Tag Archives: smart city

New paper: Hackathons, entrepreneurship and the passionate making of smart cities

Sung-Yueh Perng, Robk Kitchin and Darach Mac Donncha draw on their various hackathon experiences, including mentoring and winning!, to present you a close-up look of these tech and ‘innovation’ events. The working paper shared here examines how these events extend the passions for digital innovation and entrepreneurship and act as sites of social learning for the development of smart urbanism. If you are interested, the abstract below provides more detail. Or, you can find the working paper using the link: https://osf.io/nu3ec. If you have any thoughts or comments, do share with us!



Hackathons – quick prototyping events for commercial purposes – have become an important means to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and the start-up economy in smart cities. Smart and entrepreneurial cities have been critiqued with respect to the neoliberalization of governance and statecraft. We consider the passions, inventions and imitations in the assemblage of practices – alongside neoliberalizing and capitalist operations – that shape the economy and governance of smart cities. The paper examines hackathons as tech events that extend the passions for digital innovation and entrepreneurship and act as sites of social learning for the development of smart urbanism. We argue that passionate and imitative practices energize the desire and belief in entrepreneurial life and technocratic governance, and also engender precarious, ambiguous and uncertain future for participants and prototypes.

Next seminar: Smart City Infrastructures: Governance, practice and process

For our next event in the seminar series, we have invited Dr Aksel Ersoy from Oxford Brooks University to present his research on smart city infrastructures. He is Lecturer in Urban Geography in the Department of Social Sciences and focuses his research on the social and economic transformations of metropolitan cities.

Join us on Wednesday 8 March from 3pm to 5pm for his talk in Room 2.31, Iontas Building. More details about the talk can be found in the abstract below. Hope to see many of you!

The issues of global environmental change and sustainability have now been on the agendas of research institutions, government departments and civil society organisations for a number of years. While the implications of the transnational and global characteristics of environmental problems continue to be integral to policymaking, government and governance, increasing attention is being directed at the necessity and scope for local action. Within urban studies, the multiple interlinkages between infrastructure domains has become crucial as interconnectedness and interdependencies of infrastructure networks provoke thinking about how urban policy shifts towards more resource efficient and resilient cities via enabling more integrative forms of co-management of urban infrastructure. Cities are wrestling with the inadequacies and inefficiencies of embedded and legacy infrastructure systems, while at the same time being presenting with a range of new opportunities and possibilities created by developments in digital technologies. The latter are currently signified by reference to the (imminent) arrival of the “smart city”, although this is a term which is used in diverse ways. This presentation explores local smart city practices, with a particular concern for governance and whether smart is explicitly understood as a vehicle for capitalising upon unexploited infrastructure interdependencies or dealing with the products of established siloed thinking about infrastructure.

ProgCity_Seminar_4_4_ AkselErsoy

Smart Dublin – in one word

The first Smart Dublin Advisory Network meeting took place on the 12th October in the Mansion House.  The plan is for the network to meet every six months to help guide the work of Smart Dublin as it develops and implements its strategy and programmes.  The first meeting mainly focused on introducing Smart Dublin and undertaking some initial workshop exercises to brainstorm initial ideas and feedback and to do so preliminary backcasting.  The first task was a quick introduction and for each person to say in one word a quality they hoped Smart Dublin would fulfil.  Here’s a list of those aspirational words – which I have grouped into triplets – a list against which to judge over the next few years how successful Smart Dublin has been.

Connectivity              Networking              Integrated
Collaborative            Cooperation             Sharing
People                       Community              Engagement
Well-being                 Safe                           Quality-of-life
Accessible                 Sustainable              Diversity
Data                           Insight                       Problem-solving
Strategic                    Joined-up                  Agile
Transformative        Future-proofing       International
Innovation                Start-ups                   Testing
Socio-technical        Curiosity                    Easy

Interestingly, efficiency, economy and open – which are three of the four key terms that have to date underpinned Smart Dublin’s work (along with engagement) – were not suggested. Personally, I think it’s a fascinating list in terms of what it prioritizes as key attributes of a successful smart city and it would be interesting to compare this list to other lists produced by stakeholder groups in other cities.  A brief post about the advisory board meeting and the Smart Dublin showcase that followed its first meeting can be found here.

Rob Kitchin

New paper in Geoforum – The praxis and politics of building urban dashboards

Rob Kitchin, Sophia Maalsen and Gavin McArdle have a new paper published in Geoforum titled ‘The praxis and politics of building urban dashboards’.  It is open access with this link until early Dec.

Abstract: This paper critically reflects on the building of the Dublin Dashboard – a website built by two of the authors that provides citizens, planners, policy makers and companies with an extensive set of data and interactive visualizations about Dublin City, including real-time information – from the perspective of critical data studies. The analysis draws upon participant observation, ethnography, and an archive of correspondence to unpack the building of the dashboard and the emergent politics of data and design. Our findings reveal four main observations. First, a dashboard is a complex socio-technical assemblage of actors and actants that work materially and discursively within a set of social and economic constraints, existing technologies and systems, and power geometries to assemble, produce and maintain the website. Second, the production and maintenance of a dashboard unfolds contextually, contingently and relationally through transduction. Third, the praxis and politics of creating a dashboard has wider recursive effects: just as building the dashboard was shaped by the wider institutional landscape, producing the system inflected that landscape. Fourth, the data, configuration, tools, and modes of presentation of a dashboard produce a particularised set of spatial knowledges about the city. We conclude that rather than frame dashboard development in purely technical terms, it is important to openly recognize their contested and negotiated politics and praxis.

Reflecting upon hackathons by their participants

Thomas James Lodato and Carl DiSalvo give a good overview of what hackathons are in their recent article:

Hackathons are rapid design and development events at which volunteer participants come together to conceptualize, prototype, and make (mostly digital) products and services.

Coupling with the rapid pace of conceptualising a product or service, prototyping and making do with limited time and resources during the event, is the competition with other teams for the prizes, ranging from cash rewards to a spot in an incubator programme that could potentially transform the initial idea at a hackathon into a startup success.

We often see coverage of the winning teams, their ideas and sometimes their presentations before the judging panel. However, we do not necessarily know how participants reflect upon their own experiences, problems they encounter along the way and adjustments to their goals and strategies under time pressure.

In this blogpost, we try to give a glimpse of these aspects by asking participants how and what they did in the Global Data Fest/Smart City Hackathon which took place in Dublin between 6 – 8 March, 2015. The videos were taken before the teams presented their ideas to the judges, which means they did not know who were going to win and thus the conversation was not about their ‘winning experiences’. Instead, the videos are about how they took into account of all sorts of challenges and the advice they received from the mentors to finish their project. In doing so, we also wish to create cultural memory for the participants and for one the various pursuits of transforming Dublin into a smart city.

Here they are!

Project: Life Tracking

Project: EmuLUX

Project: CityBuzz

Project: BikeRack

Project: Bintel

Project: BedCount

We thank the participants and also David Prendergast from Intel, who also gave a talk for our seminar series, for making the videos happen.


Cork as a smart region?

Back in December we posted about the extent to which Dublin can be considered a smart city.  In this post, we complement this with a similar analysis of Cork, which is seeking to become a smart region rather than city (utilising smart technologies across the city and the county).

In Cork a ‘smart agenda’ is being developed that builds on the existing assets, attributes and experiences in the region through the ‘Cork Smart Gateway’ initiative, which is a collaboration between the two local authorities and the Nimbus Research Centre (Internet of Things, networks) and Tyndall National Institute (ICT, microelectronic circuits, nanotechnology, energy, photonics). The aim is to leverage a quadruple helix innovation model where government, industry, academia and civil participants work together to co-create and drive structural change utilising ICT solutions. As well as a host of EU, SFI and enterprise projects, Cork is also home to the National Sustainable Building Energy Testbed, Water Systems and Service and Innovation Centre, and the Mallow Systems and Innovation Centre, and UCC is a lead partner of Insight and CONNECT.  A full range of projects is set out in Table 1.

In addition to these projects, Cork City Council is a follower City in a Smart Cities and Communities Horizon 2020 project called GrowSmarter, a €25m initiative (lead cities: Stockholm, Cologne, and Barcelona). GrowSmarter establishes three ‘lighthouses’ for smart cities which demonstrate to other cities how they can be prepared in an intelligent way for the energy challenges of the future. As part of this project, Cork will roll out initiatives in transport, energy, and information and communications technology. There are also a significant number of companies driving Internet of Things development in the region, for example, EMC and Vodafone have jointly invested €2m in a new INFINITE internet of things industrial platform that will traverse Cork.  There are also a range of ongoing research and pilot projects that have yet to be mainstreamed, and others that ran for a handful of years before terminating, plus there are a number of other smart city apps available developed by citizens and commercial enterprises.

Table 1: Smart Cork

Smart economy Energy Cork Cluster supporting collaboration and innovation in the energy sector
IT@Cork Cluster supporting collaboration and innovation in the ICT sector
TEC Gateway – part of Nimbus, CIT EI funded technology gateway supporting Irish industry to develop new IoT technologies
Rubicon Incubator – provides supports and capital investment for startups
Smart government City Council housing stock management Stock condition surveys and maintenance activities updated by smart technologies close to real time
Library digital services A suite of library apps for various services
Variable messaging signs Real time off-street parking and road closure information on key access routes to the city
Smart living Smart energy management Real-time monitoring and control of energy use and environmental characteristics for residential and commercial buildings; Secure management and prognostics networks for energy systems – EOS
Smart urban district energy Management Real-time monitoring and control of neighbourhoods (blocks of buildings) for sustainable energy use
Smart lighting Intelligent LED lighting networks
GreenCom Smart microgrid testbed that enables wireless monitoring/control of loads, microgeneration and microstorage energy elements
Smart mobility Coca Cola Zero Bikes Public Hire Bike Scheme
LeapCard Smart card access/payment for trains and buses
Real-time passenger information Real time bus and train information at stops
EV Infrastructure Deploy standard and fast charging points throughout the city
Smart environment Smart testbeds National Sustainable Energy Testbed (NSBET); Community Testbed – A regional community testbed with access to high-performance broadband facilities; Water Test-bed
River Lee deployment Real time wireless sensor river monitoring system looking at water quality and depth
Rainwater harvesting Remote monitoring of rainwater harvesting system in Sunview Fairhill
Smart water Sensor development and integration to support management of Fats, oils and greases in the waste water networks – FOGMON

Aquametrics – Single point monitoring of water networks

Mid-altitude security and environmental monitoring AEOLUS – Mid-altitude (400m) sensor platform combining HD cameras, metrological, Radar and AIS for coastal monitoring for security and environmental assessment
Smart people Maker Dojo Hands-on, ‘hacker’ style workshops
CorkCitiEngage A Cork Smart Gateway Survey Project. Public feedback on public issues, digital skills, and use of public infrastructure
CorkOpenData data.corkcity.ie – An online platform for publishing city information obtained from various sources, from sensors to surveys

Source: Compiled by the Cork Smart Gateway

Like Dublin then Cork lay claim to being a nascent smart city.  Similarly they are very much at the start of realising the ambition of becoming a smart region and over the next number of years the smart region landscape is likely to change quite substantially as new initiatives are rolled out and new technologies deployed.

Rob Kitchin

Thanks to Claire Davis and Cork Smart Gateway initiative for compiling the table, with was prepared for our recent report on smart cities, privacy and security.