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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

Managing the public space using daily insights: the mailman collects data

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The way we monitor the quality of the public space is changing. In the past, municipalities hired gardeners and assigned them to mow the lawn twenty times a year. Later, they instructed the gardeners about how the lawn should look: “I don’t care how many times you mow the lawn, but make sure it always looks like the instructions”. The municipality hired an inspector one or two times a year to check whether the gardener did a good job.

Nowadays, we see that the quality of good work is measured in the residents’ satisfaction, rather than following instructions: “no matter how many times you mow the lawn, no matter how the lawn looks like, I want the residents to give a positive evaluation for the lawn!”.

Although the definition of quality and quality measurement has changed last decades, the way of measuring quality hasn’t changed. A professional inspector is still hired to inspect the public space once or twice a year.

A lot of research has been done about influencers of citizen perception of quality in public space. For example, the level of waste on the street is an important influencer. Measuring this daily gives municipalities the possibility to improve the quality of the street every day. Different measures against waste can be tried and evaluated in a short period of time. And thus putting real effort in resident satisfaction.

To be more effective as municipality or entrepreneur in the public space, three ingredients for the monitoring system are required: Firstly, an actual overview of the current state of assets and pavements: are they clean and undamaged? Secondly, a system to measure the perceived quality of the public space, this may differ for various kinds of neighborhoods. Third, a protocol to translate this data into operational processes. Actual measurement data should be connected to operational processes far more than is done now.

Only when these three ingredients are present, different interventions on cleaning, repairing and increasing citizen satisfaction van be monitored and evaluated.

As concept developer for Amsterdam Smart City, I have conducted theoretical and applied research for a real-time based monitoring system for the public sphere. When we combine data citizens create (using social media and dedicated public space apps), data on weather conditions and events and data the mailman collects, we can build such a monitoring system.

The mailman, as eyes and ears on the street can collect data on a daily basis. For example, by taking pictures of certain locations in the city. Moreover, he can be trained to make judgements about the quality of the public space. Finally, he can check whether complaints of citizens have been solved properly.

On September 13th, the Royal Society for Waste and Cleaning management ( organizes a conference on the future of the management of the public spaces. During this day, I will give a plenary speech on the results of one and a half year’s research I conducted together with Harro Verhoeven, Simon Bos and Johan Ruijten. As an example of the projects we ran, take a look at this movie: <>

For more information on this conference, check (note: the website is in Dutch) <>

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

How to evaluate Smart City innovation: Wildcard for roundtable on October 10th

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A couple of days ago, Facebook reminded me of a two-years old movie of Johnny Georges presenting his innovative Tree T-Pee to a group of investors in the TV show Shark Tank. The product can help farmers saving cost on water and energy usage.

Johnny produces the Tree T-Pee for $3,59 and sells them for $4,50. Most of his customers buy 10.000 or more pieces of it at the same time. However, one of the potential investors thinks the price is too low. “If you don’t ask $12 at least, I cannot do marketing, I have no margin”. Johnny refuses to raise the price of the product because he sells to farmers and he is a farmer himself. Finally, another investor states: “farmers are the cornerstone of America. They cannot afford $12 each.” This investor decided to give Johnny the required $150.000 to increase the company. On July 11, 2016, stated: “As of 2016 you can get the Tree T Pee online at their website. That said they currently are only offering the black version (they have removed the white version from their listings) as their testing has shown that it is actually the best version for all types of trees. The Tree T-Pee is currently available for under $8 and appears to be doing quite well. The company currently boasts over 36,000 likes on Facebook.” It seems Tree T-Pee has been successful in the last two years.

The case of Tree T-Pee shows the difficult balancing-act we’re all in when speaking about Smart City innovation. The corporate voice of marketing as well as the entrepreneurial vision of doing good by doing business are at the table. “What is the business case (subtitle: can we make it $12 each)? How can we scale? Who is going to pay for what? What is the return on investment? When will we have the results? And “What is the bigger picture (who are the farmers), what is the need or the societal problem we want to solve by doing our business?”

Time to share
On October 10 from 16:00-21:30 CET, we as PostNL organize a roundtable meeting with different corporates, municipalities and startups. Central theme: how to organize and evaluate smart city initiatives? All participants answer the following questions:
(1) What is your vision on smart city
(2) How are you going to realize this vision
(3) How do you organize and evaluate your Smart City actions?
(4) How do you measure whether or not you’re on the right track?
(5) What are your resources (time, money, people)
(6) What are your best practices?

After the short presentations, we will jointly prepare dinner and discuss the several topics. The aim of the meeting is to share and learn from each other in order to help our organizations to improve the Smart City projects we’re running.

We have a wildcard this evening available. The meeting takes place on October 10 from 16:00-21:00 CET on Kaageiland, near Leiden. If you want to join us, please send an e-mail to with a short description of your organization, it’s smart city activities and your motivation.

Check the video of Johnny Georges

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

How can we use the letterbox as a Smart City node?

PostNL has an incredible network of letterboxes on the street. Last September, we investigated the Smart City opportunities for this network by placing sensors measuring temperature, noise and humidity on the letterboxes.


I would like to receive ideas for how we can use the letterbox as install-base for sensors measuring e.g. air quality, urban heath, noise, etc.

What kind of user stories can we serve with this network of thousands of letterboxes? And what if we combine the letterbox network with our vehicles and bicycles, covering every street every day?

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

Twenty-Seven Pink Potential Smart City Nodes in Amsterdam

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PostNL has an incredible network of letterboxes on the street. Last September, we investigated the Smart City opportunities for this network by placing sensors measuring temperature, noise and humidity on the letterboxes.

Central question: To what extend can the letterbox be used for smart city solutions as measuring heat stress, noise disturbance and measurements of local weather conditions?

To get an impression of the coverage the letterbox-network has, try the following experiment. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Amsterdam Gay pride and the Euro pride event, we have turned twenty-seven of our orange letterboxes into Pride pink letterboxes and gave them a social value by doing so.

As a suggestion for the weekend, I would like to invite you to share your ideas on using letterboxes as Smart City nodes:

Use the locations of the pink letterboxes as a tour guide through the city center of Amsterdam. While walking, notice the short distance between the boxes and please think about what those letterboxes could be measuring, for example on a crowded day as the canal parade day traditionally is. Please share your ideas on the Amsterdam smart city community website!

Locations Pink Letterboxes
1. – 4. Stationsplein
5. Beursplein 2
6. Rokin 134
7. – 8. Muntplein 2
9. Rembrandtplein 16
10. Leidseplein 29
11. Nieuwmarkt 4
12. – 13. Singel 250
14. Korte Prinsengracht 109
15. Prinsengracht 241
16. Westermarkt 74
17. Prinsengracht 339
18. Elandsgracht 1
19. Looiersgracht 2
20. – 21. Prinsengracht 438
22. Kerkstraat 321
23. Fredriksplein 2
24. Kerstraat 461
25. Nieuwe Keizersgracht 2
26. Prins Hendrikkade 193A
27. Kattenburgerstraat 6

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

Bpost uses cars to measure air quality - Bright future for postal organizations!

Worldwide, postal organizations are developing new services using the workforce that has an incredible presence in every street almost every day of the week. In January 2015, Accenture estimated the market value of “proximity services” as a 10 billion market within four years.

Last week I shared the project of the Spanish postal company: mailmen were hired as data collectors for the municipality of Santander. This week, the Belgian postal company announced that their cars will be used to measure air quality. Bpost has the largest fleet of vehicles in Belgium.

The network of a postal company is very interesting: it is a combination of a static network of letterboxes in the street, able for 24/7 measurement which is complemented with a dynamic network of vehicles and mailmen in every street of an entire country.

Postal companies, thus, have an incredible local presence with different networks (static and dynamic) and have the possibility to implement new strategies on a nation-wide level within a short period of time. Their workforce have a great reputation – proven by the fact that people open their door when the mailmen is at the doorstep.

Although the initiatives of Bpost and Correos are yet to be proven business cases, it is my firm belief that the future for postal organizations delivering proximity services focused on data collection is a bright one!

Source Accenture article:

Check news article of Bpost:;tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=nl&ie=UTF-8&

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

Santander City Council and Correos signed an agreement to promote initiatives "Smart City" and encourage innovation

Check this interesting article on using the mailmen as data collector in the city. Worldwide, postal companies are looking for opportunities in proximity services; mowing the lawn (Finland), checking the quality of the roads (US Post) or visiting elderly people (Belgium).

If you know other examples of Smart City Mailmen or if you have interesting thoughts on this topic, please share them here!;tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=nl&ie=UTF-8&\_corporativa-1363190531465-contenidos\_multimedia%2Fdetalle\_noticia&edit-text=&act=url

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Rogier Havelaar, General Manager City Logistics at PostNL, posted

Mailmen checking weed growth

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In June 2016, mailmen of PostNL started monitoring weed growth in Twente, an area in the Netherlands. Twente Milieu, the company responsible for keeping the City clean, asked the mailmen to take a picture of +/- 100 spots once a week. Twente Milieu uses the pictures the mailmen take for evaluating different sustainable methods for removing weed. The results of the pilot are expected in the fourth quarter of 2016.

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