Tech is great, but don’t forget the people


This article was originally published by Jem McKenna-Percy on Today’s cities, the leading information platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates, follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtube, or subscribe to Cities Today News.

One way to enable cities to make evidence-based decisions is to integrate physical and digital urban infrastructure and identify usage patterns and emerging trends. However, as cities become more and more digital, more technologies are integrated and more data is collected, how this process is managed becomes more and more important.

The use of urban data requires coordinated thinking. Over the past five years, a consortium of municipal authorities, businesses and university partners have tested a range of smart technologies in cities across Europe, integrating a range of electric mobility solutions, building renovations to energy deep, intelligent street lighting and sustainable energy. management systems, supported by urban data platforms. This work, which is part of the The Sharing Cities program was shaped by engaging communities along the way, informing them of what was happening in each city, allowing them to share their challenges with city managers and service designers. As a result, the solutions have been adapted and of greater value.

However, in general, the smart city market remains largely “ solution ” focused without sufficiently considering demand and what cities and communities actually need.

In many cases, pre-existing technological solutions are tailored to the needs of a city, often resulting in a lack of public confidence or engagement in the solutions offered.

In turn, cities need to improve the way they express their needs in the market, for example by defining use cases – the specific situations in which a product or service could be used to solve a problem. Fortunately, there are many use cases that are common to most cities, so by documenting and sharing experiences this process can be accelerated and standardized.


The benefits of smart and connected infrastructure are real and proven. When multiple data sources are brought together in one place, for example via the London Data Warehouse, it can become a powerful tool for planners. In Greenwich, it was shown that a combination of different electric mobility solutions – such as electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes, electric vehicle charging, smart parking and smart streetlights – can work together to create a true smart city model, with data merged from different devices and sensors to provide valuable information to decision makers.

Cities can use this model to bring together data from different areas, such as traffic, air quality, street lighting, building energy and parking, among others. Our latest playbook on smart road infrastructure demonstrates the joint impact of combining multiple smart technologies on carbon reduction, service delivery and business models, and is available to any city in the process of deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions at the community level. district or city.

The adoption of smart infrastructure must be managed carefully and transparently. Involving the local community in decisions about data collection and the use of data information is essential for the success of the pilot projects and their potential climb. In doing so, cities can gain a more granular understanding of local contexts and therefore identify in advance specific areas and problems that smart technology can help address.

In Sharing Cities, we have used a range of citizen-centric methods to enable greater collaboration between communities and stakeholders, from co-design workshops to user journey mapping, to help us understand how different groups of people can interact with different types of technologies. We have also developed a digital community engagement platform, the Digital Social Marketplace, an app designed to encourage behavior change and eco-friendly choices using peer-to-peer incentives and rewards.

This design approach – above all, needs-driven and results-driven – has brought substantial benefits to our demonstration districts, not only by exceeding our environmental goals, but most importantly by creating solutions adopted by the local community and designed to last. .

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Published March 5, 2021 – 16:00 UTC


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