué, Strategic Sectors Director, 22@ Barcelona, partner city of the LLGA 2012.

“Over 50% of the world population lives in cities and only by having them on our side will we win the battle against pollution and build a better world. We have to disseminate the Clean Revolution to city leaders, said Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group, partner of the LLGA 2012.

On the second day of the meeting, May 3, during the Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, 200 delegates from 22 countries, including public leaders from 30 international cities and pioneering entrepreneurs driving social and technological innovation are engaging in matchmaking activities to foster partnerships and dialogues on the investment priorities of participating cities: Urban Systems & Services, Health & Wellbeing, Open Government & Accessibility, Clean and Green Cities, Tourism & Mobility.

On May 4, delegates join LLGA 2012 local immersion programme to experience some of the ground-breaking projects, such as the Change through Digital Inclusion (CDI) programme in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, now adopted by 717 communities in 14 countries.

About Citymart.com

Citymart.coml is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Barcelona (Spain), working with 50 cities and 1,000 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers. The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Previous LLGA winners

Some of the winners of LLGA since 2010 include SOCRATA, whose solution has been implemented by San Francisco to power the city’s new cloud-based Open Data site, URBIOTICA’s intelligent waste management sensors for recycling containers and WORRLDSENSING’s cutting-edge urban smart parking solution.

Facts:

More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility, urban systems and services, open government, health and wellbeing and other key areas of urban life.

More information on www.llga.org

Follow us on Twitter (@LLGACities), Facebook.com/citymartcom and Linkedin

Small cities can be smart cities too

Megacities and large metropolitan areas around the world tend to get all of the credit for being leaders in innovation and technological change. Over the past several weeks, I have mainly focused my posts on these so-called "first-order" cities -- places that are recognizable to most of the world's population by city name alone. London. Rio de Janeiro. Barcelona. Shanghai. These are places that require no introduction and have rightly been recognized for their forward-thinking enterprise. But many other smaller places have been participating in the movement towards becoming smarter, more sustainable, and better connected cities. Some of them are involved in this year's Living Labs Global Awards. LLG's own Sascha Haselmayer discusses the role that these small, smart cities can play in his article, "Technology and Participation Pay Dividends in Smaller Cities," posted yesterday on EngagingCities.

When I think of these places getting involved in public service improvements and tech development, the first limitation that comes to mind is the bottom line. Smaller cities simply don't have the budget to compete directly with their larger counterparts. But they do have the resources to collaborate with them, and this is where small cities have the potential to be highly influential.

Sant Cugat, a city of 80,000 located outside of Barcelona, provides an excellent example of how smaller hubs of innovation can collaborate with and support the work of a nearby major city and its surrounding region. Sant Cugat rose out of its financial troubles of the early 2000s and began to reinvent itself as a place of good public management, community engagement, and local innovation. Its Local Innovation Plan won a Living Labs Global Award in 2009 and presents an inspiring way to involve citizens in discussions of city planning and development. Sant Cugat has also collaborated with Barcelona to develop technologies and ideas to create more sustainable and resilient cities.

You can read more here about Sant Cugat and how small cities can help to promote and develop urban solutions.

~ Allison Bullock

LLGA2011 Winner: Report on Worldsensing Smart Parking Pilot

5.12pm 12 May 2011 it has become official – Worldsensing has won the Stockholm Living Labs Global Award 2011 in the category of urban mobility. The winning prize was nothing less than a pilot trial of our cutting-edge smart parking solution in one of Barcelona’s largest satellite cities Sant Cugat.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uesLdfMr33E]

Usually very difficult to achieve, a city hall has actually committed to testing an innovative technology solution for easing the daily headache of finding a vacant parking space and thus easing the daily routine of their citizens.

Discussions with the city hall about their needs and our possibilities started a little less than a month after the prize announcement, i.e. at the speed of light considering the public administration’s usual understanding of time. Of surprise to us was the advanced state of the Smart City initiatives in San Cugat. It seems that the city hall has been making important steps towards a sustainable city by introducing a separate smart city department which essentially handles smart city technologies the same way as an IT department handles computer technologies.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGMm5PLePFw]

A specific street in Sant Cugat has since been assigned to us, where we are about to install our smart parking product referred to as FastPrk. The tailor-made product targets the outdoors parking market, be it privately owned (such as shopping malls) or public (such as townhalls). It addresses the obvious headache for the citizens of Sant Cugat of losing a lot of time, money and health by finding a parking spot quickly. The product is composed of sensors, which are installed in each parking spot and which communicate wirelessly with an Internet-enabled gateway to inform about the absence/presence of a car. The information of available parking spots is made available to the citizen of Sant Cugat via a smart phone application and/or via panels along the street, something still to be discussed. The closed loop platform, i.e. sensors offering real-time information, addresses all headaches encountered at either end of the parking market. In addition, it facilitates the introduction of dynamic pricing; reservation of places; the coupling of the obtained data streams into a more general and powerful smart city operating system; among many other opportunities.

Installations commenced at the end of October 2011. We hope to significantly improve the lives of the citizens of Sant Cugat in their commutes downtown.

Living Labs Global is a fantastic team to deal with! They are clearly a market shaker in the emerging market of smart cities. Worldsensing has had the pleasure in applying for the Stockholm smart city finals through a fairly simple and straightforward procedure and, after a pitch in front of an eager audience, won the finals in the respective category. A lot of work, however, had clearly been done in the background by the Living Labs Global team – be it for the organization of the event(s), getting together qualified people, make them review the applications and ideas, etc, etc. A notable development is also the platform developed by Living Labs Global which allows city halls around the globe to consult on existing technologies and prior experience of fellow cities. Congratulations and good luck with the 2012 edition!

- Mischa Dohler, CTO Worldsensing

The Observant City and Self

"Within a 40 min time span, I checked out a bike from the Bicing network using my member card, I rolled over a loop detector, I accessed a coffee shop WiFi network, a cashier swiped my fidelity card, I checked in Foursquare and access Google Maps on my mobile phone, as I am moving, two mobile network antennas produced a hand-over of my communication, I acquired a product with an RFID attached to it, I pass nearby Bluetooth scanners deployed to measure the traffic at La Rambla, I checked back in my bike, I appeared in a photo taken by a tourist at Plaza Catalunya, later uploaded to Picassa and finally, I use a T-10 ticket to access the subway system." -- Fabien Girardin 

What a world we live in.  We’ve created all this technology to observe the city, and yet it is us who are observed. Entire cities are being constructed on the premise of observation – an idea that with systematic data collection, we can tease out the important information to make our cities run more efficiently and our lives more convenient.

But what exactly is that data? It’s not the city’s data so much as it is our own. Not the efficiency of the pipes but how much water we use. Not the congestion on the streets but how much we drive. The sensors of “smart” cities are like the computers in our cars: sensors designed to measure, in real time, everything that comes in and goes out of the system. And ultimately it is us who are responsible for the myriad inflows and outflows.

Of course, smarter cities have the potential to increase dramatically our level of understanding of human interaction and production. There are huge benefits, no doubt. And at the same time, an opinion piece in the New York Times this morning reminds us that temporarily pulling away from the vast array of information available to us today is perhaps the most essential of actions to processing it.

As we head into 2012, I’m reminding myself of the importance of balance. As we speed forward toward smart and connected cities as a civilization, individually we must take rest stops on the information superhighway – lest we mistake the data trees for the information forest. The information that truly brings efficiency and convenience to our lives.

-          Terra Curtis

 

 

 

Technology is Not the Answer

smart citiesThere’s been a theme running throughout the last few posts on this blog: technology is not the answer to urban problems, not even in cities designed completely around it. At Living Labs Global’s Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, world leaders agreed that “smart cities” are more than just technological robots. Rather, a well-planned and designed city in which policies, public-private partnerships, and technologies work together in concert is the smartest city. The magazine Scientific American ran an issue entitled “Better, Greener, Smarter Cities” in September 2011. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until recently. I noticed some similar themes in their pages. The “In Brief” notes to the article The Social Nexus focus ironically on inhabitants’ acquisition and use of electronic devices to better connect citizens with government. But the meat of the article itself promotes the idea that it was not the technology itself, but rather smart, organized citizens who leveraged technology as a tool to bring about change in places like Egypt and Tunisia. Overall, the author suggests that technology will enable a new perspective on cities, which is from the bottom up, which resonates strongly in the current Occupy Movement political frame.

In another article, Edward Glaeser writes that cities are growing and the increasing proximity of the world’s people fuels economic prosperity and health. He also uses the recent example of how Facebook was used in Egypt. But again, the technology is highlighted as a mere tool; nothing would have happened had citizens not also taken their message offline to the streets of Tahrir Square to demand change.

I write this article to remind my colleagues and readers, but especially to remind myself, that in most cases technology is not the answer. Communications technologies in particular are tools to be leveraged; it is not technologies themselves but human minds, policies, and partnerships that will create the world’s smartest cities.

-          Terra Curtis

Smarter Cities? Venturing with Evaporating Budgets

On invitation by the Smart Cities team at Oracle, yesterday we helped facilitate an executive roundtable of European and US city leaders facing recessions on both sides of the Atlantic during Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. Cities are unlike businesses and are reluctant to respond deep drops in revenue by radical cost-cutting that would affect services. We learned first-hand about ongoing measures to cut costs and raise revenue: more efficient use of software, better collection of fees, taxes and penalties; creating shared service centres, and reducing staff overheads by cutting external contractors first and planning for 5-15% staff reductions in the coming years. Administrative and customer service technologies clearly are a blessing in this process, turning the city into a self-service environment that, albeit pre-occupations about digital literacy, is clearly heading towards greater accessibility and transparency.

Smart & Sustainable? Later please...

When the discussion came to smart urban technologies and sustainability agendas, we found that little was happening. It was largely political leaders who made announcements and placed demands on technology to deliver green cities, yet additional resources are not available beyond stimulus packages or external grants that have provided at most a short-term leap but no fundamental re-thinking of cities' often immense service operations.

In the current climate, cities are struggling to reconcile the expectations of citizens (more, better, for less taxes); the dire economic realities of surviving in times of crisis; and propagating sustainability and innovation agendas - all at the same time.

Partly, the instinct to respond to crises through calls for cost-reductions can be blamed. For example, most US government agencies forbid foreign travel by employees today, even if travel costs were covered. Looking outside is seen as a political risk and irresponsible - when it should be the way by which ideas can be found to innovate and come out of the crisis stronger. By starving the curiosity and creativity of their employees, governments are unlikely to come up with innovative approaches to deal with crises.

Our exchange turned to the question of cost-cutting vs technology venturing by identifying major opportunities in a city to reduce the cost of major service areas through technology opportunities. Urban lighting, maintenance of urban trees (EUR 220 million per year in Paris alone), water management, and services for the disabled all offer great opportunities to use sensors, automation, and consolidation to create vast efficiencies. And improve quality.

Yet, it is rarely the technology departments that can stimulate such change, their influence tends to be dwarfed by public works, utilities, infrastructure and other major services departments. IT is seen as a tool to cut costs (however one measures this) by creating leaner processes - but not as a transformative tool to be applied to fundamentally change services. And the inherent struggle for more influence, budget and resources all work against the need to seek synergies not just in savings, but design.

Cities struggle to proceed on a smart agenda and instead go leaner and leaner. American cities in particular mourned the lack of capital grants to deliver technology leaps, with European city leaders nodding. There is no change on the horizon with federal or state budgets planning deeper cuts in the years to come.

How then can technology venturing be brought (back) to American cities?

One promising area will be the understanding that technology is a process of piloting, evaluating, learning, buying. This is a logical and simple concept, yet most cities pursue massive roll-outs to immediately generate results rather than having a continuing innovation pipeline that may not require vast budgets, but a clear agenda for exploration and change. Like 22@ Barcelona's Urban Lab, cities should begin to take pre-procurement intelligence, testing and innovation seriously to enable smarter investment choices in major urban services such as lighting, waste management, transport.

A second promising area is to involve citizens and other interest groups more directly in understanding the possibilities of change, as allies in pushing through hard reforms. Cost cutting and staff redundancies are already on the agenda, yet citizens may not appreciate the opportunity of smart investments that have a truly transformative impact. Stockholm acted wisely when involving all organisations representing visually impaired and blind citizens, as well as about 300 individual impaired users, in developing its approach that led to the ground-breaking e-Adept navigation system for the blind - all of whom retained the pressure on political and administrative leaders to keep going.

And e-Adept pointed to a third promising area: The vision that technology would not only cut costs, but create value. Value not only in the immense leap in quality of life for the visually impaired users, but value as applied to society and the economy as a whole. Instead of delivering an additional social service, the city generated EUR 17 million per year in direct economic benefits with the vision that accessibility for all means receivers of social services today may be employees and entrepreneurs in the future.

Like any risk-taker, cities need to regain their optimism - and take citizens along.

Fundamentally, city governments under fire must regain confidence that they are not on a one-way, cost-cutting road that will eventually reduce their service offering. Instead, cities should venture and pursue policies that are more open to co-investment by external social and business partners and make sure that citizens take an active role in the hard choices - with optimism.

Smarter Cities? Venturing with Evaporating Budgets

On invitation by the Smart Cities team at Oracle, yesterday we helped facilitate an executive roundtable of European and US city leaders facing recessions on both sides of the Atlantic during Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. Cities are unlike businesses and are reluctant to respond deep drops in revenue by radical cost-cutting that would affect services. We learned first-hand about ongoing measures to cut costs and raise revenue: more efficient use of software, better collection of fees, taxes and penalties; creating shared service centres, and reducing staff overheads by cutting external contractors first and planning for 5-15% staff reductions in the coming years. Administrative and customer service technologies clearly are a blessing in this process, turning the city into a self-service environment that, albeit pre-occupations about digital literacy, is clearly heading towards greater accessibility and transparency.

Smart & Sustainable? Later please...

When the discussion came to smart urban technologies and sustainability agendas, we found that little was happening. It was largely political leaders who made announcements and placed demands on technology to deliver green cities, yet additional resources are not available beyond stimulus packages or external grants that have provided at most a short-term leap but no fundamental re-thinking of cities' often immense service operations.

In the current climate, cities are struggling to reconcile the expectations of citizens (more, better, for less taxes); the dire economic realities of surviving in times of crisis; and propagating sustainability and innovation agendas - all at the same time.

Partly, the instinct to respond to crises through calls for cost-reductions can be blamed. For example, most US government agencies forbid foreign travel by employees today, even if travel costs were covered. Looking outside is seen as a political risk and irresponsible - when it should be the way by which ideas can be found to innovate and come out of the crisis stronger. By starving the curiosity and creativity of their employees, governments are unlikely to come up with innovative approaches to deal with crises.

Our exchange turned to the question of cost-cutting vs technology venturing by identifying major opportunities in a city to reduce the cost of major service areas through technology opportunities. Urban lighting, maintenance of urban trees (EUR 220 million per year in Paris alone), water management, and services for the disabled all offer great opportunities to use sensors, automation, and consolidation to create vast efficiencies. And improve quality.

Yet, it is rarely the technology departments that can stimulate such change, their influence tends to be dwarfed by public works, utilities, infrastructure and other major services departments. IT is seen as a tool to cut costs (however one measures this) by creating leaner processes - but not as a transformative tool to be applied to fundamentally change services. And the inherent struggle for more influence, budget and resources all work against the need to seek synergies not just in savings, but design.

Cities struggle to proceed on a smart agenda and instead go leaner and leaner. American cities in particular mourned the lack of capital grants to deliver technology leaps, with European city leaders nodding. There is no change on the horizon with federal or state budgets planning deeper cuts in the years to come.

How then can technology venturing be brought (back) to American cities?

One promising area will be the understanding that technology is a process of piloting, evaluating, learning, buying. This is a logical and simple concept, yet most cities pursue massive roll-outs to immediately generate results rather than having a continuing innovation pipeline that may not require vast budgets, but a clear agenda for exploration and change. Like 22@ Barcelona's Urban Lab, cities should begin to take pre-procurement intelligence, testing and innovation seriously to enable smarter investment choices in major urban services such as lighting, waste management, transport.

A second promising area is to involve citizens and other interest groups more directly in understanding the possibilities of change, as allies in pushing through hard reforms. Cost cutting and staff redundancies are already on the agenda, yet citizens may not appreciate the opportunity of smart investments that have a truly transformative impact. Stockholm acted wisely when involving all organisations representing visually impaired and blind citizens, as well as about 300 individual impaired users, in developing its approach that led to the ground-breaking e-Adept navigation system for the blind - all of whom retained the pressure on political and administrative leaders to keep going.

And e-Adept pointed to a third promising area: The vision that technology would not only cut costs, but create value. Value not only in the immense leap in quality of life for the visually impaired users, but value as applied to society and the economy as a whole. Instead of delivering an additional social service, the city generated EUR 17 million per year in direct economic benefits with the vision that accessibility for all means receivers of social services today may be employees and entrepreneurs in the future.

Like any risk-taker, cities need to regain their optimism - and take citizens along.

Fundamentally, city governments under fire must regain confidence that they are not on a one-way, cost-cutting road that will eventually reduce their service offering. Instead, cities should venture and pursue policies that are more open to co-investment by external social and business partners and make sure that citizens take an active role in the hard choices - with optimism.

Smart City Implementation: NYC and SF

SFParkIntelligent cities projects are not just an idealized concept anymore; they’re actually happening all around us, whether or not we realize it.  New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced about a week ago that NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority had partnered with the Federal Government to develop and implement a real-time traffic tracking system that enables their traffic operations office to make changes to signal timing right from their desktop computer.  In San Francisco, the USDOT’s Urban Partnership Program primarily funded the development and installation of a real-time parking supply and demand tracking system, which this week implemented its first round of demand-responsive parking price changes. The system in San Francisco has many implications for the future of transportation management.  The back-end data structure has been consciously designed to be flexible for future real-time data collection additions, like a feed of real-time boardings on Muni, the city’s public transit system.  In the words of project manager Jay Primus, “[Microsoft] Excel just won’t cut it anymore.”  And he’s right; leveraging relational database technology, which has actually existed for quite a while (the 1970s), is seen as a huge and innovative step for municipal government.  In one simple query, the city could understand how parking demand is related to public transit boardings.  Add real-time, automated automobile, bicycle and pedestrian volumes to the mix, and you’ve got a truly multi-modal management system.

New York’s system is offers the development of one piece of this as well.  They collect traffic volume information from microwave sensors, video cameras, and E-Z Pass readers throughout Manhattan.  They’re verifying the system’s data collection with GPS units installed in several taxicabs travelling throughout the city every day.

Without the financial backing of the federal government, it’s unlikely that either of these projects would have come to fruition.  This is one case where, gladly, money is power.

- Terra Curtis

 

Smart City Implementation: NYC and SF

SFParkIntelligent cities projects are not just an idealized concept anymore; they’re actually happening all around us, whether or not we realize it.  New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced about a week ago that NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority had partnered with the Federal Government to develop and implement a real-time traffic tracking system that enables their traffic operations office to make changes to signal timing right from their desktop computer.  In San Francisco, the USDOT’s Urban Partnership Program primarily funded the development and installation of a real-time parking supply and demand tracking system, which this week implemented its first round of demand-responsive parking price changes. The system in San Francisco has many implications for the future of transportation management.  The back-end data structure has been consciously designed to be flexible for future real-time data collection additions, like a feed of real-time boardings on Muni, the city’s public transit system.  In the words of project manager Jay Primus, “[Microsoft] Excel just won’t cut it anymore.”  And he’s right; leveraging relational database technology, which has actually existed for quite a while (the 1970s), is seen as a huge and innovative step for municipal government.  In one simple query, the city could understand how parking demand is related to public transit boardings.  Add real-time, automated automobile, bicycle and pedestrian volumes to the mix, and you’ve got a truly multi-modal management system.

New York’s system is offers the development of one piece of this as well.  They collect traffic volume information from microwave sensors, video cameras, and E-Z Pass readers throughout Manhattan.  They’re verifying the system’s data collection with GPS units installed in several taxicabs travelling throughout the city every day.

Without the financial backing of the federal government, it’s unlikely that either of these projects would have come to fruition.  This is one case where, gladly, money is power.

- Terra Curtis

 

Another Smart Cities Perspective

On Tuesday, we posted a blog highlighting TIME Magazine’s series on intelligent cities.  In large part, this series promotes the idea by highlighting examples of its success and potential.  This post, found on the Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy blog, questions the movement highlighted by TIME and the National Building Museum’s Intelligent Cities Forum, suggesting that it’s merely a re-packaging of old ideas in new rhetoric. The blogger also highlights both the distinction between and the relationship among “intelligent cities” and “smart growth cities.”  Smart growth cities do not inherently rely on information technology, however to the extent that decision-makers would have more comprehensive, up-to-the-minute data available to them, our cities will grow smarter.

There are two main points made in the conclusion of the article: that all this talk about opportunity and new paradigms will mean nothing if implementation of the ideas never comes true (e.g. “having data should not be mistaken for taking action.”); and that democratization of the decision-making process is a key component of implementation.

TIME’s series will help educate the public about these new challenges and opportunities.  Traditional means of public outreach could do the same in conjunction with some of the new technologies themselves (e.g. MindMixer; GoodZuma).  The implementation of intelligent cities hinges more so than ever before on the public’s knowledge and support – in many cases, it is their input and participation that not only enables, but fully defines the instantiation of intelligent and smartly-grown cities.

- Terra Curtis

 

 

TIME Magazine on Intelligent Cities

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/18928155 w=400&h=225]

Intelligent Cities: Bill Saporito from National Building Museum on Vimeo.

TIME Magazine recently has been running a series focusing on intelligent cities, a topic we've covered several times here on The Global Mobility Report.  As a global news source with 25 million international readers, TIME attempts to capture breaking news but also large trends in culture and ways of life around the globe.  Therefore, the focus on intelligent cities serves as an indicator of the topic's growing audience and appeal.

The issue's articles focus a lot on particular examples -- places where elements of intelligent cities have already been implemented.  These places include the efficient and affordable transportation system of CuritibaStockholm's smart grid, and Kansas City as a laboratory for Google-provided high speed internet.  Bill Saporito, TIME's assistant managing editor (see video), also highlights some of the higher-level thoughts about intelligent cities: that they will be places rich in information, where all people have access to this information, and where information is separated from raw data systematically, avoiding the inefficiencies of "noise".

One of the most interesting things Saporito mentioned in the interview was his idea of why intelligent cities are so important: they provide the ability to plan ahead.  I hadn't thought of it in this way before, but what intelligent cities will do, if successful, is provide information to citizens (e.g. when is the next bus coming, when my water bill will reach $50 this month, how quickly will I burn through this tank of gas) that enables them to change their current behavior based on the future.  Intelligent cities will sort of institutionalize behavior change -- a subject policy makers, planners, elected officials and many others spend lifetimes trying to influence.

TIME has done a nice job aggregating the information on and examples of intelligent cities and I recommend checking it out.

- Terra Curtis

On Location: APA 2011, Boston

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf “Revolutions in science are preceded by revolutions in measurement.” – Benjamin de la Pena

Technology Infrastructure and Planning Session

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve spent the last few days in Boston at the American Planning Association’s annual conference.  I wanted to write one post focused on a session I attended on Monday, entitled Technology Infrastructure and Planning.

With speakers from IBM, CISCO, and the Rockefeller Foundation, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given that this is a planning conference.  However, as readers of this blog will know, I am very interested in the nexus of urban planning and technology, and to my pleasant surprise, this session did not disappoint.  It was probably the most thought-provoking session I attended all weekend.  Readers may want to refer to a previous blog post on “corporate planning” to learn about the planning-related initiatives of CISCO, IBM, and others. Gordon Feller of CISCO emphasized that as technology progresses and infiltrates city management further and further, we will experience a profound shift in the role of planners specifically and of government in general.  All of the speakers mentioned the concept of ERP – enterprise resource planning.  These are technology systems currently in place and used heavily by large corporations to manage and track their operations.  The speakers posited that soon we will have ERP for cities (both IBM and CISCO are currently working on it).

The implication of this is that planners will need to be extremely data savvy.  In the near term, planners could have access to extremely rich and structured data in real-time – strong evidence to defend or refute particular stakeholders’ beliefs.  In the long term, the possibilities are both amazing and frightening.  There will be a need for stronger public-private partnerships, with private companies providing and constructing the physical infrastructure (fiber optic cables, monitoring devices, etc.) and the public sector managing the data and leveraging it for decision making in ways we have yet to imagine.

That said, several early examples already do exist.  CISCO is actually constructing its own smart city in Korea – Songdo.  This is similar to Masdar City, which we previously covered.  Barcelona has designated a sector of the city as an innovation lab (22@Barcelona), where smart city concepts are tested in real time.  In 2005, Bill Clinton challenged cities to minimize their carbon footprint by making planning an integral aspect of the solution.  CISCO conducted pilots in three worldwide cities as part of its associated Connected Urban Development program: Seoul, Amsterdam, and San Francisco.  Urban Ecomap was one of the products of that program.  Blaise Aguera of Microsoft Bing demonstrates in this TEDx talk how his company is producing augmented reality maps, which have many applications for planning including data collection, community engagement, and visualization.

John Tolva, the speaker from IBM, took a reverse approach and highlighted examples of how technologists could learn from the experiences of planners and the built environment.  He emphasized a few key learnings: throughput is not connectivity; it’s easy to confuse the use of a system with the need for a system; data alone is not sufficient for problem solving, but combined with an involved community it just may be.

Benjamin de la Pena of the Rockefeller Foundation also gave an extremely insightful presentation, closing out with some cautionary notes.  I will name a few.  The reliance on data and technology may undermine our own best interests – it can be systematically exclusionary as was exemplified as far back as Athens, Greece in its democratization process.  Some of our most ambitious feats have also turned out to be great failures on certain dimensions – he cited our highway system as connecting our country but dividing our neighborhoods.  Red lining was also data driven, hardly something to be proud of.  Data literacy and transparency will be of the utmost importance: citizens must be able to trust that city managers have their best interest in mind, providing information that is not purposefully hiding misleading but rather empowering.

As a graduate student in planning, I’ll be paying heightened attention to the progress in technology infrastructure in cities and the public-private relationships that will result.  It has great implications for my, and our, future.

-Terra Curtis

Further resources:

 

On Location: APA 2011, Boston

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf “Revolutions in science are preceded by revolutions in measurement.” – Benjamin de la Pena

Technology Infrastructure and Planning Session

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve spent the last few days in Boston at the American Planning Association’s annual conference.  I wanted to write one post focused on a session I attended on Monday, entitled Technology Infrastructure and Planning.

With speakers from IBM, CISCO, and the Rockefeller Foundation, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given that this is a planning conference.  However, as readers of this blog will know, I am very interested in the nexus of urban planning and technology, and to my pleasant surprise, this session did not disappoint.  It was probably the most thought-provoking session I attended all weekend.  Readers may want to refer to a previous blog post on “corporate planning” to learn about the planning-related initiatives of CISCO, IBM, and others. Gordon Feller of CISCO emphasized that as technology progresses and infiltrates city management further and further, we will experience a profound shift in the role of planners specifically and of government in general.  All of the speakers mentioned the concept of ERP – enterprise resource planning.  These are technology systems currently in place and used heavily by large corporations to manage and track their operations.  The speakers posited that soon we will have ERP for cities (both IBM and CISCO are currently working on it).

The implication of this is that planners will need to be extremely data savvy.  In the near term, planners could have access to extremely rich and structured data in real-time – strong evidence to defend or refute particular stakeholders’ beliefs.  In the long term, the possibilities are both amazing and frightening.  There will be a need for stronger public-private partnerships, with private companies providing and constructing the physical infrastructure (fiber optic cables, monitoring devices, etc.) and the public sector managing the data and leveraging it for decision making in ways we have yet to imagine.

That said, several early examples already do exist.  CISCO is actually constructing its own smart city in Korea – Songdo.  This is similar to Masdar City, which we previously covered.  Barcelona has designated a sector of the city as an innovation lab (22@Barcelona), where smart city concepts are tested in real time.  In 2005, Bill Clinton challenged cities to minimize their carbon footprint by making planning an integral aspect of the solution.  CISCO conducted pilots in three worldwide cities as part of its associated Connected Urban Development program: Seoul, Amsterdam, and San Francisco.  Urban Ecomap was one of the products of that program.  Blaise Aguera of Microsoft Bing demonstrates in this TEDx talk how his company is producing augmented reality maps, which have many applications for planning including data collection, community engagement, and visualization.

John Tolva, the speaker from IBM, took a reverse approach and highlighted examples of how technologists could learn from the experiences of planners and the built environment.  He emphasized a few key learnings: throughput is not connectivity; it’s easy to confuse the use of a system with the need for a system; data alone is not sufficient for problem solving, but combined with an involved community it just may be.

Benjamin de la Pena of the Rockefeller Foundation also gave an extremely insightful presentation, closing out with some cautionary notes.  I will name a few.  The reliance on data and technology may undermine our own best interests – it can be systematically exclusionary as was exemplified as far back as Athens, Greece in its democratization process.  Some of our most ambitious feats have also turned out to be great failures on certain dimensions – he cited our highway system as connecting our country but dividing our neighborhoods.  Red lining was also data driven, hardly something to be proud of.  Data literacy and transparency will be of the utmost importance: citizens must be able to trust that city managers have their best interest in mind, providing information that is not purposefully hiding misleading but rather empowering.

As a graduate student in planning, I’ll be paying heightened attention to the progress in technology infrastructure in cities and the public-private relationships that will result.  It has great implications for my, and our, future.

-Terra Curtis

Further resources:

 

245 Entries for Living Labs Global Award 2011

Today we have closed submissions for the Living Labs Global Award 2011. Companies, research centres and NGOs from 127 cities in 29 countries submitted their Showcases to the Award.International juries, chaired by the partner cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Taipei and Stockholm will start their work in the coming days and we will announce the shortlists on March 21st. Enjoy browsing the map of where innovations came from!

http://batchgeo.com/map/bb63209e1306a6d3ff112f81f3be8b67

View Map of Living Labs Global Award 2011 Entries in a full screen map

Smart Cities?

We talk a lot here about the need for “smart cities” – sustainable cities that achieve their sustainability through the use of high technology.  We highlighted one example, PlanIT Valley, in Portugal, that is master planned and set to be built as Greenfield development.

A great article on Grist by Sarah Goodyear makes a very valid point – can these cities be “smart” or even “sustainable” as Greenfield sites?  The article is worth a read even if you’re not particularly interested in PlanIT Valley or similar places; it provides a nice compilation of ideas we’ve presented here on the Living Labs blog over time. My reason for sharing the article is twofold: first, I think it’s a nice read and I agree with her critique of new-cities-as-smart-cities; second, I have a counterpoint.  Goodyear posits it would be “truly smart” to channel all the resources going into PlanIT Valley or Masdar City instead into retrofitting our existing cities, saving environmentally valuable land and construction materials.  She argues that this is more sustainable.  And, by definition, it would be.  But, is sustainability the ultimate goal?

In some cases, retrofitting an existing city would not be sustainable because of the idea of resilience.  If we rebuild New Orleans as a smart city, its lack of resilience makes it unsustainable, and we would have wasted even more resources by trying to make it so.  In fact, with global warming as a very real factor in near-future planning, many of the world’s cities, being coastal cities, are subject to the same constraint.

Perhaps Goodyear’s critique could be strengthened by integrating this idea.  Perhaps Omaha, Nebraska, Moscow, Madrid, or other inland cities will be the best smart city canvas.

-­Terra Curtis

Living PlanIT

What we try to do at Living Labs is to solve problems.  Well, we try to help you solve problems by giving you easy access to creative and innovative solutions.  We have found companies that help you park your bike securely, companies that bring health care into the home, and companies to help people reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.  Taken separately, these things are all very valuable, but imagine how valuable it would be to solve all these problems in coordination. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCepxs36pP4&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Living PlanIT is thinking about just that.  They’ve likened cities to operating systems and construction companies to “original design manufacturers” (ODMs).  It wants to create a system for efficient, sustainable, smart city management.  It has already partnered with tech powerhouses Cisco and McLaren Electronic Systems and is planning to build PlanIT Valley in Portugal very soon.  PlanIT Valley will be built on a Greenfield site and will showcase the ideal intelligent city.

So far, it’s unclear to me how this model will work for infill rather than Greenfield development.  It would take a lot of retrofits to apply all the new smart technology in the physical environment, let alone to win over the cognitive management structure that is so slow to change in big city governments.  But, I think the effort is well-intentioned and, even if only pieces of the new technology can be applied in existing cities, they, and the world as a whole, will be better off.

-Terra Curtis