Smart Cities: From Giotto to Jobs

Cities historically succeed or fail based on their ability to adapt to the needs of their citizens. From the Italian city states of the 1500s to technology-driven smart cities of 2016, building better communities always required a human-centric design methodology. We need a keen intuition of what solutions will enhance the users experience in a car, home or city. Rich data, while important, will not provide the value and warmth to build an inhabitable city.

Gary Schwartz, award-winning author, will share insight and lessons from the past that can inform our future investments.

Thank you for joining us Gary! We all loved your presentation in Curacao on how smart design drives smart living. If anyone missed it you can re-watch the keynote on Youtube in the attachment below.
Now let’s begin a particularly interesting segment of your lecture: Topsight vs. Insight. Can you explain to us how a topdown approach to urban planning fails or succeeds?
My key point is that folk tend to fixate on technology (smart cities, connected devices, Internet of Things, etc.) as central to their solution. This approach is a top down approach that doesn’t take the “messy” human consumers into account.
I call them messy because these humans are hard to please, reluctant to adopt your solution and tend to break any new paradigm that you (as a city or government) wish to impose.
Real solutions are created by opening up data and tools required for organic innovation. “TOPSIGHT” comes from a 30 thousand foot conceptual level and “INSIGHT” is when we tackle and succeed in putting the human-in-the-middle of our design.
Can you give us some examples of unsuccessful smart city implementations as a result of restricting data?
The Rio smart city project is a good illustration (however it has good company globally). Ultimately, Rio did not open its data (as a design principle) or collect longterm data. There were very short-term goals. Most of the data was erased after 90 days,
A smart city is a open city. Data is its life blood. Solutioning should evolve organically and any initiative must be based on the longterm DNA of the street. The question is how to work with IBM, Cisco and other solution providers to allow for a local inclusion and empowerment.
To get back to the title of this discuss, what is the relevance of this material to some of your historical references?
I like using historic reference as we have been though these challenges and devised solutions in the past. During the medieval period we never looked at our subjects. It was only with Giotto and his painting of the first kiss below, that we started to look at our subject matter.
In the renaissance we became “humanists” - we dissected cadavers and tried to create cities, laws and economies based on our citizens’ needs. In art and civic structure, the human became the measure of our design.
You can see the same on a micro bases when we compare Microsofts first Tablet PC and Apple’s first iPhone. It was not technology innovation that made the iPhone successful and drove adoption of capacitive touch. It was Job’s insight into the user.
The Tablet PC’s experience did not delight the user. Steve’s insight into touch and design turned the phone into an extension of their hand. Data navigation become an adventure. “Everyone is born with five styluses”
So if the name of the game is design for the human (or user) not the infrastructure around them, will it ever be possible to build a successful smart city from scratch?
Songdo in Korea is a prime example of “build and they will come”. They did not. Songdo is a monument to Cisco technology. This is not a new phenomena. We have always tried to imagine Utopian solutions. But like Gate’s PC Tablet, they LOOK “super cool” but are clunky to use.
Remember, there are many cities that LOOK SMART (this is good for a mayor that wants to see results in his/her term in office) however the longterm goal is to BE SMART. Looking smart attracts investment to the city. Being smart attracts people.
We love this idea of looking smart vs. being smart!
But what about retrofitting dumb cities with smart technology. Are there successful examples of elevating disenfranchised or disabled citizens that already live there? And if so why were they successful?
There are incredible solutions globally that do work. They are cost effective and attainable. The trick is to ask the right questions and solve the right human problems.
The example that I think you are referring to is regarding solutions for visually impaired. Minnesota build a solution that retrofitted the stop lights. Stockholm instrumented the visually impaired person.
Stockholm solution drives move value. Their human-centric design made that “person” feel 90% less disabled all the time.
The challenge is that Stockholm’s solution is not adopted globally. It is not commercialized by the global solution providers. There is little financial incentive. Consequently we often end up with costly cookie cutter solutions based on TOPSIGHT not INSIGHT. @CitymartTeam
That is fascinating! So to summarize a bit of what we’ve discussed: in the pursuit of the smart city design for the human, not for the infrastructure surrounding.
Building big may seem smart to investors/politicians looking for short term swings, but building on the micro level is often more effective in the long-term and cheaper to implement.
Thank you so much to all who followed along and a special thank you to our guest Gary Schwartz for his insight!
Thank you @SmartCuracao