How to write a Literature Review?

When I started my PhD I thought my topic is so brand new, there is hardly anything out there I can read. Well, that was a bit blund.

There is loads of grey-literature available – referring to the same pilot projects and problem statements regarding smart cities on a quite generic level. Besides – same applies when I visit conferences! On the academic side there are papers on segment specific solutions from a technological and governmental standpoint. Well, therefore it is true that – so far – I havn’t found literature that exactly covers my approach: looking at Smart Cities from an industry perspective.

Job done? No, by far not – illusion is taken!

Prof. Rob Dekkers of UWS started a seminar (via Skype – quite cool way of educating actually) on “Structured Literature Review” that I visit. Wow! That is a science of its own! And it took the illusion “There is no literature in my area – review done!” Forget it! If you want to bring light to the darkness and don’t have a floodlight by hand start lighting some matches! Sounds like an awfull lot of work!

How to make sure the PhD is finished before retirement?

As I look at the business environment Smart City and its impact on technology providers there are all sorts of topics involved. Never in two lives will I be able to read all the good stuff out there! Especially when I summarize and synthesise all I read. Where shall I start? How do I know what literature is relevant? What if I miss core information? And last but not least: When is it enough?

Well, I learnt that it is key to circle the topic. I need to translate the topic into focussed questions and define parameters, generate keywords. Then conduct search, obtain information, evaluate, draft the hypothesis, redefine parameters, refine keywords, search, obtain, evaluate again…. and keep on circling until I am finally able to nail the topic down.
To quote from the seminar “Clearly framed questions ‘guide much of the review process including strategies for locating and selecting studies or data, for critically appraising their relevance and validity, and for analysing variation among their results’ (Higgins & Green 2008 (Cochrane Handbook))”

So the literature review outlines my point of departure. It is my foundation a) from which I develop own insights and arguments and b) that supports my findings.

But how make I sure that the (academic) reference is relevant?

So far I thought reading textbooks is a reliable source of information. Too blund again…
Content acknowledged by others an of course state-of-the-art is one thing to look at. Structure is the other but credibility is key! I learnt, that chapters edited books are more trustworthy than textbooks. The chapters are nearly as much peer-reviewed as academic papers.

So I focus now on publications in journals, chapter edited books, monographs, reports by really recognized institutions.

Where to find relevant and trustworthy literature?

Well, as much as I love google, definitely not there. I was also a fan of Springer Link, but just learnt to be aware that this source might not cover all relevant information.

So I will familiarize myself with Google Scholar, Scopus and ABI-Inform now.
As the search output will probably still be huge I was quite impressed to learn about lists that rank journals according to relevance. Great!

We also learnt about search techniques… but that will be topic for another post 😉
I think the “Delphi Survey” could be a helpful method for my approach. Let’s see!


Dynamics in the value chain

Literature Review:
M. Jaekel, K. Bronnert
Die digital Evolution moderner Grossstädte
(Source: Springer Vieweg, ISBN 978-3-658-00170-4, pg. 78-83)

This book, as various other literature, indicates that the roles of city, industry and citizen changes in the context of (smart) „City“. Main points are: city will orchestrate the players and provide a transparent, reliable governance structure. Industry will work in partnerships with the „City“ (e.g. private-public partnerships) as well as with other suppliers (e.g. consortia). These partnerships need to be resilient enough to adapt to changes over the timeframe of a project or initiative. Solution approach is driven by need rather than tool- or product-request. The relevance of data availability and -analyses grows, swopping relevance with hardware in the value chain. Products and their suppliers continue to loose impact within the business process. Industry is challenged to come up with new business models that keep the initial investment on their side, as cities continue to be short of budget. Citizens are the pivotal point – only when they accept and participate the changes a transfer to “Smart City” is sustainable.

Does a centrally managed CMP work in a federal system?

My director of studies recommended to read some of John Urry’s work. So I started with reading “Mobile sociology” (British Journal of Sociology Vol. No. 51, Issue No. 1 (January / March 2000) pp 185-203…..)

On page 186 Urry refers to Zygmunt Bauman (1987 “Legislators and Interpreters”) – well, no idea who this guy is. Lucky me – found loads in google and springer link. Bauman takes the metaphor of a modern state being comparable to a gardener culture vs the earlier form of gamekeeping. While the gamekeeper is not interested in detail but in the overall condition the gardener is into patterns, regularity and ordering with what is growing. He weeds out what doesn’t fit the concept.
“Giving the world a modern structure mainly rests on classifying. (…) Modern culture is a garden culture since it assigns itself the mission to arrange an ideal life and perfect human conditions. For doing so it requires tools and raw materials but also the strategy against the insistent danger of disorder.”

What a match for the implementation of city management platforms (CMP)! The transfer from a “normal” city to a “smart” city is like going from a gamekeeper to a gardener culture. Working and living together is subject of planning and administration. The CMP is the tool to process assets that were once decided to be in- or excluded. Municipality would be the gardener the subsystems the plants. However that means that all the subsystems are under the control of the municipality… If the subsystem wants to remain self-governed is that the weed then? Huuu…. Scary!
This could entail the conclusion that centrally managed CMP wouldn’t work in a federal system. But how should a holistic approach for smartness work without central directive of the municipality? Food for thought….

Well… back to Urry… he states: “… the new global order appears to involve a return to the gamekeeper state and away from that of the gardener….”

The sustainability journey must begin with revenue, cost, brand and risk

Finally an article that looks beyond technical options, referring to a study conducted with 30 North American supply chain executives – whatever that means. Anyway. Well, they ranked “sustainability” as “important” but “not critical” to their company strategies. Isn’t that a bit like the saying “pls wash me, but don’t make me wet”?
The author Susan McNally describes “revenue, cost, brand and risk” as the 4 “horsemen” that help understand, what inhibits the leap to “critical”.

The reason why I mention this article is that it can be transferred to the hurdles we see in the conceptual leap for smart cities. Being a smart city or a technical provider with holistic solutions is – of course – important, due to all the facts on demographic change, fast urbanization, critical (!) resource management…. but it is “not critical” for our current (!) business. Nice to talk about it, but let others do the first step 😉

A propos “step”…. McNally thinks of 5 reasons why the conceptual leap of sustainability is limping and i feel free to transfer these to smart cities:

Environmental and social ambitions must match corporate financial objectives.
Same applies for SC activity: It is worth evaluating the smart city solution mid-/longterm even though the next election period is in sight and a “ribbon-cutting” moment (as a result of an optimized subsystem solution) is ravishing.

There are 2 types of organizations: Real strategists and operational piecemealists. While the ones fly quite high and often struggle to deliver sustainable value on the ground the others keep ploughing the ground.* Again transfer to SC: So far there is a lot of piecemeal out there. Pilots to gather experience but – at least to my knowledge – no scaleable concept. Give me a shout, when you know any different!

Competitor analyses – well actually i thought this is a no-brainer… But as McNally mentions it in her article her studies seem to tell a different story.
What I discovered on conferences on SC topic is that the exchange on municipal level, the collaboration and joint approaches start building…. it is still a “young” market and all stakeholders need to get confident in and with it.

“…stitching sustainability into the everyday business of profit and loss….”
Looking at SC stakeholders and their business models, sustainable solutions mustn’t be an add-on. Pilots should be developed to the intrinsic structure of the city or company – otherwise the pilot-project remains a “nice try”.

“…game plan looks… at existing processes such as product design, procurement, supply chain planning and logistics, and identify the heat map of where sustainability must be injected into the decision process and what sort of leadership is needed to see the game plan through….”
Within the complex system of SC solutions that is probably a challenge. And it definitely makes a difference on how mature a city is regarding infrastructure and ICT as well as the municipal structures it is based on. However – this fifth aspect is vital.

No rocket science really, all common sense. As all good things come out on top one day i am positive that cities set up their smart agendas, convinced that it is “critical”.

Manzini on “Strategic Design Approach”


Literature Review:
E. Manzini, C. Vezzoli
A strategic design approach to develop sustainable product service systems: examples taken from the “environmentally friendly innovation” Italian prize
(Source: Paper, Journal of Cleaner Production 11 (2003); pg. 851-857; Milan / Italy)

Product service system (PSS) describes the idea of designing and selling “satisfaction” rather than products. Assuming, that the customer (business as well as end user) doesn’t necessarily demand the product itself, but what the products and services enables him to achieve. This is basis for new stakeholder relationships, production processes and business models. Manzini describes this business model innovation as ‘… shifting the business focus from designing (and selling) physical products only, to designing (and selling) a system of products and services which are jointly capable of fulfilling specific client demands, while re-orienting current unsustainable trends in production and consumption practices. … usually referred to as a Sustainable Eco-efficient PSS.’.

Besides the collaborative idea key is that innovation doesn’t happen on product or process side but in the way existing technologies are systemized. In the paper 4 examples are described that target a latent social demand. Given the fact that they all use a – so far unseen – combination of existing technologies and services implementation seems quite easily possible. Prerequisit is that stakeholders are flexible enough to depart from consolidated patterns and get away from business-as-usual. Instead of optimizing their own segment PSS follows an overall systemic resource optimization which is based on the convergence of stakeholders’ interests. This approach results in new forms of organization within stakeholders as well as redefines their role towards other companies and clients. PSS is based on new systems of values and consequently creates new market opportunities that enable new offerings which either add value to the product life cycle or are a final result for the customer.

The 4 examples given are:

A)    “The Diddi & Gori textile flooring service”
Diddi & Gori is in the segment of synthetic fibers production and sold textile flooring, mainly to retailers for exhibitions and trade fairs. Such products rely on oil refining which obviously have an environmental impact (e.g. resource consumption).
Their new idea is to offer services in addition to the product as a final result to the customer by offering the utility of the product rather than the product possession. The new offer includes the whole service from supply and installation to removal. This way the customer no longer buys the product but its utility – they don’t have to struggle with the disposal as Diddi & Gori remove the flooring and make fibre again. This has an impact on the design of the flooring in the first row. As Diddi & Gori  remain the owner of the product over its life cycle, they are interested to enhance material’s lifetime. So easy recycling that allows to create new flooring is their inherent economic interest which reduces resource consumption and waste.
The motivation for the customer is that the overall cost is cheaper than buying and disposing the product.

B)    “The Kübler services added to lubricant supply”
Kübler is a lubricant supplier for machines and components in various industries.
Their new idea is to offer services that provide value added to the product life cycle by analyzing the effectiveness of the aerosol treatment plants and of sewage treatment. In order to do so they set up a van as a movable chemical laboratory with which they analyse the performance of lubricants, the noises, vibrations and other undesired effects directly at the clients machines. Kübler suggests potential for efficiency as well as environmental protection and guarantees functionality and durability.
The motivation for the customer is to improve the lifetime of the clients’ machines and reduces their cost for monitoring and maintenance. The reduction of lubricants sold is compensated by the services offered and improved customer loyalty.

C)    “The Allegrini service added to detergent supply”
Allegrini produces detergents and cosmetics.
Their new idea is to offer services that provide value added to the product life cycle by offering home delivery as a new way of supply. They have a mobile van that periodically tours from household to household and refills the provided plastic flacons – even if not completely empty. This reduces cost for packaging which – bottom line – reduces the cost of the product over all and increases customer loyalty.
The motivation for the customer is time saving (no need to go to a shop) and reduction of waste (reuse of packaging) and landfill.

D)    “The AMG solar heat selling service”
AMG is a municipal enterprise providing gas and lighting to the city of Palermo / Italy.
Their new idea is to offer services in addition to the product as a final result to the customer. So instead of selling the gas they sell heat and hot water as a finished product as well as the maintenance of the equipment.
The motivation for the customer is to be environmentally friendly which – for a municipality – reacts to public opinion.

Designing Smart Cities

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

No one likes a city that’s too smart

Literature Review:
Richard Sennett
(Source: The Guardian, UK, 04.12.2012,

Reference to Urban Age Conference London 6-7 December 2012.
Sennett discusses the impact of technology on urban development that can result in smartness that either follows the principle of coordinaton or prescription. With Masdar City (United Arab Emirates (UAE)) and Songdo (South Korea) as examples of the latter, S. compares these stupefying cities with Rio de Janeiro as a more intelligent attempts to create a smart city. While Masdar and Songdo are more like city machines, set up with focus on functionality and efficiency, to “organize” people and their needs in Rio technology is used to support peoples desire to satisfy needs self-determined.