SMARTiP: Smart Metropolitan Areas Realised through Innovation & People (SMARTiP)

Published on: 01/11/2012

The SMARTiP project is focusing on the challenge of transforming public services by empowering ‘smart citizens’, who are able to use and co-produce innovative Internet-enabled services within emerging ‘smart’ cities. The project aims to take the experience developed by a wide range of existing user-driven, open innovation initiatives in Europe, particularly those developed through Living Labs, and to apply this experience to engaging citizens as active co-producers of public services.

The aim is to enable the adoption of open platforms for the co-production of citizen-centric Internet-enabled services in five test-bed sites, Manchester, Gent, Cologne, Bologna and Oulu. The objective is to enhance the ability of the cities to grow and sustain a ‘smart city’ ecosystem, which can support new opportunities emerging for a dynamic co-production process resulting in more inclusive, higher quality and efficient public services, which can then be made replicable and scalable for cross-border deployment on a larger scale.

This will focus on a series of pilot projects covering three thematic areas:

  • Smart engagement
  • Smart environments
  • Smart mobility

The pilots aim to act as a catalyst to stimulate citizen engagement in becoming active generators of content and applications development, as well as being more informed and involved users of the developing Internet-enabled services in ‘smart’ cities.

Policy Context

Smart Cities require Smart Citizens and the SMARTiP project recognises this by sharing best practice amongst its various pilot cities and looking at how different applications developed in different cities can be re-used in some way or another in another place. The term “smart city” is a contested space that can be used by large corporates describing their latest technology platform or referring to a particular part of a city’s infrastructure such as the “smart grid.” For cities wanting to become “smarter” there is an understanding that they need to embrace innovation whilst at the same time maintaining their existing services to citizens, at a time of diminishing resources. SMARTiP operates in this context. Medium-sized cities such as Manchester, Cologne, Ghent and Bologna share similar aspirations, to enable their citizens to benefit from better services, to use technology to enable this, and to help the digital sectors in each city develop to improve economic growth. In each city there is a local commitment – either through a “local digital agenda”, establishment of a “Living Lab” or other digital strategies – to use technology to benefit citizens and businesses.

The SMARTiP project reflects this and shares good practice in the co-creation of services and in the possible reusability of products and services.  Through engagement with networks such as ENoLL and Eurocities Knowledge Society Forum and the Future Internet Assembly, these cities benefit from collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

Description of target users and groups

SMARTiP is explicit in its “target group” being citizens within the cities in the project. These can be individuals who work, live or visit the city – and can include students and businesses and entrepreneurs as well as others. Each city wants to work for the benefit of the whole population but these projects, through involving co-production in the design, development, testing and use of services are particularly engaged with “active citizens” of any type who volunteer to be part of this process.

The particular services on the SMARTiP project are general enough to appeal to everyone – although at various times they will clearly target particular user groups. In Bologna, although all citizens and visitors will benefit from better mobility information, the city has worked closely with police and traffic wardens and other professional groups in the city to develop the application so it can meet their needs. In Ghent, a “crowd sourcing” of ideas was particularly popular amongst students and young people, but the service being developed – a community “game” which incentivises communities for good behaviour or completing particular tasks is flexible enough to benefit all residents and visitors to those areas of the city where it is being piloted. In Manchester, several different groups have been targeted. Older residents have been targeted for Peoples Voice Media’s community reporter application enabling them to report on their neighbourhood; whilst it is householders who will benefit primarily from  the informed choices in energy efficient products that they can make after using the Tell-Us public participatory application. The city’s new wireless sensor network will provide information on environmental factors that will be of benefit to anyone visiting the city but will particularly appeal to artists, technologists, academics and “citizen scientists” interested in having a cleaner, more environmentally focussed city. In Cologne, their participatory budgeting programme changes each year, depending on city priorities and has been particularly popular amongst older people in the neighbourhoods they are working in.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

“Smart cities” require “smart citizens” if they are to be truly inclusive, innovative and sustainable. The promise of the information society, to create new ways of empowering people to play a fuller and more equal role in emerging governance systems through their access to dynamic Internet-enabled services, is also proving to be its biggest challenge, as not everyone is getting equal access to the skills and opportunities that are supposed to be there. Many previous initiatives, particularly those focusing on eGovernment and eInclusion, have tackled the ‘digital divide’ only to find that the persistent inequalities blighting many urban neighbourhoods mitigate against citizen empowerment and participation within the information society. SMARTiP aims to go a stage further and identify innovative but sustainable ways of building the capacity of citizens and public services to work together with innovators and digital developers to co-produce future internet enabled services on the basis of the widest possible digital inclusion.

In order to achieve this new approaches are required in which the focus is first and foremost on citizen empowerment as an essential catalyst in creating a new paradigm to transform the dynamics of data flows, management and service development. The potential of new bottom up approaches based on user-generated content, social media and Web 2.0 applications opens up possibilities for a new interpretation and understanding of spatial inequalities and neighbourhood effects, seen through the experiences of the citizens themselves, leading to new forms of empowerment for those citizens. This would enable citizens to build the social capital and capacity required to become co-creators and co-producers of new and innovative services with the means to ensure that they are delivered in more effective and inclusive ways, taking full advantage of new Internet-based technologies and applications.

“Co-production” as a concept emerged some four decades ago but it is now developing into a practical agenda for system change, which can be seen to be closely allied with the concept of ‘co-creation’ in the methodology of open innovation. “Co-production” has emerged both as a “critique of the way that professionals and users have been artificially divided” and as a new way for citizens “to share in the design and delivery of services, and contribute their own wisdom and experience, in ways that can broaden and strengthen services and make them more effective”. It is based on four key principles: Recognising people as assets; valuing work differently; promoting reciprocity; building social networks.

Technology solution

Internet-based technologies and services provide new opportunities for stimulating co-production while, at the same time, co-production provides new opportunities for securing citizens’ engagement and active involvement in the process of developing ‘smart services’ which, in turn, can help to accelerate the uptake of these technologies and services. This ‘virtuous circle’ is then capable of enhancing cities’ ability to grow and sustain ‘innovation ecosystems’ and, through this, to develop more inclusive, higher quality and efficient services which are then capable of being replicable and scalable for wider cross-border deployment on a much larger scale. The project will deploy currently available Internet-based technologies and services to develop a series of pilot projects, initially focusing on the following areas:

  • Smart engagement: stimulating citizen engagement with analysing and implementing data which is generated both from institutions, e.g. through commitments to ‘Open Data’  and by citizens themselves, which can then be visualised in ways which can support participatory planning, including around budgeting and financial issues, for smart communities and smart services;
  • Smart environments: engaging citizens in monitoring and action to support the co-production of environmental services, including air quality, open spaces, waste management and improved built environments;
  • Smart mobility: supporting citizen monitoring of personal travel routes using public and private transport, cycling and walking with the aggregation and analysis of data to support smart mobility planning for individuals, social groups and institutions.

The idea is that the pilot projects will demonstrate how the wider deployment of Future Internet-based technologies and services, based on linking together networked objects (the ‘Internet of Things’) and web-centric systems (Web 2.0 and beyond) can be enhanced through co-production and, in turn, provide new and more innovative approaches to bring together both the e-government and e-inclusion agendas with the Future Internet agenda to tackle these inter-connected policy agendas in a more holistic way. The added value for the users is that they have a real incentive to become more involved as co-producers, as well as users, of the content and services available in the emerging smart cities through having access to new skills, employment possibilities and quality of life. It is this which can then make these approaches more sustainable, by embedding the pro-active involvement of citizens in all aspects of designing and delivering services and thus providing both citizens and the public authorities responsible for providing these services with a new rationale to make the Public-Private-People Partnership (PPPP) approach viable and desirable.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The SMARTiP project is currently ongoing and evaluating the effectiveness of the solutions developed in each city. However, it is hoped that over 2000 people across 4 cities will have been involved in various aspects of “co-production” of services during the course of the project – with many more people using the services during and after the project.

This co-production has had a number of aspects. From surveys and opinion polls, to focus groups and user testing – involving citizens that we are already involved with as users of services, as well as others who may have a good idea. In Ghent for instance a “crowd sourcing” of ideas drew a wide response with very little publicity indicating citizens’ interest in developing better city services. In Manchester we have worked to improve the understanding of environmental information through a series of activities such as “data walks”, presentations and workshops using open data.

As the project continues we will begin to see the wider impact of our activity although certain things are already clear.

  • The project has helped each city commit to the sustainability of its digital activities through developing of local digital agendas, strategies and establishment of “living labs” to test new products and services. This has shown the project having an impact on the city administrations where dedicated teams have been built between the city, universities, not-for-profit and business to develop and deliver “smarter” services.
  • The cost-effective development of services using ideas generated with the community, and services used and tested by that community has enabled the projects to choose wisely which services to concentrate on saving time and money and ensuring there is a need for the new services.
  • In each city consultation with citizens has meant that over 2000 people across the project have a better understanding of how technology can help improve city services and have been engaged in this process.
  • The impact of the services themselves will differ between cities but we are expecting a better level of acceptance by the cities and increased usage of services developed.

Track record of sharing

The project coordinators are currently assessing the pilot projects for their reuse potential and this will be documented widely and has already been shared at a number of events. Deliverables and other assets will be made available via the SMARTiP website and from local partners ( and in addition these reusable resources will be shared via the ‘Connected Smart Cities’ network and Eurocities.

Lessons learnt

  1. Importance of having the right partners to develop technology pilots where you want to engage citizens. E.g. having a technology partner (whether large corporate or SME) is vital to the development of technology pilots in a limited timescale, but it as important to have the city engaged particularly around community engagement activities. Where one of these two elements has been missing or has been less emphasised, the pilots have been more difficult to manage and implement.
  2. Involving citizens in the design cannot be done in isolation as for many citizens this is a new way of working. In this case it has been better to have an idea of the scope of the project that is being proposed and help the citizens shape it, rather than having a totally open system. The city and its officers may already have a good idea of priority issues and in working with the citizens they can prioritise the features. It is much harder to develop something from scratch – particularly where it is a technologically lead idea without a clear stakeholder group.
  3. Reuse between cities is highly dependent on a lot of external factors such as local procurement regulations, cultural and language differences and the restrictions placed on developing APIs for existing internal systems. In each case it was not possible to develop a “common” platform, but rather to look at interoperability as the key precursor to reuse – and avoiding lock-in to exiting suppliers and systems. Where that “lock in” cannot be changed, the project sought to develop ways of exchanging data or connecting through middleware or an API.
Scope: Cross-border