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We’ve been building Smart City applications and services for a number of years – most notably via Urban Opus in Canada and Smart Streets in the UK. During that time we’ve been exploring how best to foster a vibrant Smart City ecosystem. In particular we’ve seen time after time how Smart City projects get started in a burst of enthusiasm, and then wither when something new comes along. They wither because they are not self sustaining, perhaps because there’s no real citizen pull, or there is no clear business model, or they are technology led rather than user driven – there are many reasons.

We don’t have the all the answers, but we’ve written up some of our experiences and some of the lessons in a paper we’ll be presenting at the Smart Cities workshop in Japan in September – part of the UbiComp conference.

You can read the full paper here:

However the lessons can be summarized as:

  • Top-down, technology driven projects often don’t deliver significant value. Cities are not machines and a focus on improving infrastructure efficiency, while laudable, is not always the best use of city resources.
  • Community engagement is critical. It needs to drive projects ideas, be engaged during development and is required for uptake and service sustainability.
  • To bootstrap projects, and help develop a thriving ecosystem, technical resources are needed to support community needs. Our experiences have shown that a modest investment in a city wide data hub and simple development tools is sufficient.
  • Trust is essential. By actively engaging citizens, it is possible to build trust such that citizens will engage and will provide useful data that can be used to develop new services.