Is there a case for democratization of smart applications?
Cities across the world are vying to be smarter. Ageing infrastructure and spiraling population are jostling with each other in a progressively destructive way. Upping the ante for provisioning of newer and better services is often a futile cry for enabling the change.
Public procurement and management of cities are not exactly geared to foster innovation. The process of transformation into smarter cities needs to first look into how innovation is managed in those cities. Open innovation although widely “talked” about in the private sector, is not even heard about in public governance. The potential for open innovation of smarter applications is huge. It is leapfrogging the chasm between this potential to their performance on the ground, which needs attention. Living Labs is demonstrating how to grow the long tail of smart applications.
Living Labs in EU – showing the way
Living Labs was founded in November 2006 under the auspices of the Finnish European Presidency. To this date, 5 Waves have been launched, resulting in 274 accepted Living Labs. The ENoLL international non-profit association, as the legal representative entity of the network, is headquartered in Brussels, at the heart of Europe.
“A Living Lab is a real-life test and experimentation environment where users and producers co-create innovations. Living Labs have been characterized by the European Commission as Public-Private-People Partnerships (PPPP) for user-driven open innovation. A Living Lab employs four main activities:
1. Co-Creation: co-design by users and producers
2. Exploration: discovering emerging usages, behaviors and market opportunities
3. Experimentation: implementing live scenarios within communities of users
4. Evaluation: assessment of concepts, products and services according to socio-ergonomic, socio-cognitive and socio-economic criteria.”
What is most encouraging to note about this initiative is
1. Growth of the Living labs
2. It’s laser focus on solving “relevant” issues on the back of a thematic approach for addressing the bigger problems of health, safety, transportation, rural development and governance. See their fact sheets on pilot projects here.
3. A well-defined framework for engagement (defining know-how and do-how for participation)
“Living Labs are helping bridge the gaps between technology ideation and development on the one hand, and market entry and fulfillment on the other. They are providing a demand-driven ‘concurrent innovation’ approach by iteratively engaging all the key actors across the phases, and putting the user in the driver’s seat.
Small groups of Living Labs in different regions join forces by sharing knowledge, services and even developments based on win-win strategies to pave the way for co-selling developments and services on the European or global market rather than just on their local regional market. An approach which is of particular interest for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs, who do not have the expertise and resources to expand their activities to other regions or across Europe.”
To ensure interoperability of smart applications across locations, it has created an open source based SmartcitySDK for aspiring developers. The CitySDK provides a socio-technological platform which enables developers to build of existing smart applications and best practices without having to invest in new technologies or hardware.
The Life2.0 project aims at addressing a very critical area of Europe’s senior citizens – enhancing their ability to interact with their social surroundings through helping them locate people that are relevant to them (friends, relatives and care-givers)
The take away for India
With a vibrant mix of large companies, startups and students and in some cases city authorities (that are receptive to new ideas), the concept of living labs holds great promise. To keep this promise however we need concerted action and even greater sense of purpose.
Simply put, we need an ecosystem in place of an egosystem.