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    Digital Cities for Change project

    Project PI Gillian Rose has been invited to be a member of the Advisory Board of the Digital Cities for Change project (DC2).

    The project is funded by the Ove Arup Foundation and hosted by the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction at the University of Cambridge. DC2 has just recruited two research assistants and is currently planning its launch event in June 2018. Gillian attended the Board's meeting on 22 November and contributed to shaping the project's particular focus on understanding the governance of smart cities in order to improve city life.

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    Smart City Expo 2017 in Barcelona

    Barcelona's annual Smart City Expo, which took place between 14-16 November, is one of the most significant global events in the smart city field. It's here where the big players get together to showcase new technologies and to discuss strategy. SCiM-MK sent Dr Alan-Miguel Valdez, who took a moment out from the exciting new tech and the autumn Barcelona sun to send his reflections back:

    Hello, Alan-Miguel Valdez here, back from the Smart City expo at Barcelona. Several interviewees have told us this is the place to be for learning about the latest in smart cities, so we had to be there. This year there were 675 exhibitors and 18,754 attendees from 700+ cities in 120 countries. I'd say that smart cities from the UK were largely underrepresented, but fortunately MK was there, with council leader Peter Marland contributing to the panel on Disruptive Trends Transforming Urban Mobility

    When I have visited similar events in the past, I usually spend most of my time at the conference, listening to presentations by experts and industry leaders. This time I spent my time at the trade fair instead. As part of our research, I wanted to visit the stands of the various smart cities, trying to develop an understanding of how the dozens of cities claiming to be smart were similar to (and different from) each other. We will need some time for proper analysis and reflection, but I would like to share something that caught my attention.

    Judging from the exhibits at the expo, it looks like cities don't want to be just smart anymore. Now that hundreds of cities claim to be smart or experimental, smart alone may not be enough to raise the symbolic capital of a place. Most of the promotional materials I gathered at the expo are clearly designed to attract investment, with cities framing their smartness as a unique selling point. Since 'smart' by itself is not so unique anymore, cities need to offer something else on top, and in consequence projects are becoming "smart and social", "smart and sustainable", "smart and inclusive", "smart and connected", "Smart and clever", etc…This may be related to growing acknowledgement that 'big data' is not new, and not smart by itself, with people from ICT companies acknowledging that they had been using big data from a long time ago, long before "smart" became fashionable. It may be too early to tell, but judging from the number of stands devoted to it I suspect that robotics and automation will become the next new thing, the defining element of the next generation of smart cities.

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    ESRC Festival of Social Science at the centre:MK

    The weekend of 4-5 November, SCiM-MK was pleased to participate in the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Recognising the limited public recognition and debate about smart cities, we took some exciting smart technologies to Central Milton Keynes's thecentre:MK. Members of the public were invited to experiment with those smart technologies and to talk with us about their experiences.

    We had two pieces of tech on display. Most excitingly, we were able to showcase how novel augmented reality technology might change the way we interact with the city using a hololens headset. Our project partners, Virtual Viewing, had developed an interactive experience booth within which hololens wearers were able to bring up video and data about our virtual Milton Keynes cityscape. We were also able to demonstrate other modes of urban data visualisation using an iPad.

    We used this as a prompt for conversations. Perhaps most illuminatingly, the terminology of 'smart city' is relatively unknown amongst the public. That said, many people could think of ways smart technology were changing the ways they lived in cities. Broadly, the Milton Keynes residents we spoke to were optimistic about the future of their city as it got smarter, and excited about the possibilities that new technology could offer. But that didn't mean that smart got an unconditional green light. People are worried about how smart might exclude certain groups. They are also anxious about what might happen to their personal data.

    The event generated some fascinating conversations amongst members of the community and food for thought as we move toward the second half of SCiM-MK.

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    SCiM-MK's research discussed in 'Property Week' article

    Milton Keynes' smart city developments, and SCiM-MK, took centre stage in a recent article in the trade journal Property Week. Dr Miguel Valdez, a SCiM-MK Research Associate who previously worked for the MKSmart project, was interviewed for the piece. For Miguel, the scalability of smart projects is linked to what they might achieve commercially. "If you try to solve the problem for your city, it is not going to get people truly excited," he told Property Week. "If you're offering a solution that you can prove will scale up to other cities so it will have commercial applications elsewhere, that’s a way to get investors excited."

    The article is available online without a paywall.

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    Oliver Zanetti presents a paper at the Whose Right to the Smart City network meeting in Plymouth

    SCiM MK Research Associate Oliver Zanetti was pleased to speak at the Whose Right to the Smart City conference in Plymouth recently. The conference was organised by an AHRC funded network of the same name which draws together academic and non-academic stakeholders to examine the role of civic inclusiveness in cities as they get smarter.

    Oliver's paper discussed emerging researching findings from SCiM MK's smart citizens work package. It explored ways to think about the practices of urban citizenship demonstrated by community organisers from the blind and partially sighted community calling for the use of smart technologies to help them navigate public spaces.

    It argued that the modes of participation and citizenship claims demonstrated here disrupt some of the conventional ways of thinking about smart citizens and proposed some new, less smart, ways of thinking about this.

    The conference included a number of other fascinating papers from other similar research projects and from partners in industry and the voluntary sector, generating engaging and often passionate debate - a flavour of which can be found on their twitter feed. The Whose Right to the Smart City network runs until early-2018, and SCiM MK is looking forward to further productive engagements with it in the months to come.

. @ProfGillian is an Advisory Board member of Cambridge University's @CSIC_IKC hosted Digital Cities for Change pro… https://t.co/jyCzRd8kgd
by SCiM_MK

What’s next for #SmartCities? @AMValdez_OU went to the @SmartCityexpo last week. From what he saw, the future’s in… https://t.co/B9YJNK6jxS
by SCiM_MK

Given his contribution to ‘Playable Cities’, it’s no surprise @AMValdez_OU has been on the look out for playable… https://t.co/YxNoLifFNA
by SCiM_MK

Our man on the ground @AMValdez_OU is at the @SmartCityexpo in #Barcelona. #dashboards #data and… https://t.co/vmqIyuLINJ
by SCiM_MK

What were those people in #AugmentedReality headsets doing in @centremk last weekend? It was SCiM-MK’s contribution… https://t.co/TiGTa0xYNF
by SCiM_MK