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Do we need a Pattern Language for Smarter Cities?

 

I participated recently in a robust debate concerning the availability of “delivery guidance” for cities embarking on Smarter Cities initiatives. Whilst there are many visions for smart and future cities; and many examples of projects that have been carried out; there is little prescriptive guidance to assist cities in defining and delivering their own strategy.
 
It is tempting to approach this challenge by applying the formal, process-driven techniques often applied by companies and institutions undergoing "organisational change" initiatives; but transforming a city is not the same thing as changing an organisation. A city is a complex system of systems, and we have comparatively little knowledge about how to drive change in such an environment. Arguably,we should not even think about “driving change” in city ecosystems, but rather consider how to influence the speed and direction of the changes that will emerge from them anyway.
 
More organic approaches to stimulating change in cities have emerged from thinking in policy, economics, planning and architecture such as the Collective Research Initiatives Trust‘s study of Mumbai, and the “Massive / Small” concept and associated “Urban Operating System” developed by Kelvin Campbell and Urban Initiatives. They involve the provision of a “toolkit” of ideas for individuals and organisations to apply in their local context.
 
These toolkits bear similarities to a tool that emerged from town planning in the 1970s and that was then adopted across the information technology industry in the 1980s and 1990s: the “Design Pattern”.
 
To my knowledge, no-one is yet curating a similar set of Smarter Cities patterns; I believe that there would be great value in doing so. I've written an article on my blog exploring that idea, and providing some examples of ideas and initiatives with the Smarter Cities domain that could form the basis of re-usable patterns:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/02/15/do-we-need-a-pattern-language-for-smarter-cities/
 
There are many, many more "patterns" that could be described in this way; I would very much appreciate your thoughts on whether it would be valuable to do so.
 
Regards,
 
Rick

 

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