Tag Archives: sustainability

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

“Creating Smart Cities” workshop videos: Session 5

We are happy to share the fifth and last (but not least) set of videos from The Programmable City’s recent workshop “Creating Smart Cities”, Session 5: Co-design/co-production of smart cities. [Session 1 here, Session 2 here, Session 3 here, Session 4 here]

The Importance of Enacting Appropriate Legislation to Enable Smart City Governance

Niall Ó Brolcháin, NUI Galway

While the technological and data based aspects of the Smart City discourse and ecosystem in the Republic of Ireland continue to progress at a steady pace, policies, procedures and legislation do not appear to be making progress at quite the same rate. There is a clearly measurable increase in Smart City and Open Data related research funding from the three levels of governance, local, national and European Union. In terms of commercial capacity we have seen a significant increase in Smart City related technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT); however, discussions around legislation and enabling policy frameworks with a few notable exceptions have not made such significant progress.There is also a clear difference to the approach being adopted by each of the three levels of Governance to the Smart City concept and to the sharing of data across the public services. The lack of a co-ordinated approach with joined up thinking at all levels is not consistent with the concept of “Smartness”.
In this talk we will look at examples of legislation and policies relating to Smart Cities and data sharing. We will examine the barriers to progress in these areas while exploring potential solutions and synergies at each of the three levels of governance.

Technical Citizenry and the Realization of Bike Share Design Possibilities

Robert Bradshaw, Maynooth University


Contemporary or “smart” bike share schemes have exploited the capacity of information and communications technologies to effectively automate systems and deliver improved mobility and convenience for citizens in a way that is both sympathetic to the environment and cost effective for service providers. However research in the sector has tended to view schemes as technically homogenous with comparatively little attention paid to the potential of collaborative design processes to deliver on goals which transcend quite narrow definitions of efficiency and sustainability. As the industry evolves and new forms of engagement emerge, collaborative design has the potential to enrol riders in knowledge sharing and decision making practices which frame them, not as passive recipients of information and services, but as active participants in the creation of the systems they appropriate. Using a lens derived from Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology, this paper reports on a case study conducted in Hamilton, Canada, which explored these themes through an analysis of the design and implementations strategies used to realize their bike share scheme in the real world. The findings reveal the system be integral to, and reflective of, a new liberatory and inclusive politics emerging within the city. The scheme was seen to embody Feenberg’s notions of democratic rationalization and technical citizenry, with institutional expertise and lay experience combining in imaginative and mutually coherent ways to create a technology which embodies a diverse and complementary set of goals and ideologies.

The political and economic realities of introducing a smart lighting system

Darach MacDonncha, Maynooth University


Existing studies on the proliferation of ‘Smart City’ associated technologies have often sought to identify the patterns or models of such initiatives. In addition, the implementation of such schemes is often portrayed in the literature in a manner that fails to account for the political and economic realities necessary for their initial conceptualisation and subsequent introduction. In reality the roll-out of such schemes is often far more contested politically and ad-hoc in nature due to a variety of factors. The effective rollout of such initiatives is often contingent on the technologies, motivations, and various stakeholders involved. This paper addresses this misconception by focusing on the practicality of implementing an initiative of this nature. The paper details one project that reflects the political and economic realities of introducing a smart lighting system and seeks to provide critical reflections on the feasibility of the concept and a review of the accompanying institutional regime and the project’s development. The paper also reviews the suitability of a re-conceptualisation of regime and regulation theory together to provide greater insights into the local actors and institutions of the project with recognition of their wider contextual meaning.

Smart for a reason: sustainability and social inclusion in the sharing city

Duncan McLaren, Lancaster Environment Centre – Julian Agyeman, Tufts University

This paper explores the overlap between concepts and discourses of smart cities and sharing cities. It identifies common roles for modern technologies (such as Web2, mobile internet, RFID and connected devices), but contrasts the goals and motivations involved. It highlights the complementary value of low-tech sharing – from public spaces to libraries – in supporting social inclusion, and the harmful impacts of economic motivations on sustainability. It argues for a broad social, cultural and political understanding of the logics of urban sharing and urban commoning, in which technological smartness can be harnessed to social transformation of values and behavior. It suggests that cities should embed smart city activities within broadly defined sharing city objectives and programmes, co-produced with citizens.


Seminar video: Revealing experimental smart cities

Dr. Federico Cugurullo gave a seminar on October 26th, 2016 entitled Revealing experimental smart cities: The Frankenstein city and the sustainability challenges of de-composed urbanism. Dr. Cugurullo is Assistant Professor in Smart and Sustainable Urbanism, Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin. If you missed the seminar, here is the video for his talk:

Dreaming about the Cloud in rural Ireland

Late last week I, and many others I would presume, were left further behind in the digital era at the stroke of a pen. What my monthly bill cheekily termed broadband was officially no longer! In fact I never really had broadband to begin with, reliant as I am on ancient lines of copper which valiantly struggled to connect me to a quaint legacy telephone exchange deep in rural Wexford. Often it has proven more useful as an indicator of wind speed than a delivery method of zeros and ones, with wind-generated friction on the line reducing those precious few minutes of 1.2 Mbps connectivity still further on stormy evenings. Well in the US the telecoms watchdog, the FCC, has just raised the bar on what can officially be labelled as broadband, state-side at least, by redefining the minimum download speed at 25 Mbps. I can but dream! Continue reading

Fourth Generation Bikeshare and Social Innovation

Bikeshare initiatives have developed significantly since their introduction in Europe in the 1960’s and are generally regarded as having gone through a number of generations of implementation and design in the interim. The 1st generation, initially deployed in Amsterdam in 1965, was characterized by the use of general purpose bikes, custom painted for identification, and available to the public to borrow from and return to any location. These systems were unmanaged and depended heavily on the integrity of users to use the bikes responsibly. The design ultimately failed as the majority of the fleet was vandalised or stolen.

30 years later Copenhagen introduced the first coin operated or 2nd generation scheme. The construction of the bikes was more robust and the design meant that a degree of control had been introduced. The schemes were expensive however and theft remained a problem due to the fact that users still remained anonymous. In addition, time usage was not limited which meant bikes were frequently kept for extended periods of time making fleet management extremely difficult.

Contemporary, or 3rd generation schemes, have exploited the capacity of information and communications technologies to effectively automate systems and address the shortcomings of previous designs. Networked self-service stations are managed by central computer systems and technologies like RFID are used to monitor the location of bikes, which in turn supports real-time system updates such as the availability of free bikes and stands etc. Users are required to subscribe to the schemes initially and can then access the bikes through a variety of means which include smart cards, fobs, mobile phone applications or even SMS. Knowing who the customer is reduces the likelihood of theft and encourages greater responsibility of the part of the user.

Designs have continued to evolve though and innovations are making way for fourth-generation or demand responsive models which promise not only functional improvements but also the potential to engage with riders in new and more socially progressive ways. While a precise definition of fourth-generation design is still emerging, schemes are characterized by; (a) increased system flexibility; (b) improved distribution; (c) enhanced physical and informational integration with other transportation modes (d) developments such as electric-hybrid bikes and GPS tracking; and (e) increased use of crowdsourcing and participatory platforms.

Susan Shaheen, Director of Innovative Mobility Research at Berkeley, identified BIXI, which launched in Canada in May 2009, as marking the beginning of bikesharing’s fourth generation. A major innovation attributed to the scheme is its use of mobile docking stations which allows stations to be removed and transferred to different locations. This enables stations to be relocated according to usage patterns and user demands. Another feature that could enhance future programs is the use of solar-powered stations. Not surprisingly, solar-powered stations might further reduce emissions and the need to secure access to energy grids to support operations. Fourth generation bikesharing might also consider omitting docking stations altogether which would allow users employ mobile phone technology and street furniture for bicycle pickup and drop-off. These stationless designs are both cheaper and less impactful on the environment while also offering riders higher levels of flexibility and trip customization.

Boulder.bcycle.solar Solar Powered Station at B-Cycle Boulder

Another area of potential improvement for fourth-generation systems is in bicycle redistribution. Geo-fencing for example can directly address this problem, which has dogged the industry for years. By dividing the cycling environment into virtual zones, users can be rewarded when returning bikes to areas that most need them. These zones can be dynamically created or modified as required. The feature is a design element of Socialbicyles (SoBi) in North America.

A third feature of fourth-generation systems is the integration of bikesharing with other forms of transportation. Common payment systems across transit modes enhances usability and reciprocal apps can provide travellers with real-time data on buses, trains, taxis or even carsharing initiatives. This may lead to greater reductions in car ownership as more trips are supported by alternative forms of transport. Creating programs that coordinate meaningful integration is challenging though and often requires multiagency co-operation.

To make bikeshare accessible to more user groups, the use of electric or hybrid bikes may become more widespread in future schemes. Electric bikes overcome what researchers in MIT’s SENSEable City Lab identified as some of the primary obstacles to cycling in an urban environment; distance and topography. Examples of current schemes which have adopted this feature include the recently deployed Bycyken scheme in Copenhagen and BiciMAD in Madrid. And in relation to fleet safety and vandalism, designs which integrate GPS rather than RFID tagging can further deter theft and improve the likelihood of bike recovery. Significantly, active tracking also allows actual routes to be mapped and made available to users. Additionally, it enhances usability by allowing for the possibility of information streams such as; number of miles travelled (per trip and aggregated over time), CO2 offset, calories burned, and money saved vis-à-vis other modes. This information can be a useful way of developing relationships with users and enhancing system usage (e.g. B-Cycles, SoBi).

social-bicycle Socialbicycles – SoBi

The potential of crowdsourcing or participatory sensing may also become a feature of future designs. Individuals could use their personal mobile devices, typically Smartphones, to systematically report on various aspects of their environment. Essentially, the participants themselves either become a spatially distributed sensor network or act to augment sensing technology already incorporated in the bike’s design. Crowdsourcing may also take the form of collaborative map making (Capital Bikes) and route annotation (SoBi) both of which can contribute to system design, infrastructure planning, transportation modelling, and policy formation. The use of social media platforms as a deliberative component of future schemes may strengthen the co-production of services. Using technology this way could create a sense of citizenry where people have meaningful and transformative relationships with the schemes they use.

Exploiting the potential of these innovations to create systems that are integrated, open and participatory will challenge those municipalities which view their role as being primarily concerned with information dissemination and service delivery. This sufficed with traditional 3rd generation schemes which were, for the most part, insular systems designed using quite narrow definitions of efficiency and which offered little possibility for meaningful engagement either with between riders or between riders and decision makers. Next generation schemes will require that civic agencies transform their information and business processes and co-operate with each other in ways that have traditionally been problematic. And for those schemes implemented through partnerships with third parties, public agencies will need to re-think how they select providers, manage contracts, and exploit data. Understanding the response by government agencies to citizen-centric technologies and practices should tell us something about the conditions needed to support social innovation within the sector. It may also tell us how schemes with limited social value are legitimized and how such schemes might be enhanced.