Civic Technology 2019 Reading

Civic Technology 2019 Reading

Three interesting articles about Crowdsourcing that appeared in late 2019:

My publications about using crowdsourcing in transport are available on my website

2020 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

2020 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

Two of my papers were accepted for the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting:

Reducing Delays on High-density Railway Lines: Crossrail Case Study

Giorgio Medeossi and Andrew Nash – Monday January 13 – 10:15 AM- 12:00 PM – Convention Center, 144A

The paper describes development of a new timetable designed to reduce delays on the existing Shenfield-London high density regional rail line. The project combined detailed railway operational data with Oyster Card data to identify the root cause of delays and develop timetable improvements. The alternative timetable was tested and refined using stochastic simulation. The new timetable was placed in service during 2016 and led to a significant reduction in delays: punctuality within 5-minutes of scheduled arrival time increased by 6.2% during the most critical hour of the morning peak period.

A Framework for Capturing the Business Benefits of Railway Digitalization

Andrew Nash, Felix Laube and Samuel Roos – Tuesday January 14 – 1:30 PM – 3:15 PM – Convention Center, Hall A

This paper outlines a framework for changing railway systems and processes to help railways capture the full business benefits of digitalization. Economic research shows that businesses need to make fundamental changes to their systems and processes if they are to take full advantage of new technology. The slow implementation of digitally based signaling systems such as ETCS and PTC highlights the need for fundamental change in the railway industry to more aggressively implement new technology – and obtain the full benefits of this technology. The proposed framework integrates an improved and up-to-date understanding of customer needs with a much more efficient and customer-oriented production process. It is designed to make use of today’s powerful data collection, communications and analysis technologies rather than applying new technology to old processes. The proposed framework has been developed based on earlier research results and practical experience. The paper is intended to spur discussion.

ETCS: The foundation for efficient and attractive railways

ETCS: The foundation for efficient and attractive railways


Banedanmark is installing ETCS on the Danish railway network. In addition to providing safety, data from the ETCS will be used in a new traffic control system (TMS) to improve the quality of railway service. Here’s a link to the article Dr. Felix Laube and I wrote about the advanced railway TMS being developed for Banedanmark. The article was just published in the Japanese railway journal: Rolling Stock & Technology (Number 231). They did a nice job including graphics from the presentation Dr. Laube made in Japan with the text.

ETCS: The foundation for efficient and attractive railways (Japanese)

ETCS: The foundation for efficient and attractive railways (English)

See also my presentation on Banedanmark’s TMS at TRB in January 2016 for more information and graphics.

Banedanmark TMS Presentation at TRB

Banedanmark TMS Presentation at TRB

Banedanmark, Denmark’s national railway infrastructure owner, is completely replacing the country’s railway signalling system with a European Rail Traffic Control System (ETCS). The digital data from the ETCS, combined with improved technologies for managing staff and resources, provides the foundation for developing an advanced TMS that can significantly improve railway efficiency and attractiveness.

Banedanmark’s TMS takes a fresh approach to railway operations by creating Production Plans consisting of precisely defined tasks to be carried-out in operating the railway. Production plans are developed based on a very clear definition of customer needs called Service Intentions. Banedanmark’s approach integrates planning and operations by using the same algorithms and data. It improves the precision of planning and provides updated Production Plans quickly enough to significantly reduce the impact of delays and disturbances.

I’m giving a presentation on Banedanmark’s new TMS project at the US Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Tuesday January 12, 2016. Here’s a link to my presentation: Banedanmark TMS: ETCS as the foundation for attractive and efficient railway service.

Social Cities of Tomorrow 2012 – Project Showcase

Canal Jordaan Amsterdam

Canal Jordaan Amsterdam

The Mobile City and Virtueel Platform organised a workshop and conference titled Social Cities of Tomorrow. The program took place during the week of February 13-17. It was a great event in every way from organisation to the keynote speakers to presentations of different social media projects from throughout the world. Not only that, but it was fun and there were lots of great people doing great work to meet.

This post describes the projects described at the conference. I describe the Social Cities of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Workshops on other posts.

Showcase Projects

Cafe 't Smalle Amsterdam

Cafe ‘t Smalle Amsterdam

One of the very nice things about the Social Cities of Tomorrow conference was that there were three blocks of about 20-minutes each for a series of presentations on ideas for using new technology to create communities to solve complex issues (the conference theme). These blocks gave us time to see a wide variety of innovative ideas. It was hard to keep the schedule, but the organisers and presenters did a very nice job with this too.

The projects were chosen from a large number of submissions (I wish I had known about this earlier because I would have submitted my project!). This post presents my summary of the projects presented.

Flying into Amsterdam, buildings.

Flying into Amsterdam, buildings.

Sorry for not mentioning all the names of developers, many of these projects were developed by several groups, my goal is to simply give a quick overview (and my opinions!), all developer information is available on the Social Cities of Tomorrow Workshops page).

  • Apps for Amsterdam, a program similar to those organised in many cities that encourage independent application developers to create applications to help improve the city. Like Vienna (German) one of the most popular applications was designed to help people find the nearest public toilet. The program faces many of the same issues as other cities, such as how to keep these applications updated. More at appsforamsterdam.
  • Instant Master Planning, Vollsmose Denmark – A very large social housing area built during the 1950s needs to involve their community in planning for the future. The area’s population is very  young and diverse (over 80 countries represented), and it seemed to be less affluent than the neighboring city. The project consisted of using GPS tracking of activities to identify activity patterns (voluntary) and using SMS to send ideas for improving the area planning. Both ideas were designed to increase participation by people not normally involved in the planning process. It’s a work in progress but lots of interesting results and it seems to have succeeded in increasing social participation.
  • Network Lab, a combination of several partners including TU Delft (which must have an exceptional program in social media given the number of excellent projects and staff attending the conference), ARCHIS and Smart in Public. The project they described was to help increase participation in developing ideas for the NDSM area of Amsterdam (where the 2011 PICNIC conference was held!). They have developed a system for tagging all types of objects (physical, human, environmental, etc.) to help organise information in the planning process. Another work in progress, but seems to have real potential.
  • URBANIso, a really interesting idea developed by Joshua Noble and Mac Oosthuizen that is designed to help explain what data urban sensors are collecting and where the sensors are. These are little signs that are placed on the sensors or nearby (with indication of where the sensor is in relation to the sign) that tell people what data is being collected and a barcode that takes you to a website with the sensor data feed and/or more information. This is a great idea for increasing the amount of sensor data available to developers and making the city more legible for everyone.
  • Amsterdam Wastelands, there is a surprisingly large amount of vacant land in and around Amsterdam (partly delayed redevelopment due to the economic crisis) and Amsterdam Wastelands wants to encourage temporary use of this land in a very crowded city. They sponsored one of the workshop efforts (Team 1 project). One idea is to use social media applications to identify and implement temporary uses for currently vacant space. They have developed a common database of this information and geocoded it on a google map. Others can add information and ideas. Here’s the website, it’s in Dutch but you can get the idea.
Cafe de Pels in Amsterdam

Cafe de Pels in Amsterdam

  • Give me back my broken night, the title is from text in the Leonard Cohen song Future, this “thing” was an interactive theater performance (in London), where the audience assembled in a theater, were given a small video projector to hang around their neck and a blank piece of paper, they left the theater and then each received a phone call on their handy (cell phone) from one of the “actors” who told them where to walk giving them information as they went, and then images of the future were projected on the blank piece of paper they held in front of them. At one point audience members described their ideas for the future and an artist in the theater drew this on a tablet and this image was also displayed via the projector to the audience member. Everyone returned back to the theater and compared ideas and drawings. Really, really cool use of technology and art. My description does not do justice to it, check the video: Give me back my broken night 2010 video.
  • HomelessSMS, another project with multiple developers including Ohyoon Kwon (TU Delft) and Will Brayne. Quite a neat idea: use SMS to try to help homeless people. It surprised me to learn that 70% of homeless people in London have cell phones (at least that’s what this team found in a quick survey). The team worked with social services agencies in London and a small group of homeless people to test several ideas for using SMS to help homeless get help and information. They used twitter to broadcast information four times a day to everyone in the program and then responded to SMS posts from the homeless persons. I talked with Ohyoon after the conference and as we talked I just began to see more and more potential for the idea: perhaps a way to connect homeless people with those who would like to help, but have trouble connecting physically due to being turned-off by hygiene etc., use the system to send vouchers for services (e.g. like money transfer via SMS in Kenya), etc. There are several similar projects underway in one of them a homeless person was able to re-connect with a child they had lost contact with. I think that this idea really has potential and plan on sending it to colleagues in San Francisco where it might be really useful. (By the way Ohyoon told me he will need a visa to stay in the EU after graduating from TU Delft, he’s exactly the type of innovative guy we should be encouraging to stay!) More on the HomelessSMS website.
Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

  • Urban Revitalization with Social Capital, Karli Scott, a student at Cornell University, presented results of several projects she worked on in upstate New York, a region hard hit by economic problems over the last 50-years (especially interesting for me since I grew up in another Rustbelt city Buffalo NY). Karli talked about the techniques she used to identify problem and opportunities in Utica and Rochester NY. The quite awful economic conditions in these Rustbelt cities were starkly illustrated when Karli described a natural waterfall (!!!) on a relatively large river in an underutilized area near the center of Rochester which was being considered for redevelopment: how many cities and developers in other places would jump on such an opportunity?
  • Koppelklek, Kars Alfrink from Hubbub presented this urban game. The project consisted of asking people in this economically depressed neighborhood of Utrecht to participate in a game where they needed to take photos (with their mobile phones) with another person. Points were give for the number of different people they had photos with, and extra points were given for photos in different situations (e.g. photo with a number in it). The game ran for three weeks and was designed to get people in the neighborhood to socialize with each other. Photos were shown on line and displayed in vacant shop windows. The project had an office in a vacant space in the neighborhood and held a series of real events too. It sounds like a neat way to generate some activity in a neighborhood. Kars presented some lessons learned including: (1) finish the game design before you start marketing it, and (2) they marketed the game generally, it might be better to have targeted a special group and then used them to market it more generally. More details on Koppelklek.
Playing with water in Amsterdam

Playing with water in Amsterdam

  • Screens in the wild, Ava Fatah from The Bartlett School (UCL) described this project which consists of working with a London neighbourhood about programming for a series of large display screens which are being installed for the Olympics and will be a legacy of the games. It’s a work in progress and she described the problems of working with people like shopkeepers who think the screens should just be for advertising, others who think they should be just like large iPads, and she described the various ways people passing by interact with the screens (most pay no attention!). More details on the Screens in the wild project.
  • Urbanflow and City Tickets, Mayo Nissen from Urbanscale presented these two projects via a video that made him look like big brother from 1984 … but it really looked cool. Urbanflow is a project for using large screens in cities to provide information, again the idea is that the applications and display information is designed specifically for the large screens in the urban environment, rather than a generic large iPad experience. It’s been implemented in Helsinki and Urbanscale continues to work on the idea. City Tickets is a project designed to use the infrastructure provided by on street parking ticket printers to print other types of information, e.g. information about the area, or suggestion forms for people to identify problems in the area (which they fill out in writing and mail to the city). Urbanscale is a really innovative design studio doing great work, it was really nice to learn more about these two useful projects.

More Social CIties of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Workshops.

Social Cities of Tomorrow 2012 – Workshops

Flying into Amsterdam

Flying into Amsterdam

The Mobile City and Virtueel Platform organized a workshop and conference titled Social Cities of Tomorrow. The program took place during the week of February 13-17. It was a great event in every way from organisation to the keynote speakers to presentations of different social media projects from throughout the world. Not only that, but it was fun and there were lots of great people doing great work to meet.

This post describes the workshop results. I describe the Social Cities of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Project Showcase on other posts.


The workshops consisted of four groups of people from throughout Europe trying to apply social media techniques to real world planning problems. The format of placing 5-7 people from different backgrounds, who don’t know one another beforehand, together to solve real problems can lead to some interesting ideas and this was also true here. The teams presented their projects at a special presentation on February 16 (and also an abbreviated version at the conference).

Amsterdam Runstraat canal bridge

Bikes on the Amsterdam Runstraat canal bridge

Three of the four projects were essentially redevelopment projects that needed help in one way or another. The workshops are described in detail at Social Cities of Tomorrow Workshops.

Team 1: TEMPLot

Team 1: TEMPLot took up the challenge of what to do with land that was scheduled for redevelopment but the redevelopment was delayed due to the economic crisis. The city of Amsterdam owns the land and the “client” wanted to find a way to do something with the empty land temporarily (5 – 10 years) while they wait for the economy to bounce back. Team 1 developed ideas for a series of applications that the client could use to auction off land parcels and create a community out of the temporary settlement (bulletin board, messaging, land auction, etc.).

Team 1 also developed several interesting on the ground planning ideas such as the idea that 25% of the rented land must be devoted to some sort of “community” purpose. For example four parcel renters could pool their community land shares and create a common swimming pool area. This idea was designed to foster a sense of community, a key goal of the entire social cities of tomorrow project.

Team 2: The Hague Industrial Area

Team 2 had the challenge of involving the public in redevelopment planning of an old industrial area in The Hague. Many redevelopment plans have been prepared for this area, but the economic crisis has prevented them from being built. But also, most of these plans simply bulldoze the area although it current houses lots of small businesses. Of course the people living and working in the area don’t trust the planners anymore and there is little dialogue. Team 2 developed a series of ideas for building trust and improving communications. Importantly they came up with ideas for real as well as virtual platforms for discussion (quite important here since many of the people are not into high tech social networking, some don’t even have internet service).

One quite cool idea developed by Team 2 was the “Lunch Bus”. This would be a bus that served lunch and allowed people to discuss plans for the area in a real and non-formal way. For example the latest plans could be drawn on table cloths, people could mark them up etc. The information would later be placed on line for everyone to see. Local government planners would also attend these lunches to answer questions and provide assistance. Since I am a big lunch fan, this idea really appealed to me!

More details for teams 1 & 2 from the Social Cities of Tomorrow workshop reports part 1.

Team 3: Endhoven Phillips Plant

Team 3 had the challenge of a redevelopment area in Endhoven which was a former Phillips Electronics plant. The area is being redeveloped into a mixed-use area for creative types, but they want to increase the amount of social activity in the area to make it more attractive and interesting.

Team 3’s idea was to make the area a “play space” (my word) using games to encourage social engagement. They developed ideas for an application that would allow people to:

  • propose ideas for projects in the area
  • negotiate with others about the projects
  • get support from others about the projects<
  • assist in implementing the projects

The basic idea was to apply gamification techniques to the process of holding events and projects in the space. The idea needs development, but the client is interested in working with the team to explore the option further – a real success I would say!

Team 4: Amsterdam Civic Innovation Network

Team 4 had the least concrete challenge: how to help the Amsterdam Civic Innovative Network increase participation by residents in suggestion innovative ideas for improving the city. The team explored many ideas and identified many problems with the current structure. For example the difficult in sustaining programs that provide feedback to project participants and updating of applications developed through things like hack-a-thons.

Team 4’s products were less developed than the other teams, but they succeeded in raising the important issues and I think that their work will be helpful to the city of Amsterdam as they work to improve their social media and involvement process. By the way, it seems to me that Amsterdam has an excellent program already, and just the fact that this type of conference and work is being done in Amsterdam says a great deal about the city’s openness to new ideas.

More details for teams 3 & 4 from the Social Cities of Tomorrow workshop reports part 2.

Social Cities of Tomorrow Conference 2012

See also Social Cities of Tomorrow Keynotes and Social Cities of Tomorrow Project Showcase.

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