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Smart cities need to trust technology and data quality

There is untapped value in a city’s data platform. The data, which grows exponentially, can help to streamline transport systems, reduce energy consumption and support co-creations in city services. However very few cities have yet managed to access these benefits. A study of urban data platforms by Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business and a group of master students at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), reveals a significant gap between the required and perceived trust in the quality of data in such platforms.



“In order for urban data platforms to progress, cities must bridge this gap and have a clear vision about how to take the platform beyond just making data sources available – by connecting data sources with app developers and enabling the creation and exchange of value on the platform,” says Dr Haydee Sheombar, research consultant and coach at RSM. She has been involved with urban data platforms since 2010, as IBM’s Smarter Cities Leader. In 2015 she started her own research-led consultancy for digital transformation, and joined RSM in 2017, researching the development of urban data platforms and coaching master students with their theses.

The state of play in Europe

The EU’s smart city project RUGGEDISED is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Data from 34 European cities’ urban data platforms have been gathered and analysed on the stage of development, the vision behind these platforms, the design of business and technology, implementation barriers and accelerators, and the platforms’ use and impact. Each urban data platform exploits modern digital technologies to integrate data flows within and across city systems. They make data resources accessible to participants in a city’s ecosystem.

RUGGEDISED success factors

Dr Haydee Sheombar: “The insights from the state-of-the-art survey on urban data platforms in Europe will be shared with the participating cities and will be the basis for a management paper to answer the question if these platforms are the key to successful scalable smart cities projects. Inspired by very successful models in industries e.g. mobility such as Uber, online retailing by Amazon and others, and hospitality such as Airbnb, the question is: can the success factors of these platforms be replicated in an European urban setting? The results of this study will be presented by Dr Marcel van Oosterhout during the RUGGEDISED general assembly in Gdansk, Poland and the Nordic Edge conference in Stavanger, Norway

Student findings; trust and citizen involvement gap, scaling up

The City of Rotterdam invited five students from the MSc Business Information Management programme to present their research findings to organisations involved in the RUGGEDISED project; the organisations included telecoms, transport and energy organisations such as KPN, RET, Heijmans and Eneco. The students’ research was given to the RUGGEDISED project team. It described the wide technological, social and urban implications of integrating ICT in urban areas to create resilient, sustainable cities. These presentations generated rich discussions regarding governance, citizen engagement with urban data platforms, government responsibilities in smart cities, and the scaling-up of RUGGEDISED projects.

Building trust and citizen engagement

“Both technical and social contracts are crucial,” says RSM MSc student Denis Ceric who researched citizen engagement in urban platforms in multiple cities including Rotterdam, Munich, and Barcelona. He argues that before cities can encourage citizen engagement, however, their urban data platforms must first define the role of citizens on such platforms. This relies on understanding the public perception of ideas such as data ownership and privacy. Fellow MSc student Daniel Bos, whose thesis looked into perceived impacts of the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on European urban data platforms, suggests that citizens value transparency of information and this could make such platforms more successful. Trust, as he presented in the discussions, is neither a tool nor an end-product – it is a relationship.

Governments to stimulate and protect innovation

An issue that hinders cities’ transition to smart city ecosystems includes the need for high-level collaboration amongst all stakeholders. MSc student Marilou Das focused her research on the role of local government in businesses’ drive to collaborate in smart city projects. Das’ findings propose that governments can contribute co-ordinating and regulatory services within the ecosystem. This includes: stimulating stakeholder interactions, setting basic rules for collaborations, and limiting constraining factors against innovation and businesses.

Scaling up RUGGEDISED and intercity co-operation

RUGGEDISED aims for its projects to be scaled up for greater sustainable impact. MSc student Nikki van der Nat explored the factors that determine the upscaling potential of RUGGEDISED initiatives in her thesis. Some factors included recurring ideas such as trust, commitment, and strategic niche management. The others include ‘boundary spanning activities, and shared knowledge and goals’. A lack of sufficient collaborative processes across silos in a city will not only hinder cities’ transition towards clean energy.

Information sharing was addressed in MSc student Roy Ouwerkerk’s presentation on vendor lock-in to smart city platforms. Even though it is understood that one city’s framework may not work in other cities, it is essential for cities to seek co-operation with others — in the spirit of smart cities. Thus, interoperability or the ability for computer systems to exchange and make use of information should not be a condition but instead an outcome for collaboration between urban platforms.

Researching RUGGEDISED at RSM

The RSM master students were coached by staff from RSM’s Erasmus Centre for Future Energy Business; Prof. Eric van Heck, Dr Jan van Dalen, Dr Marcel van Oosterhout and Dr Haydee Sheombar, who executed the research questionnaire for RUGGEDISED, an EU-funded smart city project. RUGGEDISED tests and implements smart solutions, from energy, transport to digital technology, in three large-scale ‘Lighthouse’ city test-beds to pave the way towards a smarter, more sustainable Europe. It brings together three lighthouse cities: Rotterdam, Glasgow and Umeå and three following cities: Brno, Gdansk and Parma.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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