Improving Cities’ Ability to Pilot Smart Solutions

by May 26, 2013Governance, Technology

Frank Teng

Frank Teng is a current MBA in Sustainable Management student at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and is on the board of Sustainable Silicon Valley. He works with Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services firm, to manage global energy and sustainability programs for corporate clients in the technology and financial services sectors. Please note: Frank's views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.


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Cities are aware of less than 10% of the solutions available to them, yet almost 90% of cities do not trust information from providers, according to Citymart.com. So how to solve this mismatch?

The Living Labs Global Award (LLGA) held their Cities Summit in San Francisco last week, bringing together innovation leaders from 22 cities as well as 120 solutions providers nominated for awards (chosen out of 456 entries). Through this process, cities launch calls for solutions, then select the best solutions to deploy on the streets, and commit to implement these pilots. LLGA estimates that their solutions reach citizens 3 times faster and save 90% compared with otherwise projected costs.

Solutions ranged from technology such as urban parasols that increase utilization of outdoor seating areas through efficient heating, lighting, and connectivity, to new grassroots community models of neighbor-to-neighbor green home makeovers. Checkout the video of the dialogue and announcement of winners.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the winning solutions, chosen by a committee of 200 jurors. Since these are chosen with an eye toward scalability and demonstrated track record, it’s nice to know they have high potential to be implemented, particularly in cities that already have broadcast their needs (see Sant Cugat, Spain’s Smart City Strategic Plan).

Eindhoven, Netherlands

Challenge: Smart cities want to keep their smart citizens and visitors always informed with relevant information: when is the bus coming? What is the history of this monument? What is the next event at the exhibition hall? When will the roadwork be done?

Solution: Contactless tags (such as QR codes and NFC tags) deployed on a large scale to bridge real and virtual worlds (by Connecthings). These help to:

  •  Reduce the cost of information delivery (digital signs are expensive)
  • Put information at the point of query (who’s using this space tomorrow?)
  • Build stronger connection with citizens by providing customized information  (promotion of neighborhood events)

Though the jury may still be out on QR codes used in marketing campaigns, maybe cities have the scale and motivation to make this happen?

Tacoma, Washington, USA

Challenge: City government is seeking a capital project-based life-cycle assessment tool for evaluating sustainable return on investment

Solution: Deploy the One Planet Operating System (OPOS) for cities, an on-line system for learning, collaboration, valuation and trading system based on BioRegional’s sustainability framework called One Planet Living. The system would theoretically provide real time information to help with evaluation of tradeoffs and decision-making in procurement or implementation. As cities increasingly adopt green building codes, procurement policies, zero waste goals, and smart technology initiatives, perhaps we need better tools to accelerate the process.

Barcelona, Spain

Challenge: Revitalize vacant neighbourhood spaces (both indoor and out) by creating opportunities for economic growth and employment.

Solution: Avoid the empty shop problem by creating value for landlords and community organizations or ideas. Leverage an easy-in easy-out system and control mechanism that reduces the risk for landlords whilst simplifying the process for the end user, from 3Space. Though landlords of these vacant properties may not gain rental income, they can benefit from the activation of their empty properties in other ways. Users of these spaces will often invest time and funds into making the property more attractive, and maintenance and security costs are greatly reduced. For locations in transition, the use of multiple buildings in this way has the potential to improve neighborhood perception, increasing property values in the longer term. As pop-up restaurants and co-working offices proliferate and redefine our utilization of and attitude toward space ownership, more and more flexibility will be needed between owners and occupiers.

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