I think this is a simple point, but important to remember amidst all the Smart City hype.
In September I travelled to Amsterdam for the PICNIC 2011 Festival. The event is like a big fair and this year it was held at the old shipbuilding area called NDSM Wharf, a ten-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam’s Central Railway Station. A variety of different structures including temporary buildings, old containers, tents, an old ferry boat, were used for the sessions and presentations.
PICNIC was a great opportunity to meet people thinking about the intersection between design, city planning, internet, history, art … lots of energy and very creative ideas. Among my favorite presentations were those by Adam Greenfield, Ben Hammersley, and Charles Landry (links are to videos of the presentations).
On Friday I attended a session sponsored by the European Creative Business Network. We split up into teams and developed ideas for venture capital funding. Our team of four developed the concept for an on-line game that would be played via mobile devices … and we won the first prize: 5,000 Euro to develop the idea in more detail! We’re working on it.
The photo below is of us taking the ferry back to Central Station after dinner one night, note that it’s a roll-on/roll-off ferry for bicycles and mopeds … extremely convenient and easy to use.
I’m already looking forward to PICNIC 2012! All my PICNIC 2011 Festival photos (many of which are of the Amsterdam Harbour) on flickr.
The Infrastructuralist just had an interesting article about IBM’s Smart Cities program and some work they are doing in Viet Nam. I added a comment suggesting that a good solution for many urban problems is the use of Web 2.0 techniques to involve the public in planning and operating urban services. Read the article and my comment here (The Infrastructuralist is no longer available).
Here’s a great article by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo No More Bullet Points, No More Clip Art – PowerPoint isn’t evil if you learn how to use it.
Farhad summarizes how to make presentations better and mentions several of my favorite authors and bloggers including Edward Tufte and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen). An article well worth reading and bookmarking.
I recently participated in the ITS Challenge, a contest to identify intelligent transport system (ITS) ideas for helping reduce congestion. My proposal, Bus Meister, was not selected as one of the nine finalists. I blogged previously on my assessment of the nine ITS Challenge finalists.
Yesterday the results were announced in Stockholm (hence the photo above) and the solutions I liked best did not win. The best I did was a 3rd place for iCone, a very nice application for helping provide ITS in construction areas and for special events (it got 7% of the votes).
My favourite application in the contest was skymeter, a proven system for efficient roadway user charging. It only received 5% of the vote. As we move to electric vehicles and more fuel efficient vehicles road user charging systems will be needed to replace the gas tax, and more relevant to the contest’s goal of reducing congestion: using road pricing creatively can make a huge impact on congestion.
The winning application was iCarpool.com with 54% of the votes. iCarpool is doing very nice work, but their system did not seem to be anything special. I thought the other carpool application in the contest, Avego (5% of votes), was a bit more innovative and better (check out the Avego YouTube video description).
The second place application, with 18% of the votes, was fuelclinic.com, an application that helps users use less fuel and drive more responsibly. Again, not bad, but not really earth shaking.
The VenCorps Blog summarises the results and refers to a full press release with more details.
I guess I have to wonder about the process. First it was a little unclear how the top nine applications were chosen. As I mentioned in my earlier posting, most of them did not seem particularly innovative. Second, it seems odd that the winner would get so large a percentage of the votes, especially a relatively plain vanilla (for people working in the transport planning field) application (IMHO). As I said, nice application, but …
Perhaps the contest sponsors were over represented in the voting? While anyone could vote, you needed to sign-up on the VenCorps website, a somewhat involved process. In many ways I think that the main sponsors (IBM, ITS America) are relatively conservative organisations and the results probably reflect this bias. Who knows?