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Crowd sourcing could support smart cities



Nesta policy lead says there should be a greater role for the public in harnessing the internet of things for local services

Public authorities should look to get local people involved in the adoption of the internet of things (IoT) to deliver new services, an official of a high profile innovation organisation has told local government conference delegates.

Tom Saunders, IoT policy lead at national innovation charity Nesta, told the Local Digital Futures event on the subject yesterday that there is a need to involve people in the solutions that could be provided by the technology. Using data from a plethora of connected devices is expected to be one of the major elements of developing smart cities.

He said this would be one of the main features of a report, Rethinking Smart Cities from the Ground Up, scheduled to be published by Nesta next week.

Saunders said the limited role for the public in many solutions was one of four problems in the adoption of the IoT, and pointed to three main elements of their potential involvement.

One is equivalent to crowd sourcing in using large numbers of people to consciously provide data. He highlighted the Oxford Flood Network, where local developers make sensors that they fix to bridges to provide data on rising waters, as one of the examples of what this could involve.

Another is to use the “collaborative economy” as a smart way to use resources, with projects such as peer to peer car rentals and the creation of ‘on demand’ transport networks through smartphone apps.

The third is the use of “collective intelligence”, in which the public are invited to suggest solutions to problems. This would complement the use of data from IoT devices.

Remaining problems

The other three problems Saunders identified were: an over-reliance on data that does not always recognised the practical problems; that too many IoT solutions are developed in isolation and do not link to other work; and that some solutions lack evidence that they can solve real world problems and do not justify an investment.

“Just having data and devices is no good if you don’t know how it’s changing behaviour,” he said. “You also need evidence if councils are going to invest in the real world.

“There’s also a need for people with the skills, not just the data.”

Image: Mplaja, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 through Wikimedia

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