“There should be a ‘city strategy’ which is ‘smart’.” – John Lynch, Future Cities Catapult, Speaker Q&A

John Lynch, Project Lead, Product and Service Design at Future Cities Catapult will be speaking at the Smart Summit London being held on the 21st and 22nd of September at the Olympia Conference Centre in London.

The Future Cities Catapult brings together businesses, universities and city leaders so that they can work with each other to solve the problems that cities face. They help innovators turn ingenious ideas into working prototypes that can be tested in real urban settings. Then, once they’re proven, the Future Cities Catapult help spread them to cities across the world to improve quality of life, strengthen economies and protect the environment.

John, who will be discussing how to achieve citizen involvement and buy-in on the 22nd of September at the Smart Cities Summit, took some time to answer our Speaker Q&A:

1. Please provide us with some information about the projects you are working on to make cities smarter?

OrganiCity (www.organicity.eu) unites three cities in an effort to create “experimentation as a service” – making smart city technology more accessible and useful to those wishing to try new things and create potential products and services for their city. Through careful service design and citizen engagement, and with extensive integration of diverse city datastore and IoT deployments, OrganiCity invited the first citizen experiments in 2016.

CapStone (www.cities.io) brings together University College London, Imperial College London, Intel and Future Cities Catapult to build a diverse IoT demonstrator in the Queen Elizabeth Park in London. 

2. What do you believe to be the key drivers for smart city growth?

Horizontal integration of diverse governance silos, holistic understanding of the value of data and the development of new processes enabled by technology. Open data, and better data licensing. Citizen participation in the city through smart technology. 

3. How are you working to engage the citizens in smart city activity?

Extensive effort has been made through the engagement strategy in Organicity, which outlines seven principles for citizen engagement for all activities. We have established brand assets, social media channels, and a web portal. We’ve hosted multiple events and workshop across all three cities. Conferences, public events, universities have all been targeted, and most importantly there are two open calls during which citizens themselves must step forward and participate in the project. 

4. Do you think there needs to be stronger business and public collaboration?

Yes. Private organisations seek to dominate closed systems while public organisations run around the world looking for “off the shelf” and “proven” solutions that might work for them. Pre-commercial procurement (see www.select4cities.eu) is an interesting model for how this process might be improved. 

5. How can cities become smarter, not just connected?

Yes. Cities have an opportunity to move away from the old “divide and conquer” approach to problem solving, which gave us silos and inefficiencies, and through good data exchange take a more holistic approach. 

6. Which are the key ways data is being used to enhance smart city capabilities?

Right now, the dominant area is transport and parking. It’s like we haven’t moved past this in more than ten years. 

7. What are the key benefits to citizens and cities from smart city services?

Cities can improve, tangibly – we could have greater standards of living, healthcare, public space. We could have a more sustainable housing market, fresher food and all kinds of benefits – but it is wrong to expect this to occur through technology alone. Change requires a full stack approach including policy change, citizen participation, technology deployment, business models and more. 

8. What are the key challenges in making the transition to a smart city and how can they be overcome?

I think the one key challenge is understanding the need. The need might be budget cuts, it might be pollution, it might be anti-social behaviour, but is not “we need to be smart”. Once a true need is identified, and the dogma of tech companies and government agendas is ignored the real need can be investigated and identified. 

9. How are security and privacy concerns being addressed?

Very little experience on this one, but all our work is being conducted in close consultation with EU privacy law experts (on European Commission projects) 

10. How are cities deploying LPWAN for more efficient connectivity, and what services are being enabled?

We are involved in two different potential deployments in London of LPWAN technologies to support environmental monitoring and urban data/IoT experimentation. 

11. How are cities bridging internal silos for a cohesive Smart City strategy?

Badly. There should not be a “smart city strategy”. That is a nonsensical silo in itself, likely belonging to the IT department in a city. There should be a “city strategy” which is “smart”. Data and technology are simply a constant in everything we do going forward, cities need to be thought about differently – completely – this is not one “lens” to be looked through, but the way things are and always will be going forward.  


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About Smart Summit London

Smart Summit is a 2 day conference and exhibition covering the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and its impact on the digital society.

With 3 in-depth event tracks and over 160 leading speakers, no other IoT event covers the Smart Home, Smart Cities and Industrial Internet of Things in as much detail.

Co-located with a joint networking exhibition, each track (summit) features over 20 unique and topical sessions – gain a unique insight from industry heavyweights and hear case study examples from major contributors.

Make sure you are present in London on the 21st and 22nd September for THE Smart event of 2016.