I recently attended a presentation by Winn Nielsen, Head of City Data for Copenhagen. I was struck both by how far they had gone in laying the foundation for a smart, data driven city, and by how similar their approach to data was to the Urban Opus model.

Some of the key messages from Winn’s presentation are:

  • Complexity of issues and the need for technology suppliers to be partners not traditional suppliers. Winn stressed several times that the traditional customer-vendor relationship no longer works for cities. His biggest successes have come from engaging with suppliers and turning them into partners – a great example was Hitachi who have agreed to bear the costs of building and running their data exchange (what we at Urban Opus call a Data Broker) in exchange for a percentage of revenue (More details below)
  • Nobody cares about Smart Cities – they care about livable cities with a great quality of life. Although I think this message is now becoming mainstream, Winn stressed that Copenhagen’s strategy doesn’t talk about Smart Cities, instead it focuses on a livable city, a sustainable city etc. Citizens and politicians don’t care about Smart Cities.
  • The three core technology pieces for a smart livable city are Data platform and privacy, Smart City infrastructure, co-creation and partnership

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  • Smart City infrastructure demands a ‘loose solutions’ approach with suppliers working together to provide  a loosely couple infrastructure offering data and management interoperability. A key lesson from several projects has been the need for suppliers to partner both with the city but with each other to ensure that attempts to make the city infrastructure smart, is don in collaboration with other city systems. He discussed the new testbed they are developing around city hall – not to try out individual smart city technologies, e.g. smart parking, buildings etc – but to test the integration of the individual solution with each other and with the city platform.
  • Perhaps counter intuitively, Copenhagen has not tried to break down silos and create a central Smart City unit within the city organization, but has instead worked with the silos and created a very small ‘solutions lab’ that works with transportation, finance, housing etc to help them integrate their solutions with other parts of the city:Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 3.17.39 PM
  • Data brokerage is a critical piece for Smart Cities. People have focused on OpenData and there are many initiatives around ensuring citizens have access to city data via OpenData platforms etc. However, he argues that is only part of the issue. The real benefit from data will come when citizens and corporations make their data available. Since this data is valuable, you need to develop a data brokerage or data exchange platform that allows corporations to buy and sell data. Further, it needs to allow citizens to also make their personal data available and to provide means for them to secure the data, control who sees it and provides ways for them to benefit from the use of their data.

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This is exactly the approach we have taken with Urban Opus – our data hub has been developed to support both open data (using a CKAN implementation) but also a data brokerage where data can be submitted by citizens and companies and access controlled. Although Urban Opus has not (yet) implemented a full buy/sell data brokerage model – we believe this is the future of the data hub as an innovation catalyst and are very interested in fostering projects that can develop this model and in talking to potential commercial partners who wish to explore business models associated with data brokerage.

You can take a look at Winn’s slides via this link:

and see a video of his presentation using this link: