In 2015 I visited the World Smart City Congress in Barcelona. When I attended the event in November 2016, I was struck by how the agenda had developed considerably in the space of a year. There are some clear trends emerging.  

A strategic approach to smart will be defined by citizens

In the past most projects have been small and standalone, focusing on areas where data has been readily available, such as public transport. Now, those cities which are leading the smart agenda are taking a more strategic approach to project development, as they seek to foster innovation and tackle the challenges they face. To support this process, cities are turning to their citizens to help them determine what the priorities should be and how they can use technology and data to identify potential solutions. This ensures that projects achieve the transformation that citizens want and makes it easier to demonstrate how a smarter approach has delivered value. Barcelona has recently passed a digital strategy plan to make its economy and city more resilient. The plan will provide citizens with the technology and resources they need to enable them to improve government services and facilitate the changes they want to see.

On the panel is the Israeli Minister Gila Gamliel (seated in the middle), who was talking about the tech hub in the Negev.

Helping everyone to participate

This growth in citizen participation is forcing governments to address issues of technological inequality and accessibility. For example, in Israel, the Negev hub for innovation will help to connect disparate Jewish and Arab communities located in this desert region. The hub will provide them with the technology needed for improved access to government services and programmes and enhance residents’ quality of life. In addition, an increase in on and offline collaborative methods such as Decidim, Barcelona’s new voting system and Stockholm’s Open Lab will give people from all backgrounds a greater opportunity to shape city policy and programmes, as well as identifying better and innovative ways of doing things.

It’s not quite a one size fits all!

Putting citizens in the driving seat to determine the priorities for the smart city agenda will result in every city having its own focus areas and goals. However, this does not mean that we cannot have commonality in the way cities approach smart. This will be supported by an emergent culture of knowledge sharing and the development of frameworks that provide a structure to the smart city process.

ABB, Bosch and Cisco have established an open-software venture called Mosaiq. It aims to unify smart home technology, allowing devices, appliances and services from different brands to communicate and work together, even where they use different operating systems/software.  Anyone can access the mosaiq software and apply it to their product, in the hope this will foster innovation and improve scalability. Web portals like Github also provide open source software and projects that developers, citizens, corporations and governments can access. These open source projects can be used as they are or modified and built on to meet other needs; preventing people from reinventing the wheel and allowing individuals to collaborate on projects to develop the best solutions.

In addition, BAM is currently exploring how we can develop a framework that will give cities a structure that they can use to determine what their priorities should be, set standards and approaches for data collection and create metrics and KPIs to define success. The framework will be scalable and can be easily applied to cities of differing sizes, neighbourhoods and districts. It will also provide a much needed pathway for governments looking to adopt this approach.

Next steps

The smart city movement has come a long way in a short time and is gaining traction across the world. However, if it is to become the accepted way of doing things, there is still a lot more to be done.  We need to pull together all the disparate parts into a clear approach that can be easily scaled and put in place the mechanisms, which will allow every community to participate in the process and access the tools and knowledge that will enable them to reach their goals.

About the author

Andrew Pryke

Managing Director - BAM Design

Andrew leads BAM Design’s architectural, structural and interior design departments, working closely with our construction and FM divisions.

He also leads the adoption, development and integration of Building Information Modelling (BIM) adoption at BAM, to increase efficiencies at all stages of design, construction and FM.

Andrew joined BAM in 2012, following 25 years as director and project lead at James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates and John McAslan and Partners. He has worked on projects such as The Lowry, Manchester, No 1 Poultry, London and The Royal Academy of Music, London.

A triathlete in his spare time, Andrew also applies his competitive spirit to working out the best design solutions for clients, integrating sustainable design, lean construction and full FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) solutions.

“We are developing BIM as a tool for greater collaboration between design, construction and facilities management, to deliver better buildings that are easier to manage and maintain, and perform better for their users over their entire lifecycle.”

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