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.

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.


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

Speaking statistics 2012 – 2013

…well, that happens when you publish demos: I left empty bio pages under the “Speaking” header. Here’s the updated info.

Gathering info is fascinating. Some statistics:

2013 (so far) – 15 major presentations, speeches or moderator tasks in nine different countries. Total time on stage: app. 8 hours. Time spent in airplanes traveling to the events: app. 90 hours. Travel days so far: 23.

2012 – 40 major presentations, speeches or session moderator tasks in 16 different countries. Total time on stage: app. 23,5 hours. Time spent in airplanes traveling to the events: app. 230 hours. Total travel days: 65,5.

The proportion between speaking and airplane is about 1:10. So, telepresence makes sense (but then again, nothing beats F2F communications).

On top of the speaking assignments come project preparation, management and review meetings – app. 20 days more, last year.