Tag Archives: Smart Dublin

New paper: From the accidental to articulated smart city

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy and Rob Kitchin have published a new working paper (No. 28) – From the accidental to articulated smart city: The creation and work of ‘Smart Dublin’.

While there is a relatively extensive literature concerning the nature of smart cities in general, the roles of corporate actors in their production, and the development and deployment of specific smart city technologies, to date there have been relatively few studies that have examined the situated practices as to how the smart city as a whole unfolds in specific places. In this paper, we chart the smart city ecosystem in Dublin, Ireland, and examine how the four city authorities have actively collaborated to progressively frame and mobilise an articulated vision of Dublin as a smart city. In particular, we focus on the work of ‘Smart Dublin’, a shared unit established to coordinate, manage and promote Dublin’s smart city initiatives. We argue that Smart Dublin has on the one hand sought to corral smart city initiatives within a common framework, and on the other has acted to boost the city-region’s smart city activities, especially with respect to economic development. Our analysis highlights the value of undertaking a holistic mapping of a smart city in formation, and the role of political and administrative geographies and specialist smart city units in shaping that formation.



Smart Docklands in a word, and smart city bingo

A couple of weeks ago I published a list of words that members of the Smart Dublin Advisory Network felt represented qualities they hoped Smart Dublin would fulfil.  At a recent meeting about a proposed Smart Docklands initiative attendees were asked to perform the same task – use one word to describe a desirable quality for the area/initiative.  Here is that list of aspiration words:

Co-creation                  Innovation                  Collaboration
Best practice               Showcase                    Testbed
Quality of Life             Community                 Engagement
Smart energy              Telecoms                     Internet of Things
Data                              Open                            Bright
Intelligent                    Optimized                    Autonomous system
Sustainability              Safety                           Resource efficient
Industry                       Startups                       Opportunity
Alignment                    Integrated                   Deploy and forget
Electricity                     Battery                         Energy
Connectivity                Smart mobility

While there is some overlap in the lists, it’s interesting to note the differences between the aspirations expressed at the two meetings.

Here are the words in the Smart Dublin list that are not in the Smart Docklands one:

Networking, Collaborative, Cooperation, Sharing, People, Well-being, Accessible, Diversity, Insight, Problem-solving, Strategic, Joined-up, Agile, Transformative, Future-proofing, International, Socio-technical, Curiosity, Easy

And here are the words in the Smart Docklands list not in the Smart Dublin one:

Co-creation, Best practice, Showcase, Smart energy, Telecoms, Internet of Things, Open, Bright, Intelligent, Optimized, Autonomous system, Resource efficient, Industry, Opportunity, Alignment, Deploy and forget, Electricity, Battery, Energy, Smart mobility

And here is the overlap:

Innovation, Collaboration, Testbed, Quality of Life, Community, Engagement, Data, Sustainability, Safety, Startups, Integrated, Connectivity

Perhaps not unsurprisingly the Smart Docklands list has more economic aspirations, but does still contain ambitions concerning community, engagement, quality of life and sustainability.  Adding the two list together, I sense, provides a kind of ‘smart city bingo’ – a full house of smart city goals.

Thanks for Jamie Cudden and Réka Pétercsák for compiling and sending the Smart Docklands list to me.

Rob Kitchin

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

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.


Unpacking Dublin as an emergent smart city

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.

Wow! Tickets for @smartdublin launch event snapped up in a few hours.We want you there!Last few tickets click here https://t.co/C7UhD0UGgX

— 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).

(2) http://progcity.maynoothuniversity.ie/2015/12/dublin-as-a-smart-city/

(3) http://www.citymart.com

Dublin as a smart city?

The soft launch of Smart Dublin, a website showcasing the city’s foray into becoming a smart city, was launched in October.  It has been accompanied by the four local authorities actively collaborating on a Smart Dublin strategy and the coordination of various smart city initiatives.

The Smart Dublin vision consists of a mix of data-driven, networked infrastructure, fostering economic growth and entrepreneurship, and citizen-centric initiatives, with a particular focus on creating more efficient city services, improving transportation flows, tackling flooding, attracting inward investment and encouraging indigenous start-ups and SMEs, and opening data and encouraging civic engagement.  Initiatives concerning security and policing, which are more prominent in UK and US cities where terrorism is seen as more of a threat, are less of a priority.

Beyond the ambition and rhetoric of Smart Dublin, to what extent is Dublin already a smart city?  An audit of the four Dublin local authorities (Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council) reveals a relatively large number of mainstreamed smart city initiatives (see Table 1).

Table 1: Smart Dublin

Smart  economy


Provides access to city datasets, including some real-time data feeds

Digital Hub

Cluster of digital content and technology enterprises; provides space, infrastructure and support services for digital tech companies

Startup commissioner

Advocates for tech start-ups; organises events and support schemes


Provides support and capital investment for start-ups; runs/sponsors hackathons


Cleantech cluster supporting and developing the green economy



A website and app for reporting issues (e.g. vandalism, dumping, potholes) to local authorities

Public realm operations map

An interactive map that reports scheduled public works

CRM workflow

Customer relations management system used to interface with the public and undertake workflow planning

Library digital services

A suite of library apps for various services

Smart mobility

Intelligent transport system

A suite of different technologies including SCATS (transduction loops at junctions), CCTV, ANPR (automatic number plate recognition cameras), detection of breaking red lights at Luas (tram) lines, feeding into a centralised traffic control room

Eflow road tolling

Automated roll tolling/billing using transponders

Fleet management

GPS tracking of local authority fleets and route optimisation


Smart card access/payment for trains, buses and trams.

Real-time Passenger Information

Digital displays at bus and tram stops and train stations providing information on the arrival/departure time of services

Smart parking

Transponder payment system; park-by-text; display around city; API feed

display signs

Traffic (crash/delay) alerts; speeding display signs

Bliptracker displays

Bike counters; car parking spaces counters; airport queue counters

Dublin Bikes

Public hire bike scheme


Sensor flood monitoring

Use of sensor network to monitor river levels by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities

Air pollution monitoring

EPA network of pollution sensors

Public building energy use

Real-time monitoring of energy use in local authority buildings; publicly displayed on screens

Big Belly Bins

Networked compactor bins that use sensors to monitor levels; waste collection route optimisation

Smart living

Street CCTV

Network of digital interactive CCTV cameras (alter direction/zoom)

Community CCTV

Network of CCTV in public places (e.g. parks); provides SMS alerts; can communicate through speakers in lampposts

Sonitus sound sensing

Network of sound sensors monitoring noise levels

Monitored sheltered housing

Remote monitoring of movement sensors and panic buttons in sheltered homes

Smart Stadium

Sensor network monitoring different facets of stadium use

Smart people

Dublin Dashboard

Comprehensive set of interactive graphs and maps of city data, including real-time data, as well location-based services

Fingal Open Data

Local authority open data sets

Map Alerter

Real-time alerts for weather and flooding


Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development


Consultation and deliberation tool for planning and development


Civic hacking meetups

Code for Ireland

Civic hacking coding meetups

This table only includes operational, rolled-out initiatives procured or co-developed with local authorities, plus selected citizen initiatives.

Unlike other places, where smart cities are being built from the ground up, the Smart Dublin initiatives in Table 1 are building on top of legacy infrastructure and many decades of social and economic programmes.  As such, smart city initiatives and technologies have to be layered on top of long-standing systems and schemes, and be accommodated within or replace existing organisational structures.

Beyond the initiatives in Table 1, there is a whole raft of smart city apps available; some provided/commissioned by local authorities (e.g. Art Trax, Heritage Walks, Mindmindr), others developed by citizens and commercial enterprises (e.g. Hit the Road, Parkya, Walk Dublin).  Moreover, there are 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. Further, beyond the economic development organisations listed in Table 1, there is a fairly well developed ecosystem of ‘university-industry-local government’ smart city research centres and collaborations (including ‘The Programmable City’ (implications of creating smart cities), ‘Innovation Value Institute’ (business models for smart city technologies), ‘Insight’ (data analytics for smart cities), ‘CONNECT’ (networking and comms for smart cities), ‘Future Cities’ (sensor, communication and analytical technological solutions for sustainability), ‘Dublin Energy Lab’ (smart grids and meters) and some industry centres (e.g. IBM’s smart city global research team) and test-beds (especially relating to the Internet of Things).  Organisations such as Codema and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) undertake smart energy/grid projects and provide advice and guidance.

In short, Dublin can lay claim to being a nascent smart city, rather than simply trying to become one.  However, it is very much at the start of realising the ambition of the Smart Dublin strategy and the form of smart city it will become is still very much open to influence.

Claudio Coletta, Liam Heaphy, Rob Kitchin