Peer reviewed article published

Prof. Roos and I published an article in the business informatics journal AKWI! Please feel free to take a look 🙂


Smart City Scenarios – Industry stepping into municipal authority (Part 2)

Would you want to live in Google-City? Or any other city created by a big corporation? Technically there are various corporations that could offer such a scenario. And already do! Think of PANASONIC with Fujisawa – “a smart town through the concerted efforts of local government, businesses, and residents”. Covering all the aspects of smart energy, -mobility, -security, -health a.s.o. people would put on their that’s-where-I-wanna-live-list.

Is Fujisawa thinkable for Europe? What is so much different form the stereotype new housing estates that keep growing in the outskirts of cities? And how big is the step from providing “external” infrastructure to “internal” structures and say?
Think of a city administration that is managed like a global corporation.
Of citizens that are data recorded like employees. Of city management organized in processes like corporations do. The “City” provides superior living and working conditions, attracts business and people and grows successfully. This scenario offers great scalability for technical solutions, as the successfull “Corporate”-City can easily be replicated in any other part of the nation. With growing globalization maybe even globally. If citizens travel they can rely on familiar infrastructure, the share of and access to systems is most convenient – like switching on your computer at home and being connected automatically. Police is a mixture of facility management and HR department – make sure they don’t sack you :-). The various restaurants in town are like a lushes canteene – you just pay with your name, the amount gets deducted with your local tax and if you have fish & chips 3 times a week your city’s physician sends an invite for a nutrition seminar. You really get cared!

But still – why does the thought give me goosebumps?

The remaining silos can be crossed and we finally manage to apply and transfer internet thinking for holistic solutions spanning various segments. It would be easy to set standards for infrastructure like mobility-, energy-, security-, health-, governance-models. If one corporation alone cannot cover all requirements strategic partners fill the portfolio gaps. These consortia ensure the cross-semgent interoperability for a frictionless, probably web-based management system.
Supply and disposal of the city is mainly centralized. Due to the lack of public control prices are rising. The rising costs for energy lead to a growing demand for energy management solutions. The risen costs of mobility lead to a decline in recreational-mobility, however mobility itself decreases, due to the new home-focus, encouraged by telepresence-solutions. IT security is quite important and centrally provided with the free Wifi. Also in real life urban space is covered with surveillance systems but still people feel uncomfortable due to the competitive atmosphere in town and lacking solidarity.

Ok, I admit, it might be a bit extreme. But therefore it is a scenario!
How far are we from such a scenario? Is it thinkable for Europe 2030?

Designing Smart Cities

Literature Review:
Norbert Streitz, Smart Future Initiative, Frankfurt am Main
(Source: Mensch & Computer 2012, Oldenbourg Verlag, MĂĽnchen, 2012)

In order to successfully develop a “Humane Smart City” where people can develop and make use of their creative potential Streitz identifies two key areas: One is the objects (Gegenstandsbereich) – developing from single objects to rooms to buildings into urban context. Enhanced through informationtechnology (ambient intelligence) those things become “smart”. The other one is usage (Anwendungsbereich) – going from individual use to groups to communities where private and business purposes merge. Technology is the enabler for this progress but should always be in harmony with the wishes and possibilities / abilities of the users / people.

Digitalization of content will leave the virtual world and be integrated into real environment. This augmented reality offers new ways of interaction and is basis for the so called Smart Hybrid Cities. Consequently the traditional computer will disappear – the “role” is taken over by objects surrounding the user, e.g. smart furniture or cooperative buildings. “Cooperative building” react to the needs of the users but are also tools to communicate with the environment. A transformation from information design to experience design is the consequence that is challenge and chance for new products and innovationstrategies. Key for success is acceptance. Users need the confidence that digitization and automatization is to their benefit and only with data relevant and allowed by the user (Furcht vor entmündigender Automatisierung). Therefore the user – or in case of smart city the citizen – is far more in the center of development than ever before. In order to achieve a user-oriented solution inter- and transdisciplinary development is a new challenge. IT specialists, engineers, psychologists and designers are already sort of used to collaborate – but the circle needs to be extended to architects, city planners, infrastructure specialists, economists and sociologists alongside with the extension of objects and usages involved.

City 1.0 vs Citizen 3.0

According to the World Bank for the first time in history the majority of global population lives in urban areas. Every day cities grow by 180.000 inhabitants of which 30% settle in the poor-belts and make the suburbs grow in a mainly uncontrolled manner. This migration and growth entails an increasing challenge on city leaders not only for housing but also for environmental issues as well as safety and security of existing systems.

People and their living conditions, their demand for opportunities and prosperity play a major role for the sustainable development of a city. ICTs are setting a new landscape for analyzing a society in order to make it interact and collaborate and to empower its citizens to develop their initiatives, fostering creativity and innovation. Availability of ICT therefore is key. While in developed countries, cities have to deal with their obsolete industrial economies and aging populations the use of ICT is wider spread however often less innovative than in developing countries where population is younger and more naturally using ICT.

Changing structures in ICT influence social behavior and impact expectations as well as the role of citizens. Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World-Wide-Web) said: “The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world.” The development of the web from products and services’ distribution logics being uni-directional, organized in a taxonomic and hierarchic way to a multi-directional interactive system impacts business models and social behavior. However this trilogy doesn’t progress at the same pace. According to US research, so Peter Kageyama, producer of Creative-Cities-Summit, at Smart City Expo World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, 40% of US citizens feel unattached to the city they live in, 36% are indifferent and only 24% – mainly with higher education and GDP – feel attached. Key is to improve the identification of citizens with their environment in order to change their role from pure inhabitants to creators and contributors for prosperity of a city. Therefore the impact of involvement has to be visible. This is challenge and chance for city authorities on their way to open governments. Even when having set up e-government most cities “think” in a uni-directional way rather than in a civic network that is polycentric, multi-directional and collaborative. City authorities are stuck in a web 1.0 stage.

If a city misses to incorporate the interaction with citizens there is the latent but growing danger to loose control and risk a volatile system. Citizens – increasingly used to collaborate in social networks – bypass regulations. While Arabic Spring is an example of how social media is used to bypass law on a national level, in the city of Helsinki, for example, citizens used Facebook to overcome the long process of getting a restaurant permit by calling out the “Helsinki open kitchen day”. Citizens cook and give out food in their private homes – all on the same day knowing that authorities have no chance to react due to the amount of households participating.

Too old for Smart City?

(Source: Presentations on the “Smart City Expo World Congress 2012″, Barcelona / Spain, 13.-15.11.2012)

According to John Baekelmans, CTO Cisco, Smart & Connected Communities, future business models are not about the communication of things only, but about the interaction between people, things and data – key use cases, according to Cisco, are in remote monitoring, plant automation and big data analyses.

“Technology and finances are the backbones of a city” so Kulveer Ranger, former consultant for traffic and infrastructure of Mayor Boris Johnson, London UK. “Keeping the systems up and running is vital for the sustainability of the economies of a city. However citizens have to accept the offered solutions therefore technical innovation imacts cultural change. It is crucial to teach people how to use technology for their daily life”. Demographie plays a key role in this context. Generation Z, also known as iGeneration, the Net Generation, or the Internet Generation, borne in the 1990 through to recent years, is a highly connected group as many of them have had lifelong use of communications and media technologies (www, SMS, MP3, You Tube). They are completely borne in the time of mass-technology, postmodernism, multiculturalism and globalization. The “digital natives” carry the internet in their pockets on mobile devices and are used to curating information online at a rapid pace: sharing thoughts and observations on a variety of media, topics and products.

Based on that natural commerce a project in Rio de Janeiro was launched by UNICEF and the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, presented by Federico Caslegno. 160 adolescents from 2 favelas log information with their mobile phones on environmental risks within their community. The GPS signal is attached to the message and the picture which enables city authorities to take targeted action. Population sees action taken as an appraisal for their engagement. The project will be scaled up and rolled out to 9 other favelas in Brazil. The first pilots also resulted in a decrease of the youth crime rate.

A similar approach was described by Ed Bryan, IBM Vice President Software Group Industry Solutions and Smart Cities Development, where citizens report damaged streetlighting with their mobile phones. This helps cities to focus budget by targeted repairs.