The Smart Dublin (SD) initiative has been promoted by Dublin City Council in collaboration with the other three local authorities of the Dublin city region to identify “open challenges” and to “drive innovation and collaboration in the development of new urban solutions, using open data and with the city region as a test bed”. (1)
Since its commencement in June 2015, the Smart Dublin initiative has conducted four one-day workshops with the employees from each local authority (Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council) to draw on their practical knowledge of the challenges facing the Dublin region, as well as to note all the existing cases of smart city technologies and practices in each area for a new website, SmartDublin.ie, explaining Dublin’s merits as a Smart City and the challenges ahead.
From June to December of 2015, a number of case studies (2) and challenges have been collected and identified, and then further studied by Prog City project researchers to create case study texts for SmartDublin.ie. The ‘soft launch’ of SmartDublin.ie was on the 5th of October 2015 with a number of these case studies, and the final, more complete, website will be launched on the 8th of March, 2016, at Dublin City Hall.
— SmartDublin (@smartdublin) February 19, 2016
SD intends to act as a driver and connector for a step-change, coordinative transformation in Dublin’s smart city policies, moving from an approach based on the ‘creative city’ and entrepreneurism towards a larger emphasis on service delivery and efficiency, although keeping the link with start-ups and open innovation processes as well as developing different forms of procurement and the deployment of smart technology in an urban setting.
In particular, a specific form of procurement, called “procurement by challenge”, has been adopted by SD from Citymart, a consultancy agency located in Barcelona. Traditionally, procurement is based on identifying both problem and its solution, and then tendering for the chosen solution. In contrast, “Procurement by Challenge” is based upon, firstly, identifying problems as “open challenges to entrepreneurs and citizens”, and secondly, seeking the solutions themselves using this process, awarding the actual development contract to the team which came up with the best solution. (3)
Thus conceived, SD is at the centre of various events and projects occurring in Dublin since autumn 2015 (Web Summit, SD soft launch, Open Agile Smart Cities seminar, Future of Cities seminar, Smart City tour, Smart District etc.). Its mandate is to provide a platform for smart city governance and innovation in order to make Dublin a global player in smart cities and the Internet of Things, while coping at the same time with the limited role of the public sector in urban transformation due to the recent recession and related austerity drive and the commensurate need to reduce the costs of public services.
The new ‘smart city atmosphere’ created and promoted through SD shows the following interrelated features, marking a significant change in the how Dublin tackles governance and innovation:
- a challenge-driven form of urban innovation: it reframes the procurement relations between public and private sector to mobilise resources focused on “problems instead of solutions” and to establish shared governance practices and standards;
- a test-bedding approach: urban space becomes a distributed laboratory in which to test smart city technologies based on big data and the Internet of Things, creating test sites that might help solve challenges faced by Dublin; “allowing to explore smart city solutions in a space small enough to trial and wide enough to prove”;
- mutable scales: a shift from the Dublin city core to the Dublin city region scale as a joint endeavour of the four local authorities. This changes to the scale of “networked cities” when confronting with the global settings, such as in the case of Open Agile Smart Cities.
A number of recently initiated ProgCity case study projects aim to explore how these changes affect Dublin urban space and management, starting from the settings where the new forms of procurement and test-bedding are generated and adopted
The objective is to understand how smart city management ideas circulate and interact with the adoption of smart technologies, thus shaping Dublin organizational, technological and everyday settings. Research will focus on different processes occurring in test-bed and procurement:
- accidental smart urbanism through multiple co-existing, co-evolving and conflicting forms of algorithmic governance applied to traffic control, environmental monitoring and crowd management;
- anticipation and demonstration as coordination devices and performative devices: how procurement and testbedding embody and enact anticipation and demonstration dynamics, how they interact with the spatial change of scale of Dublin and perform its specific material, social, cultural urban arrangements and finally how they make sense of accidental and fragmented smart city landscape.
Two other projects are looking at existing and emerging Smart City case studies in Dublin:
- Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI): this looks at the interaction between code and space resulting from the implementation of this technology into Dublin’s transport systems. This case study will seek to examine a real-world data assemblage in relation to how data flows interact with spatial flows;
- Smart Districts: this work follows an emerging project that seeks to harness the large-scale urban developments in the Dublin Docklands as an exemplar for trialling smart technologies. This will look at how smart technologies become part of urban masterplanning in the context of a large urban development with many actors involved in planning and decision-making.
These two projects will examine real-world examples of transduction and translation; how the city interacts with code, each continually reshaping the other. In the case of RTPI, this is concerned with how code and physical movement interact, and in the case of Smart Districts, how urban space is co-configured with smart technologies.
Together, these projects will seek to unpack Dublin as an emerging ‘Smart City’, following how the concept itself takes form through the interplay of new technologies and new ways of procurement. Also, they will look at how urban big data are tested and used to regulate and shape the temporal and spatial dimension of urban space, as well as social relations.
Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy
(1) SD report “Local authority challenge identification workshops” (2015, unpublished).