Smart Strategies Don’t Bring Success

Screenshot 2017-12-11 21.34.20Future Cities Catapult has published a fresh Global Review of Smart City Strategies in collaboration with Arup. We studied 20 global cities – some internationally recognised smart cities, others in different stages of development.

The strategies come in different shapes and sizes – some are top-down (mostly Asian cities), some grassroots up (Europe). Organisational models range from networked operations to strategies run by City departments and arms-length innovation companies.

For me, the most interesting insight was that there are no rules in how to turn the strategy successfully into reality.  Some of the best known Smart Cities, especially Amsterdam, does not have a smart city strategy at all. Instead, the agile, collaborative and data-driven way to manage technology has been embedded into the operational culture of the city.

So, to be a smart city you need to work in a smart way? No shit, Einstein.


Catapult Network Report Published

What on earth are those UK Catapults? Stop wondering and read the new report of the Catapult Centres by our sponsor organisation InnovateUK. In case you are too lazy to read it all, the Future Cities Catapult cases are on pages 15 – 16 (Smart Belfast), and 28 (Connected Roadworks).

Screenshot 2017-08-17 22.44.37

Smart Belfast

In Belfast, we worked with the City Council to recognise critical challenges. Chief amongst these was the need to maximise revenue from business rates, which accounts for half the Council’s annual income. The assumption was that companies were operating in the city without declaring themselves to be businesses. This was due to a variety of reasons; some businesses were classified incorrectly, others registered as residential properties and more generally, the Council’s data sources were not up-to-date. Following an open call issued by Belfast City Council, prototype digital tools were produced which used information such as energy consumption to pinpoint potential business rates avoiders.

The success of the experiment was evident from the get go. With an investment of £150,000, the Council was able to uncover potential new revenue of £350,000 per year in just the initial pilot phase.

Connected Roadworks

In Straffordshire, we supported Amey to develop an interactive portal to host data from a wide range of utilities, contractors and developers in the area, enabling better coordination of roadworks. The benefits were both impressive and tangible: ten proposed works by different contractors were combined into one, requiring just a single road closure. This meant the roads could be kept open for an additional 25 weeks and saved the contractors c. £184,000 in terms of reduced materials and management costs.

Stay tuned:Internet of Everything challenge for developers & companies opening soon

Cities of Antwerpen, Copenhagen and Helsinki will open an innovation challenge for the European companies: how can the cities reinvent themselves as linked and large-scale Internet of Everything labs, which are open, standardized, data-driven, service-oriented and user-centric, and provide an easy access to developers and innovators to pilot, test and validate their solutions?
The project is called Select for CitiesThe challenge competition of 5,6 M€ which will be divided into 3  stages, between December 2015 and November 2018. It will be organised by using the Pre-commercial procurement (PCP) method.
The consortium is built around three renowned Smart Cities: Antwerp, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and comprises a balanced combination of six multidisciplinary partners across four European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the UK. These are Forum Virium Helsinki (the project coordinator), Digipolis, iMinds, Københavns Kommune, Stad Antwerpen, and 21C Consultancy Limited (partners in alphabetical order).
Stay tuned for the information sessions and market consultations starting soon across Europe. The first open call for the challenge will kick off early next autumn.

Loose coupling – the future of work

Just heard Esko Kilpi speaking about the future of work, and totally bought his vision.
To put it shortly: the jobs of the future is not any longer hierarchy-organised or process-organised, put network-organised. The model is the same as the Internet; things are done in loosely coupled processes.
Basically it is an idea expanded from the loosely coupled ICT, and the benefits are similar but wider:
(Source – Forrester Research, “Software Innovation Requires A Loosely-Coupled Application Architecture”)
Loose architectural coupling unleashes innovation – With not having to reinvent the wheel every time you start a new project, your team is more focused on developing innovations and relying on this architecture knowing that it will work as expected. Also, since this enables agility, faster time-to-market is possible and thereby encouraging bringing new innovations to the market.
Loose architectural coupling protects application investments. With business landscape constantly changing either due to M&A or just aggressive growth, it is pertinent for IT to evolve with newer IT systems but also remaining cautious about not breaking the system when retiring an old system or replacing it with a new system (especially relevant for the public sector!). Loosely coupled architectures make this process seamless.
Loose architectural coupling is a design discipline, not a technology. This is not a technology feature that any vendor can tout. This is only a design discipline that can be enabled with a mature ESB. Whether you leverage the publish-subscribe methodologies within the product or use SOA/APIs to construct such loose coupling, it is up to your architects to decide. But, ensure that you are working towards this model, if you already don’t have it.

Open Living Lab Days coming up!!!


Hope you had a great summer. We Finns have our holiday one month earlier than the rest of Europe, so we are already back to work. July was nice, but it’s good to be back. There’s only so many Finnish river crabs one can catch (in this case, 120) before wanting a change.

For those seeking new ideas & connection, come to the fourth annual Living Labs Summer School, renamed to Open Living Lab Days (because the program spans beyond normal “summer school” boundaries) to Amsterdam. Fantastic program, also this year.

The venue is the beautiful De Nieuve Liefde.  Register in time to make sure there’s space for you! See you in Amsterdam. 

Cities of Tomorrow, are they, really?

European more and less smart cities are gathered together in the commission Charlemagne building in Brussels.
Harry Van Dorenmalen of IBM wonders why we don’t proceed with making our cities smart, when we obviously know what we should do. I guess because “doing it” is still quite a distance from understanding, in such a complex field. And I most definitely would not want to see the cities adopt proprietary “smart cities in a box” from IBM or anyone else.
Next, Benjamin Barber is accusing Europe of democratic deficit. Coming from the US, I do feel that it would be good for him to buy a mirror… From the European perspective, the power position of the US president is frightening. You can ask Iraqi people to verify that.
Anyway, his view that cities should be more selfish and stand behind their position is good. Proposal for cities: establish a global mayors’ parliament.