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Tea, trust, and hacking - conversations that create Smart Cities

 

A colleague of mine in IBM's Smarter Cities team commented to me yesterday that if we are really going to make our cities “Smarter” and more successful, then we must enable all of the individuals and communities in cities to participate in that process. 
 
The concept of "conversations" has increasingly struck me as the key to making that happen in recent weeks; conversations create trust and trust creates environments in which collaborative innovation can take place. 
 
At the "Smart Infrastructure" Summit that IBM and the Start Initiative (http://www.startuk.org/) held in London yesterday, the Director of Start UK pointed out that collaborative innovation had enabled mankind to reach the moon using 1960's technology; more than 30 years later, he asked: shouldn't collaborative innovation using today's technologies be capable of making our cities Smarter and more sustainable in incredible ways?
 
I shared some thoughts on my blog this week on approaches such as social media surgeries and city "hackathons" that are starting conversations and creating trust and innovation in cities that I know such as Birmingham and Sunderland. I'd love to hear of other examples from elsewhere. 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/10/03/tea-trust-and-hacking-how-birmingham-is-getting-smarter/

 

The new architecture of Smart Cities

 

I’ve been preparing this week for the next stage of work on Birmingham’s Smart City Commission; our task on the Commission is to develop a strategic vision for Birmingham as a Smart City and a roadmap for achieving it.
 
In doing so I’ve been considering an interesting and important question:
 
What makes a city a “Smart City” as opposed to a city where some “smart things” happen?
 
I've written an article on my blog this week describing some of the ideas we're working with on the Commission to answer that question; and a framework I'm personally using to shape my thinking.
 
The process of writing the article stimulated some thought about the changing relationship between the architecture of IT systems and the architecture of buildings and cities. To date, these have been two different domains of activity, and are carried out by the members of two different professions. But increasingly I'm finding that they are carried out within the same context, and sometimes now even on the same projects.
 
(I am also aware, by the way, that the very use of the term "IT Architect" to describe the definition and delivery of IT solutions is not universally accepted). 
 
I'd be interested to hear any views from this community on these subjects. You can find the article here: 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/09/26/the-new-architecture-of-smart-cities/

Five easy steps to a Smarter City; and the philosophical imperative for taking them

 

This year more and more cities have started on the road to getting Smarter. In part that momentum has been catalysed in the UK by the Technology Strategy Board’s “Future Cities Demonstrator” competition, in which thirty cities have been awarded small grants to carry out feasibility studies for a £24 million demonstrator project; and across Europe it has been encouraged by continuing investment from the European Union.
 
Over the last few months I’ve written articles on many of the challenges and considerations faced by cities setting out on this journey. This week I thought it would be useful to look back and summarise how they fit together into an overall approach consisting of five steps; and then to revisit the reasons why it is so vitally important that we take those steps.
 
You can find those thoughts here:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/09/11/five-steps-to-a-smarter-city-and-the-philosophical-imperative-for-taking-them/

 

Paying for Smarter Cities (part two)

 

Last week I described on my blog the first five of ten ways in which I've seen cities finance Smarter initiatives; they included tried-and-tested sources such as research grants, and more exploratory ideas such as sponsorship. Whilst cities across the world are pursuing Smarter City strategies for common reasons including demographics, economics and the environment; they nevertheless start in very different social, financial and organisational positions. So there is a need to consider a variety of mechanisms when looking for the financial means to support those strategies.
 
This week I've followed up with the final five; I hope they're of interest to this community:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/09/04/ten-ways-to-pay-for-a-smarter-city-part-two/
 
Regards,
 
Rick

 

Paying for Smarter Cities

 

I’ve been meeting frequently of late with academic, public sector and private sector partners in city systems to explore the ways in which Smarter City initiatives are funded. Whilst many such programmes are underway, it is still the case that individual cities starting on this path find that it can take considerable time to identify and secure funds. 
 
Up to now, a great many Smarter City initiatives have been funded at least in part by research grants. By their nature, these will only fund the first projects to explore Smarter City concepts – they will not scale to support the mass adoption of proven ideas. So we need to consider how they are used alongside other sources of funding.
 
I posted a discussion on my blog this week of  the first five of ten such sources; none of them are silver bullets; but they all represent realistic ways to start paying for cities to become Smarter:
 
 
I’ll describe another five in a follow-up post next week.
 
As always, I'd be interested in views of this community on the subject,
 
Regards,
 
Rick

 

Four avatars of the metropolis: technologies that will change our cities

 

Many cities I work with are encouraging clusters of innovative, high-value, technology-based businesses to grow at the heart of their economies. They are looking to their Universities and technology partners to assist those clusters in identifying the emerging sciences and technologies that will disrupt existing industries and provide opportunities to break into new markets.
 
In advising customers and partners on this subject, I’ve found myself drawn to four themes. Each has the potential to cause significant disruptions, and to create opportunities that innovative businesses can exploit. Each one will also cause enormouse changes in our lives, and in the cities where most of us live and work.
 
I posted some thoughts on those themes to my blog this week; they are "The intelligent web"; "Things that make themselves"; "Of mice, men and cyborgs" and "Bartering 2.0". I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts on them.
 
 
Regards,
 
Rick

 

Five roads to Future Cities

 

I started a discussion a couple of weeks ago about the ways in which cities are formulating "Smarter City" visions and the programmes to deliver them. Such cross-city approaches are clearly what’s required in order to have a transformative effect across an entire city; but whilst some cities have undergone dramatic changes – or have been built as “Smarter” cities in the first place as in the case of the famous Masdar project in Abu Dhabi – most cities are making progress one step at a time.
 
Four patterns seem to be emerging in how they are doing so. Each is potentially replicable by other cities; and each represents an idea that can be used as part of a wider cross-city plan. I've just posted a discussion of those patterns on my blog, I hope it might be interesting to this community.
 

 

From Christmas lights to bio-energy: how technology will change our sense of place

 

Usually when we consider why there is so much attention on "Smarter Cities", "Sustainable Cities" and "Future Cities", we think of the combination of social, environmental and economic challenges facing us all. But there’s a powerful personal force at work too: where we live matters to us. The choices that the 7 billion of us who share the planet make that are affected by our relationship with the places where we live have an incredible impact, especially when they are concentrated in cities. For example, the combined carbon impact of those who commute into cities to work each day because they choose to live in the less densely populated areas outside them is immense.
 
There have been a number of developments in recent years where emerging technologies have been harnessed within local marketplaces to provide communities with different, or at least more-informed, choices about transport, food and energy, for example. I wrote a post on my blog today about the way in which these markets can promote transactions which reinforce social, environmental and economic value within communities; and about the wider impact they might have if more widely adopted. You can read it here: http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/08/02/from-christmas-lights-to-bio-energy-how-technology-will-change-our-sense-of-place/
 
I'd be interested to hear this community's views on these ideas, and in particular, of other examples of such market systems. 

 

How Smarter Cities get started

 

I've been giving some thought recently to what the common ideas are that are emerging from cities that are making progress with their "Smarter" transformations. Many of the environmental, social and economic forces behind the transition to Smarter Cities are common everywhere; however, the capabilities that enable cities to act in response to them are usually very specific to individual cities. They depend on factors such as geographic location, the structure and performance of the local economy, the character of local communities, and the approach of leaders and stakeholders across the city.
 
I posted some thoughts on how I've seen cities successfully take account of such factors in crafting "Smarter City" strategies on my blog, I hope they're of interest to this community; and would be interested to hear your views on the subject.
 

 

Can cities break Geoffrey West’s laws of urban scaling?

 

A colleague of mine made me aware some time ago of the Physicist and Biologist Geoffrey West's work on the mathematics that describe the performance of cities. To cut a long story short, Professor West discovered "urban scaling laws" that show that the largest, densest cities to date have created the most wealth most efficiently. 
 
That's a cause for concern (as West has pointed out himself) because successful strategies spread; and the potential is for cities to become larger and larger until they run into catastrophic resource shortages. (West's excellent TED talk on this subject can be seen here).
 
I'm know of a number of cities, particularly in the UK, who are developing "Smarter City" strategies that attempt to break the urban scaling laws Professor West discovered. By transforming the city systems that connect people and resources so that they behave in "smarter" ways, these cities are attempting to boost their creative performance without increasing their populations or resource consumption to unsustainable levels.
 
I think that's very achievable, and I posted a discussion on my blog today of some prior examples of ways that cities around the world have already made such changes. I'd love to hear of other examples from this community, and your opinions on my interpretation of the underlying laws described by Geoffrey West.

 

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