Smart Citizen: advancing towards collective intelligence

Smart Citizen: advancing towards collective intelligence

Image | Jesús Solana

How is a smart city measured? New technologies have spawned an advanced urban model in which city and citizens can communicate to develop the sustainable and efficient management of all services.
Within each urban center there is a large amount of information which, although within everyone’s reach, is difficult to reliably quantify. Acquiring data in real time, such as the temperature or levels of air pollution and humidity, could contribute to radically improving the citizen’s environment, enriching his quality of life. The Smart Citizen 2012 project, was conceived based on this premise. It is a platform based on geolocation built around the Smart Citizen Kit (SCK), an electronic device with a panel of environmental sensors that allows citizens to take all kinds of measurements, post them online, and share them.
Tomás Diez (@tomasdiez), a native of Venezuela and a professional city planner, is the co-founder of this project carried out at FabLab Barcelona, a digital innovation and technological workshop backed by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), belonging to the Fab Foundation network of technological laboratories, devised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The truth is that I was always curious about capturing the information that we don’t see in the city. As an urban planner I needed more than just square meters or a car count. I wanted something more dynamic.”

Thus arose the idea of creating the Smart Citizen Kit, a tool to facilitate data capture and which draws upon the citizen as a vital component. The project was funded via crowdfunding, and was well received by the public. In the first phase, with Goteo, Smart Citizen raised €14,000, a figure far surpassed by Kickstarter, where in just 30 days Smart Citizen was able to raise $60,000. Through this action small investors began to acquire and install Smart Citizen Kits.

Smart Citizen: advancing towards collective intelligence

Image | Smart Citizen

By placing the kits on balconies or windows citizens are able to capture this environmental information that is not seen. After connecting the kit to one’s home Wi-Fi the data is streamed on the project’s website and, at the same time, on a mobile application that makes possible its global distribution. Tomás Diez and Alex Posada thus built together with a multidisciplinar team of IAAC, Fab Lab, Hangar and MID a virtual network that empowers the citizen, a project cornerstone.

“The challenge was not making a panel of sensors or a website featuring data, but rather creating an ecosystem that could integrate the project’s more technological side with its more social one.”

This social ecosystem will be most evident during the new phase of development: kit, web and mobile app are being redesigned to bolster the community’s interactivity and make Smart Citizen a knowledge-based social network, which with the use of open source technology will incorporate citizens into a model of participatory urbanism based on science. Right now there are 700 kits distributed all over the world, present in more than 30 countries.
“More than just a product, people bought the idea and the philosophy.”

The new version of the mobile app will facilitate citizens’ access to the information collected by the Smart Kits, promoting their participation in the dissemination of the data and their interaction with the community. It is also going to mark an important milestone at the technical level, complementing the Smart Citizen Kit and the mobile and yielding a tool with excellent features: a smartphone with advanced sensors, and a mobile kit with a built-in camera.

“The technology should help us to focus on our strengths as humans and make the very most of them so as to live in a manner in greater harmony with our surroundings and other people.”

Smart Citizen, in short, has created a tool that advances towards an intelligent city model, seeking to connect citizens with their urban environment in an optimal manner. Barcelona, as a mobile capital, has been the city chosen by Tomás Diez’s team to implement the initial phase of the project, the starting point for the creation of a global Smart community. This is also why this summer Barcelona will host the 10th Fab Labs world congress, Fab 10, co-organized by Institut de Arquitectura Avançada de Catalunya (IAAC), FabLab Barcelona, Barcelona City Council, MIT and the Fab Lab Foundation.

Smart Citizen is an initiative by Tomás Diez and Alex Posada featuring collaboration with Guillem Camprodon, Miguel de Heras, Leonardo Arrata and Alexandre Dubor.