Cities from seven countries boost 
open standards for smart cities

Thirty-one cities from seven countries in Europe and Latin America launch the 
“Open & Agile Smart Cities” initiative to accelerate adoption of 
common standards and principles for global smart city development.

CeBIT was the natural place for one of the most important announcements this year about smart city development in Europe. The Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) initiative, signed by 31 cities from Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Brazil, aims to kickstart the use of a shared set of wide-spread, open standards and principles, enabling the development of smart city applications and solutions to reach many cities at once, by making systems interoperable between cities, and within a city.
As I told in the press conference: “Seen from a developer’s perspective, one city alone is not a market large enough. A number of cities in several countries or a continent, adopting a minimal set of de facto standards is a sizable market on which developers can start investing.”
Picture: Juanjo Hierro, Martin Brynskov (network chair), and me (vice chair).
The OASC Task Force  operates under the Connected Smart Cities (CSC) Network. The first national city networks to join the initiative are Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Oulu and Turku in Finland; Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg in Denmark; Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium; Porto, Lisbon, Fundão, Palmela, Penela and Águeda in Portugal; Milan, Palermo and Lecce in Italy; Valencia, Santander, Málaga and Sevilla in Spain; and Olinda (Recife), Anapólis (Goiás), Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul), Vitória (Espírito Santo), Colinas de Tocantins (Tocantins) and Taquaritinga (São Paulo) in Brazil.
Cities commit to four things: first, to drive development by implementation, ie. taking concrete action and experimenting. Second, to support open APIs (Application Programming Interface) to services, such as FIWARE NGSI (lightweight means to gather, publish, query and subscribe context-based, real-time information). Third, to use and improve standard data models based on experimentation and actual usage, with data models coming from the work lead by Forum Virium Helsinki for the CitySDK (City Service Development Kit) project. And lastly, cities in the OASC Task Force will publish their open data in compatible open platforms, such as CKAN (Open Knowledge Foundation’s platform).
Commitment to adopt these common standards and principles is supported by the signature of a “Letter of Intent” by cities that become part of the initiative, several of which were present at CeBIT.
The announcement was the first wave in an ongoing series where national networks of cities join the Open & Agile Smart Cities initiative. The process is open to every city in the world which implements the mechanisms, as long as they join up at least two cities from a nation or territory.
The next wave is expected in early summer. Cities from the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Mexico are already on track.
This is a unique opportunity to develop de facto standards in an open and collaborative manner which complements the traditional standards development processes, and focuses on the needs of cities as a whole, including opportunities for local job creation and SME involvement.

Helsinki Praised In Guardian – Twice

Our presence in the Barcelona Smart City Expo (remember – the one where you could buy lots of smart cities in a box) was noticed by the press, more precisely the Guardian. Their focus is in the Open Smart City approach of Helsinki.

The New Smart City article quotes Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts of Forum Virium Helsinki: “Open311 interface allows citizens to send photos or update reports on anything from pot holes to traffic signs, the imagination is the limit. Open311 is also an open dataset, allowing third party developers or the citizens themselves to develop apps or services”.

In the provocatively headlined Stupid Mayors Are Putting The Wrong Things At The Heart Of Smart Cities  the newspaper points out, that “truly smart cities such as Helsinki are using technology that is already out on the streets and on the web, enabling residents to input and update via smartphones, while apps help them to navigate the city more efficiently.”

Thanks for the support & keep spreading the word.

ImageThe Helsinki issue tracking API makes it possible for developers to build different solutions for citizen feedback – and the city will hear.

Hi, wanna buy a smart city?

Back from Barcelona Smart Cities Expo & World Congress, I’m thinking about what makes cities smart. The sales pitches of companies operating in the field seem to fall into roughly two categories; you can either attach a sensor to everything and thus monitor it all, or then you can install an operating system to the city and then monitor it all.

Preferably, you do the monitoring of the city from an underground Control Centre.

I do have issues with this thinking, especially in the the context of the cities of the developing countries. They are being sold the same gadgets as to the western cities, packed together with to proprietary business models and long-term service contracts.

But what is the most valuable ingredient of a city? it’s people. Cities consist of people. Either they behave smart, or they don’t. Either they participate in making the city better, or they don’t.  Citizens are an untapped resource for the cities. If the cities really want to become smart, they must activate them to work with the city administration in service provision. Smart cities need smart citizens.

Proprietary, vertical silos and City Control Centres are a poor match with the citizen-driven distributed city. Mayors, please, take note: cities are too complex to be solved. Respect the complexity and don’t underestimate the city. If we want to “solve” the city, we need much more resources than just the taxpayers´ money. We need the taxpayers themselves.

The World Bank seems to get this better than most smart city service providers. The World Bank Institute supports collaborative models, empowering the people to harvest data, by opening service interfaces and processes. The CitiSense event brought together global cities, developers and open data advocates to discuss and learn. Let’s hope they can make an impact within the bank as well, as funds should not be wasted in closed systems – especially not in the developing countries.

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Clora of @LabPLC speaking about making a difference in Mexico City. Pic by Pablo Collada.

The Winner Takes It All!

Oh yes, sometimes it IS sexy to collaborate in the European Commission projects (you can call me perverted if you want). Our open data project Helsinki Region Infoshare was awarded the Commission prize for the best innovation in public administration in Dublin, selected out of 203 proposals (the commission press release here).

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Ville Meloni of Forum Virium, all smiles in Dublin.

The prize of 100,000 € will be used to develop services further, including access to public information about city decision making – that’s a whopping one million pages per year. The Open Ahjo API is one of the first cases in the new Helsinki Loves Developers action.

HelDev

Infodev Global Forum, East London, South Africa

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I am heading to Africa again, one year after my trip to the World Bank event in Kenya. Now I will speak in the innovation ecosystems track: This session will explore the relative roles the public and private sectors play in facilitating innovation, innovative enterprises and a productive economy.”

Living labs, open data and community-driven smart cities on the agenda. More insights when I get there.

Open Data in the Finnish TV prime time

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I got the chance to explain the benefits of open data to the Finnish public in the most popular talk show of the country, hosted by Arto Nyberg. Hard thing to do in 15 minutes, but my mother thinks it went OK. And she should know. For the international network, this is a good chance to practice your Finnish.