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Sustainable energy is the future. The city of Amsterdam has the ambition to provide every citizen with a solar panel in the next years. How do you contribute? Share your innovative initiatives on energy here.
Six weeks ago, I started a new weekly series answering the question how digitization can contribute to the development of better cities and their surroundings. Technology alone cannot reach this goal. Far-reaching social and economic reforms are needed, also to ensure that the benefits of digitization are shared by everyone.
Below you will find links to the articles published until now:
Part A: Digital technology as a challenge
Part B: Digital instruments and ethics
12. Ethical principles and applications of digital technology
13. Amsterdam benchmarked
14. ‘Agenda stad’ and digital instruments
Part C: Applications
15. Artificial intelligence abused
16. Government: services and participation
18. Circular economy: Construction
19. Circular economy: Waste
21. Energy transition
23. Smart cities from scratch
Links to the Dutch versions, you will find below:
In the 11th episode of the series Better cities: The contribution of digital technology, I will apply the ethical principles from episode 9 to the design and use of artificial intelligence.
Before, I will briefly summarize the main features of artificial intelligence, such as big data, algorithms, deep-learning, and machine learning. For those who want to know more: Radical technologies by Adam Greenfield (2017) is a very readable introduction, also regarding technologies such as blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, Internet of Things, and robotics, which will be discussed in next episodes.
Artificial intelligence has valuable applications but also gross forms of abuse. Valuable, for example, is the use of artificial intelligence in the layout of houses and neighborhoods, taking into account ease of use, views and sunlight with AI technology from Spacemaker or measuring the noise in the center of Genk using Nokia's Scene Analytics technology. It is reprehensible how the police in the US discriminate against population groups with programs such as PredPol and how the Dutch government has dealt in the so called ‘toelagenaffaire’.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, a computer can independently recognize patterns. Recognizing patterns as such is nothing new. This has long been possible with computer programs written for that purpose. For example, to distinguish images of dogs and cats, a programmer created an "if....then" description of all relevant characteristics of dogs and cats that enabled a computer to distinguish between pictures of the two animal species. The number of errors depended on the level of detail of the program. When it comes to more types of animals and animals that have been photographed from different angles, making such a program is very complicated. In that case, a computer can be trained to distinguish relevant patterns itself. In this case we speak of artificial intelligence. People still play an important role in this. This role consists in the first place in writing an instruction - an algorithm - and then in the composition of a training set, a selection of a large number of examples, for example of animals that are labeled as dog or cat and if necessary lion tiger and more . The computer then searches 'itself' for associated characteristics. If there are still too many errors, new images will be added.
The way in which the animals are depicted can vary endlessly, whereby it is no longer about their characteristics, but about shadow effect, movement, position of the camera or the nature of the movement, in the case of moving images. The biggest challenge is to teach the computer to take these contextual characteristics into account as well. This is done through the imitation of the neural networks. Image recognition takes place just like in our brains thanks to distinguishing layers, varying from distinguishing simple lines, patterns, and colors to differences in sharpness. Because of this layering, we speak of 'deep learning'. This obviously involves large data sets and a lot of computing power, but it is also a labor-intensive process.
Learning how to apply algorithms under supervision produces reliable results and the instructor can still explain the result after many iterations. As the situation becomes more complicated and different processes are proceeding at the same time, guided instruction is not feasible any longer. For example, if animals attack each other, surviving or not, and the computer must predict which kind of animals have the best chance of survival under which conditions. Also think of the patterns that the computer of a car must be able to distinguish to be able to drive safely on of the almost unlimited variation, supervised learning no longer works.
In the case of unsupervised learning, the computer is fed with data from many millions of realistic situations, in the case of cars recordings of traffic situations and the way the drivers reacted to them. Here we can rightly speak of 'big data' and 'machine learning', although these terms are often used more broadly. For example, the car's computer 'learns' how and when it must stay within the lanes, can pass, how pedestrians, bicycles or other 'objects' can be avoided, what traffic signs mean and what the corresponding action is. Tesla’s still pass all this data on to a data center, which distills patterns from it that regularly update the 'autopilots' of the whole fleet. In the long run, every Tesla, anywhere in the world, should recognize every imaginable pattern, respond correctly and thus guarantee the highest possible level of safety. This is apparently not the case yet and Tesla's 'autopilot' may therefore not be used without the presence of a driver 'in control'. Nobody knows by what criteria a Tesla's algorithms work.
Unsupervised learning is also applied when it comes to the prediction of (tax) fraud, the chance that certain people will 'make a mistake' or in which places the risk of a crime is greatest at a certain moment. But also, in the assessment of applicants and the allocation of housing. For all these purposes, the value of artificial intelligence is overestimated. Here too, the 'decisions' that a computer make are a 'black box'. Partly for this reason, it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace and correct any errors afterwards. This is one of the problems with the infamous ‘toelagenaffaire’.
The cybernetic loop
Algorithmic decision-making is part of a new digital wave, characterized by a 'cybernetic loop' of measuring (collecting data), profiling (analyzing data) and intervening (applying data). These aspects are also reflected in every decision-making process, but the parties involved, politicians and representatives of the people make conscious choices step by step, while the entire process is now partly a black box.
The role of ethical principles
Meanwhile, concerns are growing about ignoring ethical principles using artificial intelligence. This applies to near all principles that are discussed in the 9th episode: violation of privacy, discrimination, lack of transparency and abuse of power resulting in great (partly unintentional) suffering, risks to the security of critical infrastructure, the erosion of human intelligence and undermining of trust in society. It is therefore necessary to formulate guidelines that align the application of artificial intelligence again with these ethical principles.
An interesting impetus to this end is given in the publication of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers: Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. The Rathenau Institute has also published several guidelines in various publications.
The main guidelines that can be distilled from these and other publications are:
1. Placing responsibility for the impact of the use of artificial intelligence on both those who make decisions about its application (political, organizational, or corporate leadership) and the developers. This responsibility concerns the systems used as well as the quality, accuracy, completeness, and representativeness of the data.
2. Prevent designers from (unknowingly) using their own standards when instructing learning processes. Teams with a diversity of backgrounds are a good way to prevent this.
3. To be able to trace back 'decisions' by computer systems to the algorithms used, to understand their operation and to be able to explain them.
4. To be able to scientifically substantiate the model that underlies the algorithm and the choice of data.
5. Manually verifying 'decisions' that have a negative impact on the data subject.
6. Excluding all forms of bias in the content of datasets, the application of algorithms and the handling of outcomes.
7. Accountability for the legal basis of the combination of datasets.
8. Determine whether the calculation aims to minimize false positives or false negatives.
9. Personal feedback to clients in case of lack of clarity in computerized ‘decisions’.
10. Applying the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, which means determining on a case-by-case basis whether the benefits of using artificial intelligence outweigh the risks.
11. Prohibiting applications of artificial intelligence that pose a high risk of violating ethical principles, such as facial recognition, persuasive techniques and deep-fake techniques.
12. Revocation of legal provisions if it appears that they cannot be enforced in a transparent manner due to their complexity or vagueness.
The third, fourth and fifth directives must be seen in conjunction. I explain why below.
The scientific by-pass of algorithmic decision making
When using machine learning, computers themselves adapt and extend the algorithms and combine data from different data sets. As a result, the final ‘decisions’ made by the computer cannot be explained. This is only acceptable after it has been proven that these decisions are 'flawless', for example because, in the case of 'self-driving' cars, if they turn out to be many times safer than ordinary cars, which - by the way - is not the case yet.
Unfortunately, this was not the case too in the ‘toelagenaffaire’. The fourth guideline could have provided a solution. Scientific design-oriented research can be used to reconstruct the steps of a decision-making process to determine who is entitled to receive an allowance. By applying this decision tree to a sufficiently large sample of cases, the (degree of) correctness of the computer's 'decisions' can be verified. If this is indeed the case, then the criteria used in the manual calculation may be used to explain the processes in the computer's 'black box'. If there are too many deviations, then the computer calculation must be rejected at all.
In the US, the use of algorithms in the public sector has come in a bad light, especially because of the facial recognition practices that will be discussed in the next episode. The city of New York has therefore appointed an algorithm manager, who investigates whether the algorithms used comply with ethical and legal rules. KPMG has a supervisory role in Amsterdam. In other municipalities, we see that role more and more often fulfilled by an ethics committee.
In the European public domain, steps have already been taken to combat excesses of algorithmic decision-making. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018, has significantly improved privacy protection. In April 2019, the European High Level Expert Group on AI published ethical guidelines for the application of artificial intelligence. In February 2020, the European Commission also established such guidelines, including in the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence and an AI regulation. The government also adopted the national digitization strategy, the Strategic Action Plan for AI and the policy letter on AI, human rights, and public values.
I realize that binding governments and their executive bodies to ethical principles is grist to the mill for those who flout those principles. Therefore, the search for the legitimate use of artificial intelligence to detect crime, violations or abuse of subsidies and many other applications continues to deserve broad support.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
On December 14 2021, we had a very special demo day. Of course, it was the last of the year. As the Amsterdam Smart City core team, we are very proud of all the collaborations our partners and community started and that's why we wanted to highlight a few of them. To give the demoday a typical Christmas vibe, the pitchers had a 'gift' for the participants: their lessons learned that everyone could benefit from. And the participants had a gift in return: answers to the questions of the pitchers. In short, a demo day with new projects, questioning and sharing insights!
Responsible Sensing Lab and Drones
Hidde Kamst of the City of Amsterdam tells the participants about the Responsible Sensing Lab, a collaboration between the municipality and AMS Institute. This Lab works on the implementation of (social) values in technology in the city. Cameras and sensors in public space can put values such as privacy and anonymity under pressure. The Responsible Sensing Lab researches and designs alternatives. This also applies to the subject of Responsible Drones. A group of civil servants, companies and knowledge institutions worked on a vision on the responsible use of drones. The subjects 'proportionality', 'communications' and 'rules of the game' were discussed.
Hidde’s lessons learned: behind the scenes there are many parties working on drones, but the involvement of residents and civil society is low. It is important to change this because drones can have a big impact on our society. In addition, it is a complex topic where more research is needed. Hidde's request for help 'How do you convey the urgency of a subject that is important, but not yet urgent?' was very recognizable for the participants. A selection of their ideas: repeat the urgency over and over again, visualize the urgency, use storytelling and name the risks.
Shuttercam and Measuring Public Space
Pitch 2 had a big link with Hidde's story. Tom van Arman does various sensing projects on the Marineterrein, also covered by the Responsible Sensing Lab. An example is the Shuttercam, a camera that citizens can put on or off. In this way they can have an influence on the technology in the city. We start Tom's pitch with a question to the participants. Do they find it important that we measure a lot and collect data to improve the city or would they rather see more privacy for residents? A question that provokes discussion.
Tom has been engaged in measuring and testing in the public space for years, with an important role for public values. That's why he learned a lot of lessons: make sure you take the time to get legislation in order, take vandalism into account, do everything you can to make your work understandable for citizens. And a very nice one to remember: a hot camera attracts many insects. They block the image or get into the devices. One of the best tips he got from the participants: let passers-by write down what they see. That way you can get great feedback.
Braking energy and Pilot OV E-hub
André Simonse from Firan (Alliander) introduced us to the 'braking energy' issue, or as it is now is called: the OV E-hub pilot. This started as a search with partners such as AMS Institute, Arcadis, the City of Amsterdam, the
VRA and Alliander. Now the process evolved into a collaboration between Strukton Rail, Hedgehog Applications and Firan. Big cities can no longer cope with the increasing demand for sustainable energy. This makes it more difficult to access mobility hubs, such as stations, to provide electricity. It is therefore important to use existing energy smartly.
The lessons learned in this pitch were about taking action. Although talking is important for ideation and understanding and trusting each other, the art is to work together on a targeted plan for implementation. André's request for help was on how to organize political support. Willem from the City of Amsterdam wants to be part of the initiative and can help to achieve official support.
Social side of hubs
Willem van Heijningen of the City of Amsterdam took the floor to tell us more about its hub mission. A hub can organize mobility in an effective way. Together with others, he is looking how Q-park Europarking in the center of Amsterdam can be transformed to a hub. Think of shared mobility, charging cars and logistics, while preserving the monumental character of the city. Hearing the word ‘hub’, many people will think of a place to connect different forms of mobility. But it is also about energy. At some point, vehicles, vessels or even drones will come by. Since we want to get rid of fossil fuels, a hub will also become the place where these forms of mobility are charged. The success or failure of hubs is all in the hands of people. It depends on their behavior whether hubs will be useful. Until now, they have got too little attention. T
his is where Willem could use some help: What is needed to bring the social aspect of hubs further? How does the hub prove its effectiveness towards humans? A selection of the answers from the group: investigating the needs of the residents, connect with existing social initiatives in the city, involve local entrepreneurs.
Else Veldman and Hans Roeland Poolman from AMS Institute took us on a tour to their Southeast Energy Lab. This is a collaboration to accelerate sustainability in the southeast of Amsterdam through practical research, meetings and concrete projects. One of the current projects is the LIFE project, an open platform to plan energy supply and demand in a smarter, inclusive way. An enormous ambition that is driven by partners such as Johan Cruijff ArenA, Alliander, Spectral, CoForce and the Utrecht University. AMS Institute is committed to ensuring this platform is not only a technical contribution to the energy transition, but also provides social value to the inhabitants of South-East.
Hans and Else asked the network to think about the latter. The result was a tidal wave of tips to involve residents: co-develop communication strategies such as storytelling and visualization, pay attention to the result, the dream, show what it means to participate in the process, and above all, invest time.
New narrative for the energy transition
The last pitch was about the New Narrative where Kennisland and What Design Can Do on behalf of RES Noord-Holland have been working on. Dave van Loon from Kennisland told us that a new story about the energy transition is being developed to move away from the negative image, people's concerns and to give a new impulse to the energy transition. This narrative is based on a design thinking process. Subsequently, the organizations developed building blocks to focus on:
- a shared sense of urgency
- a positive future perspective
- inspiration by concrete and recognizable examples and success stories
- a sense of pride
- a way to take of action
Dave's request for help was for a reflection on this process. And the reactions were praising. On the one hand, the feedback focused on how to make the story as concrete as possible for the target groups and on the other hand on reaching the masses, while incorporating those who are left behind.
The next demoday will take in place in February or March. Do you have a nice story to tell or would you like to join as audience? You are more than welcome! Drop a line below to let us know!
The eighth episode in the series Better cities - The contribution of digital technology provides a frame to seamlessly integrate the contribution of (digital) technology into urban policy. The Dutch versions of this and already published posts are here.
From the very first publication on smart cities (1992) to the present day, the solution of urban problems has been mentioned as a motive for the application of (digital) technology. However, this relationship is anything but obvious. Think of the discriminatory effect of the use of artificial intelligence by the police in the US – to which I will come back later – and of the misery it has caused in the allowance affair (toelagenaffaire) in the Netherlands.
The choice and application of (digital) technology is therefore part of a careful and democratic process, in which priorities are set and resources are weighed up. See also the article by Jan-Willem Wesselink and Hans Dekker: Smart city enhances quality of life and puts citizen first (p.15). Below, I propose a frame for such a process, on which I will built in the next five posts.
My proposal is an iterative process in which three clusters of activities can be distinguished:
• Developing a vision of the city
• The development and choice of objectives
• The instrumentation of the objectives
Vision of the city
The starting point for a democratic urban policy is a broadly supported vision of the city and its development. Citizens and other stakeholders must be able to identify with this vision and their voice must have been heard. The vision of the city is the result of a multitude of opposing or abrasive insights, wishes and interests. Balancing the power differences between parties involved is a precondition for making the city more just, inclusive, and democratic and the residents happier.
The concept of a donut economy is the best framework I know of for developing a vision of such a city. It has been elaborated by British economist Kate Raworth in a report entitled A Safe and Just Space for Humanity. The report takes the simultaneous application of social and environmental sustainability as principles for policy.
If you look at a doughnut, you see a small circle in the middle and a larger circle on the outside. The small circle represents 12 principles of social sustainability (basic needs). These principles are in line with the UN's development goals. The larger circle represents 9 principles of the earth’ long-term self-sustaining capacity. A table with both types of principles can be viewed here. Human activities in cities must not overshoot its ecological ceiling, thus harming the self-sustainable capacity of that entity. At the same time, these activities must not shortfall the social foundation of that city, harming its long-term well-being. Between both circles, a safe and just space for humanity - now and in the future - is created. These principles relate to both the city itself and its impact on the rest of the world. Based on these principles, the city can determine in which areas it falls short; think of housing, gender equality and it overshoots the ecological ceiling, for instance, in case of greenhouse gas emissions.
Amsterdam went through this process, together with Kate Raworth. During interactive sessions, a city donut has been created. Citizens from seven different neighborhoods, civil servants and politicians took part in this. The Amsterdam city donut is worth exploring closely.
The urban donut provides a broad vision of urban development, in particular because of the reference to both social and ecological principles and its global footprint. The first version is certainly no final version. It is obvious how Amsterdam has struggled with the description of the impact of the international dimension.
The formulation of desired objectives
Politicians and citizens will mention the most important bottlenecks within their city, even without the city donut. For Amsterdam these are themes like the waste problem, the climate transition, reduction of car use, affordable housing, and inclusion. The Amsterdam donut invites to look at these problems from multiple perspectives: A wide range of social implications, the ecological impact, and the international dimension. This lays the foundation for the formulation of objectives.
Five steps can be distinguished in the formulation of objectives:
• Determine where the most important bottlenecks are located for each of the selected themes, partly based on the city donut (problem analysis), for example insufficient greenery in the neighborhoods.
• Collect data on the existing situation about these bottlenecks. For example, the fact that working-class neighborhoods have four times fewer trees per hectare than middle-class neighborhoods.
• Make provisional choices about the desired improvement of these bottlenecks. For example, doubling the number of trees in five years.
• Formulate the way in which the gap between existing and desired situation can be bridged. For example, replacing parking spaces with trees or facade vegetation.
• Formulate (provisional) objectives.
This process also takes place together with stakeholders. More than 100 people were involved in the development of the circular economy plans in Amsterdam, mainly representatives of the municipalities, companies, and knowledge institutions.
Prioritizing objectives and their instrumentation
Given the provisional objectives, the search can begin for available and desirable resources, varying from information, legal measures, reorganization to (digital) techniques. The expected effectiveness, desired coherence, acceptability, and costs must be considered. With this knowledge, the goals can be formulated definitively and prioritized. It is also desirable to distinguish a short-term and long-term perspective to enable the development of innovative solutions.
The inventory, selection and ethical assessment of resources and the related fine-tuning of the objectives is best done in the first instance by teams representing different disciplines, including expertise in the field of digital technology, followed of course by democratic sanctioning.
My preference is to transfer the instrumentation process to an 'Urban Development and Innovation Department', modeled on the Majors Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) in Boston. Changing teams can be put together from this office, which is strongly branched out with the other departments. In this way, the coherence between the individual goals and action points and the input of scientific research can be safeguarded. According to Ben Green, the author of the book The smart enough city and who has worked in MONUM for years, it has been shown time and again that the effect of technological innovation is enhanced when it is combined with other forms of innovation, such as social innovation.
From vision to action points: Overview
Below I give an overview of the most important building blocks for arriving at a vision and developing action points based on this vision:
1. The process from vision to action points is both linear and iterative. Distinguishing between the phases of vision development, formulating objectives and instrumentation is useful, but these phases influence each other mutually and eventually form a networked process.
2. Urban problems are always complicated, full of internal contradictions and complex. There are therefore seldom single solutions.
3. The mayor (and therefore not a separate alderman) is primarily responsible for coherence within the policy agenda, including the use of (digital) technology. This preferably translates into the structure of the municipal organization, for example an 'Urban Development and Innovation Department'.
4. Formulating a vision, objectives and their instrumentation is part of a democratic process. Both elected representatives and stakeholders play an important role in this.
5. Because of their complexity and coherence, the content of the policy agenda usually transcends the direct interests of the stakeholders, but they must experience that their problems are being addressed too.
6. Ultimately, each city chooses a series of related actions to arrive at an effective, efficient, and supported solution to its problems. The choice of these actions, especially when it comes to (digital) techniques, can always be explained as a function of the addressing problems.
7. The use of technology fits seamlessly into the urban agenda, instead of (re)framing problems to match tempting technologies.
8. Implementation is at least as important as grand plans, but without a vision, concrete plans lose their legitimacy and support.
9. In the search for support for solutions and the implementation of plans, there is collaboration with stakeholders, and they can be given the authority and resources to tackle problems and experiment themselves (‘right to challenge’).
10. In many urban problems, addressing the harmful effects of previously used technologies (varying from greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution to diseases of affluence) is a necessary starting point.
Back to digital technology
(Digital) technology is here to stay and it is developing at a rapid pace. Sometimes you wish it would slow down. It is very regrettable that not democratically elected governments, but Big Tech is the driving force behind the development of technology and that its development is therefore primarily motivated by commercial interests. This calls for resistance against Big Tech's monopoly and for reticence towards their products. By contrast, companies working on technological developments that support a sustainable urban agenda deserve all the support.
In my e-book Cities of the Future. Humane as a choice. Smart where that helps, I performed the exercise described in this post based on current knowledge about urban policy and urban developments. This has led to the identification of 13 themes and 75 action points, where possible with references to potentially useful technology. You can download the e-book here.
We are building a new city in a national metaverse connected with a smart city and the Internet of People. Are you interested in such projects? We are looking for cooperation within the international community of builders of our Metaverse new and brand new Smart Cities.
NEOS Cities and Country
The New System consists of modern municipalities, cities and the Polish state managed from the bottom up by the nation, where decisions are made on the basis of reliable and credible information, and thanks to Blockchain technology, everything is transparent and open to the public.
NEOS Country Towns and Villages services include:
- Setting up companies in DAO blockchain
- A city with services for users
- IVoting or voting over the Internet
- Simulation of city development scenarios
- City management like a game
- Export of tried and tested solutions
The seventh edition of the series Better cities. The contribution of digital technology is about forecasts, trends and signals regarding the role of technology in the development of cities, as seen by Cornell University's Future of Urban Tech-project. The Dutch versions of this and other already published posts are here.
A source of new insights
Technology has changed the planet for better and for worse. Will this change continue, and which direction will dominate? To answer this question, scientists at the Jacobs Institute at Cornell University in New York developed a horizon scan, named The Future of Urban Tech. At first, they made a content analysis of hundreds of recent scientific publications, from which they distilled 217 signals. These signals were grouped into 49 trends, full of contradictions. Each trend is tagged with an indication of time frame, probability, and societal impact. In the end, they modeled six forecasts. These describe dominant directions for change.
Readers can use the site in their own way. I started from the 17 sectors such as built environment, logistics, mobility, and energy and explored the related trends. It is also possible to start top-down with one of the six forecasts and examine its plausibility considering the related trends and signals. I will show below that each of the forecasts is challenging and invites further reading.
Content selection is supported by dynamic graphics, which connect all signals, trends and forecasts and enable the reader to see their interrelationships. Just start scrolling, unleash your curiosity and decide after some explorations how to proceed more systematically.
The website briefly describes each of the forecasts, trends, and signals. Each signal reflects the content of a handful of (popular) scientific publications, which are briefly summarized. Read the articles that intrigue you or limit yourself to the summary.
Take the time to explore this site as you will encounter many new insights and opinions. The link to the project is at the end of this article.
Below I will explain some aspects of the content of the project, followed by some caveats.
The forecasts reflect the multiplicity of views in contemporary scientific literature, stimulating readers to form a judgment. The wording of the forecasts is reproduced in abbreviated form below.
1. All buildings, houses, means of transport, infrastructure, but also trees and parks will be connected with sensors and cameras and form one web.
Many buildings, buses, trains, and roads are already equipped with digital detection, but they are not linked yet up at city scale. The next decade will change this, which will, for example, mean a breakthrough in the management of energy flows, but also raise questions regarding privacy.
2. Cities will use advanced biotechnology to take livability to new heights.
Growing understanding of human dependence on nature will lead to mapping the physical-biological world as well as its threats and its blessings to humans. City authorities will equip trees, parks, and waterways with sensors to measure and control the vitality of ecosystems.
3. Resilient corridors will mitigate the impact of climate change, but citizens will be prepared for the inevitable shocks to come.
Cities will reduce CO2 emissions but also prepare for the inevitable consequences of climate change. Political and financial centers of power will be concentrated in places where the impact of climate change can be controlled by technical means.
4. Artificial neural networks provide advanced forms of machine learning with unparalleled predictive capabilities that will bring order to the chaos of urban life.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence will become inscrutable black boxes that make decisions without giving explanations. The ultimate questions are whether the machines to which we outsource our decisions can still be controlled themselves and whether the impact of spontaneous encounters and human ideas disappears if computers produce the best solutions after all?
5. New Screen Deal that redistributes the risks and benefits of urban technology.
“Everything remote” – learning, healthcare, work, and entertainment – is becoming the new normal. The predictive power of AI will lead to conflicts over the concentration of wealth and power that digital platforms cause. But on the other hand, new stakeholders will focus on equity.
6. A global supply chain for city-building technologies will 'crack the code of the city'.
In the smart cities-movement there is a tension between top-down and bottom-up, between proprietary versus open and between Big Tech and Makers. A new urban innovation industry will take dominance but will be more attuned to societal concerns. Governments, in turn, will have a clearer picture of the problems that the industry needs to solve. A public-private structure for investments and governance is indispensable to counter the power of Big Tech.
A few notes
As mentioned, each of the six forecasts is based on trends. Nine trends, in the case of the latest forecast mentioned above. Each trend is illustrated by a handful of signals, documented by various publications. One of the nine trends supporting the latter forecast is “Regional clustering from enterprises to ecosystems”, for example New York, London, Berlin, and Amsterdam. This refers to the growing power of local technology hubs, supported by regional capital and involving governments, start-ups, knowledge institutions and citizens. This concentration could even lead to a new “space race” between cities instead of countries. However, the underlying signals show that this "trend" is more open-ended and uncertain than its description warrants.
I went through many publications documenting the signals and concluded that "trends" essentially map the bandwidth within developments within a domain will occur. To me, this does not detract from the value of the exercise, because the more doubts there are about the future and the more insights we have into the forces that shape it, the more opportunities we have to influence the future.
As the six forecasts must match the open nature of the trends, I have reformulated each of these forecasts as pairs of conflicting directions for development.
1. The commercial or political interests behind urban technology versus the well-being and privacy of citizens.
2. The struggle between 'Big Tech' versus (supra)national political over leadership over technological development.
3. The infusion of technology into all domains of society versus acceptance of unpredictable outcomes of human interactions resulting from creativity, inner motives, and intuitive decisions.
4. Controlling nature through biotechnology versus restoring a balance between humans and natural ecosystems.
5. The concentration of power, political influence, and wealth through control over technology versus open licensing that allows technology to be used for the benefit of the entire world population.
6. Autonomous decision-making through machine learning and artificial intelligence versus the primacy of democratic and decentralized decision-making over the application of technology.
Studying the Future of Urban Tech-project has been a rich and thought-provoking learning experience and has helped fueling the insights underlying this series.
You can find the Future of Urban Tech project behind the link below:
Today we will launch our brand new five-part movie series of RESILIO!
This serie will dive into the different approaches & researches within the project and the partners with their specific expertises. In the first one Kasper Spaan from water company Waternet and Friso Klapwijk MetroPolder Company explain you how smart micro watermanagement can be of paramount importance to a complete city. It’s not just a drop in the ocean... check it out here:
What advice would you give to mayors of cities worldwide? In the first season of the Mayor's Manual Podcast, Sacha Stolp (Director of Future-Proof Assets, City of Amsterdam) and Kenneth Heijns (Managing Director of AMS Institute) have embarked on a journey to discuss solutions for urban challanges together with over 50 frontrunners from different countries working for governmental institutions, knowledge institutions and businesses. Each frontrunner was asked what advice they would give to Mayors and cities worldwide. The Mayor’s Manual Book Edition is a compilation of these advices accompanied by 6 Essays written by guest writers. The book is meant not only to inspire, but also to provide actionable recommendations for cities globally.
We invite you to read the first Mayor’s Manual Book and share
your insights with us!
Download the book for free on our website or by clicking here.
Currently, we are working on a Dutch edition so keep an eye on our site
Een groene en gezonde wereld begint in je eigen stad. Nergens in Nederland bouwen ondernemers en bewoners van zo dichtbij mee als in Almere. Verhalen van deze bewogen Almeerders hoor je in de podcast ‘Groen en Gezond Almere’.
Het is alweer tijd voor het derde seizoen, waarin Floriade Expo 2022 centraal staat, want die staat voor de deur! Het gebied rondom het Weerwater staat in de steigers, de groene loper wordt door de stad uitgerold. Maar wat houdt de Floriade nou precies in? En nog belangrijker: Wat blijft er allemaal over ná het evenement? De podcast wordt gepresenteerd door Kookboekenschrijfster, TV-kok en vooral betrokken Almeerder Nadia Zerouali. Nadia bespreekt de fysieke impact van de Floriade Expo op onze stad en spreekt met gebiedsontwikkelaars, energieleveranciers, bruggenbouwers en landschapsarchitecten.
Groen en Gezond Almere is het programma van de gemeente Almere waar jij mee kan bouwen aan de groene stad van de toekomst. Een groene en gezonde stad bouw je namelijk niet alleen, maar samen. Het platform laat lokale Almeerse initiatieven en projecten zien die de stad verduurzamen en klaarmaken voor de toekomst. Een inspirerend palet aan stadsmakers!
On 4 October 2021, Startup in Residence published 12 new challenges on the themes of sustainability & circularity. The City of Amsterdam is looking for the best entrepreneurs (start-ups, scale-ups, innovative SMEs, and social entrepreneurs) with creative and innovative solutions for the city’s issues. The application deadline is almost here! Finish your application before 24 November 23:59 (CET).
Solutions are sought for the following challenges
What's in it for me?
Join the 7th edition of Startup in Residence Sustainability & Circularity and get:
- an intensive six-month training programme;
- support from an experienced mentor;
- access to the entire network of the City of Amsterdam;
- opportunity to test and validate your product or service with and within the City of Amsterdam;
- the City of Amsterdam as your potential launching customer.
Don’t wait, apply now! www.startupinresidence.amsterdam
On the 28th of October 2021 Amsterdam Smart City and Datalab hosted an international event on the costs and benefits of accommodating data centres. Together with partners we discussed the complexity of the weighing of these aspects and the management by future policies.
The digitization of our society produces an exponentially increasing amount of data, which causes an increased need for data centres and connectivity. In 2030, there is expected to see a twenty-fold increase in data traffic, consuming 5% of worldwide electricity at that point. A recent report in the Netherlands has shown quite some hesitance on whether or not the foreseen rise in data centres in The Netherlands is the right way to go.
Lots of reasons to shed some international perspectives on these issues. What are current datacentre strategies? How are datacenters driving economic value? And how can the digital economy become more sustainable? Check out the presentations and discussions in the video!
• Wout Rensink (Policy advisor Economic Affairs at Province of Noord-Holland)
• Thomas Moran (Technology and Sustainability Strategist at Lumen & techUK)
• Daan Terpstra (Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs · Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA))
- Jeroen Sipman, liaison at Amsterdam Smart City
Metabolic is looking for a Marketing Manager!
They will help in increasing the reach and impact of Metabolic's work by putting the right content in front of the right people in collaboration with the digital communications manager.
If you are keen to contribute to a sustainable economy, check out this opportunity. Or if you know someone who fits the bill, kindly share with them.
On the 28th of October, Amsterdam Smart City, together with the Province of North Holland and Datalab, will discuss the costs and benefits of accommodating data centres, the complexity of the weighing of these aspects, and how future policies could manage these. We will put the complexity in an international perspective.
Why would you need data centers in your region? What are reasons to refuse them on territories? What are the dilemmas and how do cities in Europe deal with this? We can now confirm the speakers for the event!
Wout Rensink – Province of North Holland
The Province of North Holland is developing a policy on data centres, with which they try to take a first step in minimizing the impact of data centres. The Province ensures that data centres generate their own sustainable energy, the residual heat (in the environment) is used, circular design is applied in the development of buildings which blend into the landscape and that the data centres are leaders in terms of energy and innovation. The man for the job? Wout Rensink! He is the Province’s policy advisor who will try and achieve these goals with other governmental institutions and the industry itself.
Thomas Moran – techUK
Beside his job as the Senior Lead Technology Strategist for Lumen, Thomas is the vice chair of the Climate Strategy and Resilience Council for techUK, which is the largest European trade group representing the technology industry. They support the UK national, regional and local governments in formulating policy around all things technology related, including data centres and infrastructure. He will provide us with the point of view and insights from another part of the FLAP-region: London.
Daan Terpstra – SDI Alliance
After years of working on sustainable energy projects at Vattenfall, Daan Terpstra has joined SDI Alliance last year to try and move the digital infrastructure sector to sustainability by 2030. As the new Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Daan can provide a view on future international digital infrastructure policies in Europe. SDI Alliance has derived a number of fundamental positions, beliefs and principles with which they hope to ensure the development of a vibrant European digital economy, without consuming unsustainable levels of resources.
The session will be moderated by Jeroen Sipman from Amsterdam Smart City.
Rewatch! Find the video of the event here:
We helpen NSI met verduurzaming én beter comfort. Na een succesvolle pilot met ons Smart Building Platform (we bespaarden 19,2% aan warmte en het comfort verbeterde!) rollen we de software nu verder uit naar 26 gebouwen. Daar zal de slimme sturing ruim 20% op warmte en 3% op elektriciteit besparen. Lees op onze website hoe we dat doen.
The City of Amsterdam launched a platform for entrepreneurs who want to collaborate on innovation with the public sector.
If you want to work with government and other large organisations, you need to apply for tenders and grants. These application procedures are often complex. Using clear information and useful checklists, Innovatie Partners makes tenders and grants accessible for small entrepreneurs, such as startups, scale-ups and MKB.
On the platform
- Projects from organisations such as Gemeente Amsterdam, the Metropole Region Amsterdam (MRA) and Startup in Residence. Take a look at past and current projects (in Dutch).
- Road maps of how to apply for your tender or grant of choice.
- Explainers on what tenders and grants are and how they work, such as a glossary of unavoidable jargon (in Dutch).
- Detailed instructions and screencasts of how to fill out complicated forms (in Dutch).
To live within planetary boundaries, cities need to measure not only what is produced, but also what is consumed.
Consumption-based emissions can be more difficult to measure than emissions from production – it is challenging for a city or region to track imported products and their associated emissions.
However, consumption can be much bigger than production, and the two together provide a much more complete picture of a city or region's 'footprint'. Check out Metabolic's article from 2020 to learn more.
Door de bedrijven op bedrijventerreinen samen te laten werken aan integrale verduurzaming kan er op grote schaal duurzame energie opgewekt worden en CO2-uitstoot voorkomen worden. Samen met Greenchoice werken we aan een slim nieuw product: Smart Energy Systems.
CO2-uitstoot, onbenutte daken en netcongestie
Bedrijventerreinen zijn grootverbruikers van elektriciteit en bieden met hun grote dakoppervlakten ongekende mogelijkheden voor duurzame energieopwek. Toch wordt er op dit moment nog lang niet maximaal ingezet op de verduurzaming van deze gebieden. En als het al gebeurt, wordt kennis en kunde niet gedeeld, en worden oplossingen niet integraal op het hele terrein uitgevoerd. In plaats van samenwerken wordt er ingezet op de verduurzaming van één pand zonder te kijken naar de mogelijkheden om samen te verduurzamen, waar dan ook het teveel aan opgewekte energie teruggeleverd wordt aan het energienet. Dat verergert de al bestaande problemen met netcongestie.
Smart Energy Systems
In Smart Energy Systems hebben deelnemende bedrijven de keuze uit een ‘menukaart’ aan maatregelen. Daarop staan opties variërend van het plaatsen van zonnepanelen tot inzicht in verbruik tot het timen van je verbruik met je eigen opwek. Door die integrale aanpak en omdat meerdere bedrijven op het terrein tegelijkertijd verduurzamen kan er meer en sneller worden verduurzaamd.
Plug and play
Vanaf eind oktober begint de pilot bij drie bedrijventerreinen. De verwachtingen zijn hoog. Niet alleen voor de deelnemende bedrijventerreinen, maar ook voor toekomstige deelnemers. Door de ontwikkelingen op de markt goed in de gaten te houden en een vinger aan de pols te houden bij de pilotpartijen werken we aan de uitbreiding van de menukaart met nog meer duurzame en rendabele maatregelen, een gepersonaliseerde roadmap per terrein en een kopieerbare standaard voor nog meer impact.
If we can find a way to reuse building materials for new construction effectively, the energy, labor, and transportation costs of producing new materials can be saved, and so can the associated emissions.
Check out this article by Metabolic, where they dive into a promising potential solution: materials passports.
De Omgevingsdienst Noordzeekanaalgebied heeft in opdracht van de provincie Noord-Holland onderzoek gedaan naar de hoeveelheid beschikbare restwarmte in de Noord-Hollandse industrie. Het onderzoek geeft een eerste indicatie van hoeveel warmte er in Noord-Holland nu nog via industriële schoorstenen de lucht in gaat en hoeveel warmte er via het koelwater op het oppervlaktewater wordt geloosd. Met deze gegevens kunnen gemeenten en warmtebedrijven hun plannen voor nuttig hergebruik van restwarmte verder vormgeven.
Bijna alle relevante bedrijven in beeld
65 bedrijven in onder meer de energiesector, de chemische- en voedselindustrie, en afvalverwerkende bedrijven zijn meegenomen in het onderzoek. Deze bedrijven zijn verantwoordelijk voor meer dan 95 procent van de potentiële restwarmte. Hiermee zijn dus nagenoeg alle relevante industriële bedrijven in Noord-Holland in beeld. Of de warmte daadwerkelijk gebruikt kan worden voor verwarming van woningen is afhankelijk van onder meer de temperatuur en de afstand tot een warmtenet.
Per 2022 komt er met de Wet Collectieve Warmtevoorziening een stimulans voor het gebruik van restwarmte in de gebouwde omgeving: producenten van restwarmte moeten deze dan gratis beschikbaar stellen aan energiebedrijven.