The Design Council in London are holding a series of round table discussions. The first was a lively debate around how to Design for Communities in Smart & Future Cities held at the impressive Design Council Headquarters in North London on Friday 6th of September 2013. Simon Tricker, leading the Future City | Glasgow Design team, attended the conference and shares his top 10 points to ponder from this event.

Following an introduction by Phil Smith – Chairman of the Technology Strategy Board and Chief Executive of Cisco Systems in UK & Ireland – Mischa Dohler shared a number of interesting lessons from his journeys around the world. A Chair Professor in Wireless Communications at King’s College London and co-founder of Worldsensing, during his work he meets local councillors and mayors of cities all aspiring to improve their urban environments.

10 points to ponder

1. In this area, cities can be classified into 3 categories; Return on Investment Cities (asking when will we get a return), Carbon Driven Cities (have money and are willing to spend) and Vanity Driven Cities (the mayor or leaders want to show off). What type of city do you think you live in?

2. Do short term political cycles harm investment? They can drastically slow down the decision making process. In some cases only 20% of this cycle is spent solving the cities needs, the rest in elections and positioning.

3. Procurement issues with cross service solutions; whose budget does this fall under? Do we need Future City departments that integrate across all the cities services? In Finland they FIX the price and focus on quality NOT price.

4. Return on Investment (ROI) is not always monetary. Examples include roads and the internet, both of which we had no clear understanding of the ROI prior to development. Are smart cities technologies the same?

5. Can we retrofit smart and future ideas onto old cities and how does it integrate into future solutions? Also, is it possible to standardise the smart city approaches as we have with wireless networks?

Big Data statistics make good powerpoint slides but are useless without action.

6. How can we get the big giants (IBM, Siemens, Cisco, Serco) to play together with offers of real integration? Future integration will be very important as more systems are procured and more data becomes available.

7. Virtualisations: can we visualise better systems and processes before we launch into large capital expenditure?

8. Big Data statistics make good Powerpoint slides but are useless without action. Open Data and especially Free Open data can lead to lack of proprietary value and undermine SME’s competitiveness on a global playing field. Also who pays for the servers and shipping costs of OPEN data?

9. It is important to make the feedback loop easier, ensuring complaints are heard and discussed with ongoing reporting on progress using new technology.

10. The emerging economies are all looking into smart city solutions. For instance, in Indonesia their No1 request is ‘How do we increase engagement with our communities?’

So that wraps up Simon’s 10 points to ponder. If you have any additional points, add a comment below.

We know that design will play an important role in solving these issues. This will require a mix of Citizen Centric Design solutions with sustainable business models, and inspirational design visionaries. Also, it is important to demonstrate failure – any potential innovative solutions that didn’t quite work – as well as success. This is not easy when spending public money but exploration and iteration have to be possible to ensure the best solutions are developed.

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