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Entries with tag smartercities .

Information and choice: nine reasons our future is in the balance

The respected investor Jeremy Grantham claimed recently that economic growth has slowed systemically and permanently in recent years. He states that: “Resource costs have been rising, conservatively, at 7% a year since 2000 … in a world growing at under 4% and [in the] developed world at under 1.5%”
 
Over the last year I’ve been struck by several similar but more widely applicable sets of data that, taken together, indicate that a similar restructuring is taking place across the world: for example, more information was recorded in the last 2 years than in the entirety of previous human history; and 3D printing and social media are reducing the scale at which it is economically viable to carry out what were previously industrial activities. 
 
The world has changed; but it is also unequal; Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote recently that the financial machinery of the United States and the UK in particular create considerable inequality in those countries.
 
Data and technology, appropriately applied, give us an unprecedented ability to achieve our long-term objectives by taking better-informed, more forward-looking decisions every day. They tell us more than we could ever previously have known about the impact of those decisions on our broader society and economy, not just ourselves. 
 
That's why the "tipping points" I've written about in a recent article on my blog matter to me. They translate my general awareness that I should "do the right thing" into a specific knowledge that at this point in time, my choices in many aspects of daily work and life contribute to powerful forces that will shape the next century that we share on this planet; and that they could help to tip the balance in all of our favour.
 
 
The 9 tipping points it identifies are:
  1. The slowing of economic growth
  2. Urbanisation and the industrialisation of food supply 
  3. The frequency and impact of extreme weather conditions
  4. Exponential growth in the world’s most powerful man-made resource, digital information
  5. the disappearing boundary between humans, information and the physical world
  6. The miniaturisation of industry
  7. How we respond to climate change and resource constraints
  8. the end of the average career
  9. Inequality
I hope you enjoy reading it and look forward to your comments,
 
Regards,

Rick

The sharing economy and the future of movement in smart, human-scale cities

There have been widespread reports recently from Forbes, the Financial Times, the Economist magazine and others on the emergence of a "sharing economy" - businesses that make money by operating online markets that enable peer-to-peer transactions between their customers. 
 
Examples include Zopa, whose UK customers lend each other over £100 million every year, Air B'n'B who helped 5,000 New Yorkers to collectively earn $632 million in 2012 by renting spare rooms to travellers, and Casserole Club in London who connect people who are willing to cook for a neighbour with people who aren't able to cook for themselves. Some of these schemes have great potential to promote healthy communities and provide employment opportunites.
 
One of the often over-looked impacts of these business models is the great complexity they create in requirements for transport. Transactions that have previously been mediated by businesses who provide integrated transport services are increasingly carried out between individuals who make their own transport arrangements. 
 
Many urban designers argue that some transport infrastructures in today's cities, particularly major road and rail networks, impair quality of life and contribute to inequality. The cities of the future will only be better, fairer places to live if we change the way we plan, design and implement the transport services to support the growing sharing economy carefully.
 
I think the only way to do that is by looking at trends across technology, urban design, public policy, economic development and transport to imagine how we might live, work and socialise in home, in communities and across cities in the future; and to design digital and transport systems together to support us. 
 
I've written an article describing what I think such cities might look like in my blog; I would be interested to hear your opinions.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/11/12/the-sharing-economy-and-the-future-of-movement-in-smart-human-scale-cities/
 
Regards,
 
Rick

A design pattern for a Smarter City: Online Peer-to-Peer and Regional Marketplaces

Over the past year I've been collecting information about Smarter City initiatives that seem to be repeatedly successful in cities and regions around the world, and describing them as "design patterns". The design pattern has a long history of use in both urban design and technology and, while it has its limitations, it seems a useful tool for sharing knowledge between these two domains that come together in Smarter Cities.
 
I've just posted a description on my blog of new pattern, "Online Peer-to-Peer and Regional Marketplaces". The pattern explores the way communities and businesses have used online marketplaces to share information about the use, availability and impact of goods, services and resources such as water, energy, land, transport and food; and to enable transactions and choices that maximise sustainable, collective value in a locality. Examples include the "Big Barn" business-to-business marketplace for local food; Shutl's marketplace for the delivery of goods bought online; and the recycling network Freecycle.
 
The design pattern is described here: 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/10/28/a-design-pattern-for-a-smarter-city-online-peer-to-peer-and-regional-marketplaces/
 
The wider collection of design patterns, and the reasons for building it up, are described here: 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/design-patterns/
 
Patterns work best when they are created collaboratively; I would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to contribute a pattern to my initiative; if you have comments on the patterns that I've described so far; or if there is a similar existing initiative that you think I should be aware of.
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

Three mistakes we’re still making about Smart Cities

I was asked this week to contribute my view of the present state of the Smart Cities movement to the UK Government’s launch of its Smart Cities Forum. In launching the Forum, David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, remarked that the Smart Cities movement should judge its success by its ability to improve the quality of life for city residents.
 
The market for Smart Cities solutions to address that challenge is growing - entrepreneurial businesses are delivering new city services, enabled by technology and backed by venture capital; and city Councils, service providers and transport authorities are investing in Smart infrastructures. 
 
But I think that we are still making three mistakes that limit the scale at which truly innovative Smart City projects are being deployed: we don't use the right mix of skills to define Smart City initiatives; we ask academic researchers to answer the wrong challenges; and we don't listen to the quiet voices that matter.
 
I've written an article on my blog addressing those challenges, based on my remarks on the panel discussion at the Smart Cities Forum launch. I'd appreciate hearing your views on them:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/10/10/three-mistakes-were-still-making-about-smart-cities/
 
Regards,
 
Rick

A design pattern for a Smarter City: Local Currencies and Alternative Trading Systems

Over the past year I've been collecting information about Smarter City initiatives that seem to be repeatedly successful in cities and regions around the world, and describing them as "design patterns". The design pattern has a long history of use in both urban design and technology and, while it has its limitations, it seems a useful tool for sharing knowledge between these two domains that come together in Smarter Cities.
 
I've just posted a description on my blog of new pattern, "Local Currencies and Alternative Trading Systems". The pattern explores several systems of trading and exchange that have emerged amongst online communities and in local ecosystems that are exploring new ways to create sustainable regional economic and social improvement. Examples include the Bristol and Brixton pounds; the Droplet SmartPhone payment service; and Switzerland's complementary currency, the Wir.
 
The design pattern is described here: 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/09/30/a-design-pattern-for-a-smarter-city-local-currencies-and-alternative-trading-systems/
 
The wider collection of design patterns, and the reasons for building it up, are described here:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/design-patterns/
 
Patterns work best when they are created collaboratively; I would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to contribute a pattern to my initiative; if you have comments on the patterns that I've described so far; or if there is a similar existing initiative that you think I should be aware of.
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

Can Smarter Cities improve our quality of life?

Whether or not information and technology can improve our quality of life in cities seems a pretty fundamental question for the Smarter Cities movement to address - there's little point in us expending time and money on the application of technology to city systems unless we can answer it positively. 
 
A group of scientists, technologists and urban designers discussed that question at the Urban Systems Collaborative meeting in London two weeks ago. As well as identifying examples where information and technology have improved quality of life - for example by alerting volunteer first-aiders to the occurrence of a heart attack and locating the nearest publicly-accessible defibrillator using an open data feed - we also discussed the limitations of information and technology. 
 
Information is inherently uncertain; and whilst there are circumstances in which we trust our lives to automated systems to respond to it - such as antilock braking systems in cars - there are many situations in which it is more appropriate to make information available to human decision-makers. In those situations it is vital not only to make information available but to ensure that it's limitations are known and understood.
 
I've written a report of the Urban Systems Collaborative discussion on this topic on my blog. I think it's a crucial subject for "Smarter Cities" to address in order that we use technology to our genuine advantage as our world evolves. I'd welcome your comments on it.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/09/24/can-smarter-cities-improve-our-quality-of-life/
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

Seven steps to a Smarter City: and the imperative for taking them

A year ago I wrote the article "Five steps to a Smarter City: and the philosophical imperative for taking them” to capture what at the time seemed to be emerging practises with promising potential for creating successful "Smarter City" strategies and programmes. I've updated it twice since then to reflect what I've learned about the main challenges cities face in that process: establishing a cross-city consensus to act; securing funding; and finding the common ground between the institutional and organic natures of city ecosystems.
 
There are enough examples of cities pursuing the "Smart" agenda now that I'm confident those practises should no-longer be called "emerging": they can be observed in almost every case where progress is being made. 
 
I've just written a major update to the original article, now covering the following seven steps, and containing links to the material and resources I've found most useful in carrying them out:
  1. Define what a “Smarter City” means to you
  2. Convene a stakeholder group to co-create a specific Smarter City vision; and establish governance and a credible decision-making process
  3. Structure your approach to a Smart City by drawing on the available resources of expertise
  4. Establish the policy framework
  5. Populate a roadmap that can deliver the vision
  6. Put the financing in place
  7. Enable communities and engage with informality: how to make “Smarter” a self-sustaining process
You can read the article on my blog at the link below - I hope you find it interesting; and would love to hear your views on the approach I've suggested:
 
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

Gain and responsibility: five business models for sustainable cities

The proposition that technology offers to the sustainability debate is to enable business models that create better social and environmental outcomes. In some cases, those outcomes are the objectives of a business; but more often they are the side effects of business operations whose objectives are to create financial returns. 
 
The CEOs of  Unilever and Tesco have recently stated intents to evolve their businesses to adopt more sustainable practises, and to be more successful as a result of doing so. Our world as a whole, and the cities in which life is concentrated, will not become socially and environmentally equitable and sustainable unless private businesses adopt such sustainable strategies. 
 
We need to think creatively about how to balance social and environmental outcomes with the financial imperatives of our existing economic systems. I wrote an article on my blog this week about five approaches that can already be seen that show how that balance can be found in different ways, from big business to social enterprise to technology entrepreneurs. 
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/08/18/gain-and-responsibility-five-business-models-for-sustainable-cities/
 
Cheers, 
 
Rick

Smarter City myths and misconceptions

Part of my job is to communicate the ideas behind Smarter Cities, and to support those ideas with examples of the value they create when applied in cities such as Sunderland, Dublin, Birmingham and Rio.
 
In doing so, I often find myself countering a few common challenges to the concept of a Smarter City that I believe are based on a misconception of how Smarter Cities initiatives are carried in practise out by those involved in them.
 
Cities are incredibly complicated. Understanding how to apply any intervention to achieve a specific change or outcome in them is extremely difficult. To do so, Smarter Cities initiatives use the skills not just of technologists and businesspeople but social scientists, urban designers, economists, community workers - and, depending on the context, any number of other specialisms. 
 
However, we are still going through the process of creating a shared understanding of Smarter Cities between all of those disciplines; and of communicating that understanding to the world at large. In the conversations taking place today as we try to do that, it's easy for misconceptions to arise. I've written an article on my blog about five of the most common myths and misconceptions that I encounter, including the one I'm most guilty of myself: assuming that "everybody knows that we need Smarter Cities":
 
  • Myth / Misconception 1: Everybody knows we need Smarter Cities
  • Myth / Misconception 2: The idea of applying technology in cities is new
  • Myth / Misconception 3: Smarter Cities are inhuman technologies that risk being as damaging in their effects on cities as road traffic
  • Myth / Misconception 4: Masdar and Songdo are the Smartest cities on the planet; OR: Masdar and Songdo are inhuman follies of technology
  • Myth / Misconception 5: Business as usual will deliver the result
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/07/14/smarter-city-myths-and-misconceptions/
 
I hope you find it interesting,
 
Cheers, 
 
Rick

How to build a Smarter City: 23 design principles for digital urbanism

While cities everywhere are seeking funds for Smarter City initiatives, and often relying on central government or research grants to do so, billions of Pounds, Euros, and Dollars are being spent on relatively conventional development and infrastructure projects that aren’t particularly “smart”.
 
Why is that?
 
One reason is that we have yet to turn our experience to date into prescriptive, re-usable guidance. Many examples of “Smarter City” projects have demonstrated that in principle technologies such as social media, information marketplaces and the “internet of things” can support city-level objectives such as wellbeing, social mobility, economic growth and infrastructure resilience. But these individual results do not yet constitute a normalised evidence base to indicate which approaches apply in which situations, and to predict in quantitative terms what the outcomes will be.
 
As a result, todays planning and procurement practises do not explicitly recognise the value of the Smart City vision, and therefore are not shaping the financial instruments to deliver it. This is not because those practises are at fault; it is because technologists, urbanists, architects, procurement officers, policy-makers and planners need to work together to evolve those practises to take account of the new possibilities available to cities through technology.
 
I recently put together a set of intentionally provocative candidate “design principles” for a city that is considering how their next planning strategy could reflect the impact of the technology agenda. They will not be universally accepted, and it is not possible yet to provide a mature body of evidence to support them. But by presenting active principles rather than passive observations, my hope is to stimulate a useful debate. I've posted them here:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/06/17/how-to-build-a-smarter-city-23-design-principles-for-digital-urbanism/
 
I hope that you find them interesting and useful and would appreciate your comments and suggestions for improving them,
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

 

An address to the United Nations: science, technology and innovation for sustainable cities and peri-urban communities

I was honoured this week to be asked to address the 16th session of the United Nations’ Commission on Science and Technology for Development in Geneva on the topic of “Science, technology and innovation for sustainable cities and peri-urban communities“.
 
The Commission's interest was not just in the ability of technology to create new forms of efficient city services, but in the business and governance models that make them viable; and in the contexts from which such innovations emerge successfully.
 
In attending the Commission I had the opportunity to listen to some amazing speakers from around the world; and I'll be writing an article soon about the themes that emerged from those discussions. But in the meantime I've posted the following transcript of my own remarks to my blog. I hope they're of interest to you.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/06/06/an-address-to-the-united-nations-science-technology-and-innovation-for-sustainable-cities-and-peri-urban-communities/
 
Cheers,Rick

Death, place and life in great digital cities

 

There are many examples in the Smarter City domain of projects that have exploited technology in order to address issues such as social inequality and economic growth - as Glasgow are now doing through the Future Cities Demonstrator project. But it is not always straightforward to understand how a project that has worked in one place can be adapted to another.
 
While these initiatives are enabled by technology, many of them are also dependent on changes in the behaviour of individuals and communities. Designing systems that result in changes in behaviour in the context of cities requires deep understanding of people, communities and places.
 
A corollary is for us to be aware of the unintended impact that new technologies can have - there is a view among some architects and town planners that many of the developments in towns and cities over the last century to cope with growing demand for the great technology of the last century - the motor car - have caused great damage to the human environment. By analogy, how do we understand how the implications of issues such as digital privacy will affect cities as the role of digital technology in them grows?
 
I'm in the middle of a series of workshops exploring these challenges between technologists, town-planners, place-makers and social scientists; I've just written the first of what I expect to be several articles on my blog based on what I'm learning from them. I'd be interested in any feedback or similar experiences from this community.
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/05/21/death-life-and-place-in-great-digital-cities/

 

A design pattern for Future Cities: City Centre Enterprise Incubation

 

I've just posted a description on my blog of a design pattern for Future Cities: City-Centre Enterprise Incubation.
 
The pattern describes the provision of  facilities to incubate technology, creative and social enterprises in an urban environment to stimulate innovative growth through cross-sectoral interaction and innovation; and to facilitate co-operative investment in technology. Examples of this approach in the UK include Sunderland Software City, Hub Westminster and Birmingham Science Park Aston.
 
The design pattern is described here:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/04/03/a-design-pattern-for-digital-urbanism-city-centre-enterprise-incubation/ 
 
... and it's part of a collection of patterns that I'm slowly building up; the collection, and the reasons for building it, are described here:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/design-patterns/
 
I'd be grateful for any comments from this community on the new pattern; on the usefulness of this approach; or on specific patterns that you think should be included - I'm hoping to launch a more concentrated collaborative initiative on this theme later in the year.
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

 

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

 

Six Steps to a Smarter City - including financing, informal economics and messy urbanism

 

In the last couple of months of 2012, I had a number of open and frank discussions between city leaders, financiers and developers, policy makers, academics, architects, planners – and even some technologists - which seemed to reveal straightforward ideas that are common to those cities that are successfully implementing transformations across city systems to achieve city-wide outcomes - and in paticular that are securing financial investments to support them.
 
At the same time, I noticed a distinct increase in interest in concepts such as "resilience" on the one hand - the ability of social, economic, utility and other city systems to withstand shocks - and "messy", "organic" and "informal" forms of innovation in hyperlocal contexts within cities on the other. I wrote a number of articles on those topics in the "urbanism" section of my blog.
 
It therefore seemed an opportune time to revisit the article “Six steps to a Smarter City” that I use as an organising framework for understanding Smart Cities. The updated article containing this new material is on my blog here, I hope you find it interesting:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/01/08/the-six-steps-to-a-smarter-city-and-the-philosophical-imperative-for-taking-them-updated-2/

 

Smart ideas for everyday cities

 

Some of the earliest and highest profile examples of cities pursuing “Smart” agendas were governed by hierarchical systems of authority which enabled them to implement integrated city systems, using new technologies, to promote city-wide priorities such as wellbeing, job creation, economic growth, sustainability and social mobility.
 
However, in many existing cities, especially in mature economies, the systems that influence those outcomes - education, public safety, transport and the economy, for example - are operated by separate organisations; if they are even “operated” as systems at all. It is often difficult, therefore, to agree a "Smart" transformation across them; to obtain the investment to support it; and to carry it out.
 
In the last few weeks I have valued some open and frank discussions between city leaders, financiers and developers, policy makers, academics, architects, planners, and technologists that have yielded some common ideas from cities that have addressed those challenges; I've described them in an article on my blog:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/12/13/smart-ideas-for-everyday-cities/
 
Just as I valued the discussions that led me to write this article, I'd welcome a chance to continue them in this community.
 
Cheers,
 
Rick

 

No-one is going to pay cities to become Smarter

 

The TSB shortlisted 4 UK cities last week as the finalists in the £25m "Future Cities Demonstrator" competition. This is fantastic news for the cities concerned – London, Glasgow, Peterborough and Bristol.
 
But it also means that 22 other cities who submitted proposals have learned that they will not benefit from that investment.
 
These decisions throw the real challenge that cities in the UK and elsewhere face into sharp focus: 
 
No-one is going to pay them to become Smarter.
 
Instead, we need to consider the ways in which money is already spent in cities; and how we can harness that spending power to achieve the outcomes that cities need.
 
I've written an article on my blog this week exploring the ways in which I think it's possible to do that, and describing some examples. I'd be interested to hear this community's views on the subject:
 
http://theurbantechnologist.com/2012/11/30/no-one-is-going-to-pay-cities-to-become-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/

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

 

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