About a year ago, I helped design and run a workshop for the City of Melbourne, as part of Arup’s agreement to run a series of workshops for the C40 ‘climate leadership group’ of cities (the C40 is in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, and is a consortium of what could be described as the world’s leading cities.) The workshop was free for each city, and they get to choose the topic.
To my delight, Melbourne chose information visualisation, real-time data and social media, and their role in enabling behaviour change around energy use, water use and so on. We ended up calling all this ‘Melbourne Smart City’. (Despite some issues with the ‘smart’ word, it can at least began to illustrate how pervasive the approach could be to the client, when applied broadly across the way they see the city. And it has some meaning in their networks already e.g.)
I won’t go into the detail of the two-day workshop itself. Suffice to say, it took a lot of effort, it was good—well-attended and with great contributions from participants—and has helped change aspects of the way the city is being run, subsequently stimulating associated strategies and policies (including the forthcoming transport strategies, as well as their ICT-led work), to prototypes and pilot programmes (including projects around street trees and urban noise), to even altering the vocabulary used across the organisation (altered ‘corporate’ vocabulary is always a useful bell-weather, often indicating the genuine absorption of new ideas into an organisation.)
Likely to be of more interest is the final report that I produced for the City, and which emerged from the Melbourne Smart City workshop. I wrote this, with contributions from my colleagues Léan Doody, Volker Buscher and Mark Watts at Arup London, and Andrew Wisdom at Arup Melbourne. This in turn led to me re-writing it more broadly, to become Arup’s Smart Cities strategy in general. (Michelle Tabet at Arup Sydney also helped with this aspect.) Matt Willcox and Alex Fearnside at the City of Melbourne were also instrumental in shaping the report and preceding workshop. Additionally, I’ll go into the visualisation sketches that my team produced (Jason McDermott, Pei-Hong Jessie Hsu and I, at Arup Sydney.) Here's the report, as PDF (I was in the middle of a H+FJ Vitesse phase, as you’ll see).
It's perhaps timely to publish this here at the moment, even though it's almost 18 months old in a fast moving sector, as New York City's Roadmap for the Digital City was published recently, with typical (and appropriate) chutzpah. While New York's is a good piece of work, and indicates the value of a city getting behind digital 'from the inside', it focuses mainly on the basic services of web, mobile, public wi-fi and so on. No criticism, as those are exactly the right things to focus on (and New York probably has a head start here with their Chief Digital Officer in place, valued, and probably doing all the hard work managing upwards and sideways within the organisation. In fact, in the year since our workshop, several US cities have moved through over this early terrain quite rapidly, not least with Boston's bravely-named and interesting Office of New Urban Mechanics.)
But the Melbourne work we did assumed that web, mobile and wi-fi are the easier things to get right—or at least that they ought to be—and focused more on the ways in which digital might manifest itself physically, in terms of informatics, urban spaces and architecture, as well as touching on the organisation of the city itself. This work should lead ultimately to a complete reconfiguration of what urban governance is, and although we couldn't go there with this, that was something we wanted to move the conversation gently towards.