IoT Week opening

Scuola Grande San Giovanni, Venice.

The designers have arrived at EU IoT Week. It was interesting to see that the formal launch of IoT Week started with a couple of presentations from Adam Greenfield and Usman Haque. Both speakers managed to convey the opposite story to that typically told in this forum.

Adam focused on why “Smart City” jargon typically occludes meaning and understanding of cities actually work and did a great job of picking apart smart city visions from IBM, Cisco, Siemens and Plan-it (e.g. re Songdo – “uneconomic to fulfil the promise, how much has been delivered?”) His main thesis was that seamless does not exist, cities do not have “goals” to be optimised and efficiency was often an administrational target but one that does not necessarily support the citizen. I need to look up the Scott book he referenced re Brasilia’s administrational view of the city – “Brasilia was designed to be viewed from above – the god view” – and I found myself nodding a thinking “what IoT / Ubicomp projects would Jane Jacobson be working on right know” when he spoke about how “technology undermines the running of communities” re cctv cameras creating false view of safety (i.e. someone in authority is watching and taking care of the problem therefore i don’t need to do anything). We need to aim for spontaneous order from below – multiple use, multiple interactions.

So what did he suggest? Design for networked cities and citizens, built over time by an infinity of small actions in the context of “this” city (not the “proximate” city) focused on social spaces, socially constructed.

Usman built on Adams presentation using examples of what people are building using The map of live sensor locations was probably the envy of many of the multi-million Euro research projects trying to set up sensor networks and highlighted the obvious benefits to be gained from “just getting on with it”. Their firehouse of data (30 million readings a day) is very impressive but highlighted a practical problem that is pre-occupying Usman at present. He has “an issue with the data info knowledge wisdom pyramid” – the 30 million daily sensor updates does not mean the public are getting more insight, the data always needs to be used in some context.

He also queried if the focus on control structures for optimising the city managers role are actually helping the citizen – and asked if that is enough? He used the example of current air quality measurement systems typically set up for scientists and city managers. They measure at 3m high and give “neighbourhood” values but don’t take into account ground level. Whilst the residents can see a “metric” for their neighbourhood they cannot take any action or change their daily behaviour (for more information on work they are doing to try and work around this issue look at the AirQualityEgg project).

His advice? An open system enables people to innovate and take actions. To make people feel like they are part of the city – since they are the city. “You do not need consensus to make these city systems work” – there will be heterogenous systems and actors. He also referenced the work done the previous weekend at the IoT assembly in london – a fantastic call to action and well worth a read – i particularly liked “if you create a new format at least one other independent entity must use it”

IoT Week EC expert group

EC Expert Group Mtg

On other matters we had another EC Expert Group mtg on IoT including insight from Karl Brincat, Visa on the technology behind new contactless payment products, the crypotgraphy involved and how the user, terminal and issuer responsibilities for security are emerging. The meeting also discussed the working papers of the various subgroups focused on:

  • identification,
  • privacy, data protection, security
  • ethics
  • IoT architectures
  • Standards
  • IoT governance architecture

And finally, EU funding 2013 agreed – look out for objective 1.4 smart cities – energy + mobility.