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Sensors, networks, and analysis tools are providing city planners with an increasing amount of data about the city environment. However, they can only provide a two-dimensional view of city services. Ensuring citizen engagement as part of the project-planning process, as in the case of the Dutch city of Eindhoven, allows cities to develop feedback loops that can provide an extra dimension. This can help cities to better prioritize investment and understand sooner when projects should be abandoned when they are not delivering the anticipated economic and social benefits, saving cities considerable resources.

Eindhoven sheds light on citizen engagement

The city of Eindhoven is introducing a planning platform that will allow residents and interested parties to be part of a smart city project. The project, known as "Roadmap Urban Lighting Eindhoven 2030," has been developed from a roadmap designed in 2012 by the Intelligent Lighting Institute of Eindhoven University of Technology, a partner in the project. The project includes the development of lighting applications in public spaces, such as LED street lighting, and the maintenance and management of public lighting. Eindhoven has identified five pilot areas across the city where it will start engaging with local residents. The process is mediated by the University of Eindhoven, which feeds and validates the results with consortium members including government agencies, Philips Lighting, and Heijmans, a Dutch construction firm.

Streetlights have been referred to as the "eyes and ears of smart cities," doubling as they do as collectors of data that can communicate with a central control system that makes automated decisions about when they are on, for how long, and the brightness.

Adapting existing assets such as streetlights to function as eyes and ears makes sense for cash-strapped municipalities. But street lighting technology alone will not solve the challenges facing cities such as Eindhoven. This will require data from a broader range of smart systems and sensors combined with greater engagement with residents and other users of the city's services. Making citizens active participants has many non-financial benefits; cities that can tap into citizen engagement are likely to benefit from the feedback loops that will help them to prioritize projects, identify sooner when projects are not working, and understand how communities interact with city infrastructure and therefore how they want smart services to develop.


Further reading

Digital Economy 2025: Citizen-Centric Cities, IT0007-000914 (October 2016)

"Solving infrastructure challenges in the megacities of the future," IT0007-000912 (October 2016)


Chris Pennell, Practice Leader, Public Sector

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