Tag Archives: Smarter Cities

Efharisto and Antio Thessaloniki!

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During our short three weeks the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team met with more than 40 organizations and 70 individuals spanning government, business, and academia. The generosity of knowledge sharing gave us a diverse introduction to the city. We walk away from the project sad to leave such a wonderful city! But also with a view that Thessaloniki, and Greece broadly, is a place of rich heritage, vast beauty and incredible potential.

Amidst dramatic challenges both economic and social, Thessaloniki has shown itself to be a city of immense resilience. This was one of the factors that played into the city receiving the competitive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant ahead of more than 100 other applicants.

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IBM’s Rahul Chenny, Xenia Zoppas, and Lia Davis during stakeholder meetings at Thessaloniki’s City Hall.

Under the leadership of Mayor Boutaris, we saw noteworthy progress toward modernization and openness that has improved the city for citizens and businesses. His administration has elevated the culture of the city, and it has become a model for other municipalities seeking best practices to address economic challenges by facilitating trade and harnessing tourism and culture.

One of the most promising observations was the deep wealth of human capital including entrepreneurs, students, NGOs, tech developers, and creatives. This collective means the city has a high concentration of data producers and potential users.

We believe that Thessaloniki’s move toward an Open Data approach is quite achievable, with a solid beginning underway. With the right level of commitment, open data could fuel local innovation, enhance city insights, decision-making and transparency, and improve services for residents and visitors.

Our key findings based on stakeholder sessions will not be surprising as there was a consistent echo across all communities on the barriers to openness and data sharing. Five areas came into focus: policies, varied views on open data, organizational silos and cultural practices, technical governance, and resources.

As we looked across these issues our belief is that they can be resolved with the right level of public and private sector commitment. An Open Data dashboard that benefits all stakeholders would be one important outcome, but there will be many other city, citizen and private sector benefits as well.

We’ve outlined our top-level recommendations to Mayor Boutaris, Lina Liakou, Deputy Mayor and Chief Resilience Officer, and other city leaders. We focused on these five key areas: public policies that require data sharing, clarity of mission for greater unity across stakeholders, steps to strengthen and further collaboration, technical governance to promote trust, and creative ways to address budgetary and resource constraints.

The favorable response means we are well on our way to assembling the detailed report that will be shared early next year.

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The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team with Thessaloniki’s Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, Deputy Mayor & Chief Resilience Officer, Lina Liakou and other city leaders.

Again, our sincere thanks to all who met with our team. A resounding take away was the sense that Thessaloniki is teaming with professionals, public servants, entrepreneurs, and academics who are making a positive impact on the city.

It was an honor to serve Mayor Boutaris and Deputy Mayor Liakou on this important project. We would also like to thank the leadership of Aristotle University for inviting our team to speak with students. As well as the Deputy Mayor for Tourism & International Relations Spiros Pengas and the more than 40 attendees who participated in the Open Data Design Thinking workshop which we hope will serve as a model for other organizations as the city’s open data efforts progress.

We look forward to sharing our findings and continuing the dialogues in the months and years ahead as the city advances its Open Data initiative.

More on IBM’s Smarter Cities Team Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Smarter Cities Team // Week One

The Universal Language of Post-it Notes
Team Salonika Heads Back to School
Thessaloniki: Many Stories, One Heart

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Thessaloniki: Many Stories, One Heart

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Team Thessaloniki completed week three, the final stretch, of our assignment to help the city further its Open Data initiative.  One of the key outcomes for the city will be a prototype dashboard, a hub for a variety of stakeholders to share and use data, and the roadmap for ensuring its effectiveness.

We think an important success factor will be populating the dashboard with a large cross section of data within a particular domain. One that is critical to the city and its economic competitiveness.

Tourism is one of great resonance to the city and could be a good place to start.

In collaboration with the Deputy Mayor Spiros Pengas we hosted a Design Thinking workshop that brought together over 40 stakeholders in the city’s tourism ecosystem.

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IBM’s Tim Coates kicks off the workshop

It became clear quickly to the IBM team that tourism would uncover vast opportunities for data sharing. The City of Thessaloniki is awash in rich culture. Often referred to as the “co-capital” of Greece, the city is renowned for its vast architectural and religious heritage where in, and around the municipality, there are numerous and notable historical treasures. The Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, the tomb of Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish architectural structures.

In addition to history, there is a vibrant arts community that has helped the city receive the European Capital of Culture designation, as well as named a best mid-sized European city of the future for human capital and lifestyle. Throughout the year numerous annual events are hosted including the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, and the Thessaloniki Song Festival.

Mayor Boutaris, who has been named ‘the best mayor of the world’ by the City Mayors Foundation, has led a transformation of Thessaloniki to strengthen its reputation as a tourist destination. His belief in public and private partnerships is widely credited with increasing visitors to the city (in turn generating revenues without the need for expensive investments). For example, collaborations with neighboring Turkey and Israel, have increased tourists to the city due to its strong historical and cultural ties with both countries.

Our workshop was organized to uncover and seek out solutions to some of the challenges in the tourism sector. We used Design Thinking in order to uncover the key data sets that would be of most value to open and share – and also because the methodology is ideally suited to fostering strong collaboration.

Like so many public services, a diverse mix of travel agents, hotel owners, entrepreneurs, convention organizations and others all share an interest in promoting the city. But data is held by different organizations or not at all. The lack of a central tourism organization to collect and share needed data makes bringing these constituents together complicated.

By asking participants to explore the travel experience through four ‘personas,’ characters facing experiences we heard in our interviews, we were able to identify and prioritize a range of data sets for the municipality. These ranged from segmentation information of visitors by age, nationality and interest; mobile phone usage; an event calendar; conversations on social media and a breakdown of leisure vs business tourists.

The excitement and energy in the room was validation that Thessaloniki will gain significant benefit from an open data dashboard, it also stands to gain from more closely connected and collaborative stakeholder communities across all policy areas.

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Thessaloniki’s Tourism Ecosystem, including Thessaloniki Convention Bureau, Thessaloniki Tourism Organization, Thessaloniki’s Hotel Association, the Chamber of Commerce, city employees, entrepreneurs, and independent travel agents who took part in a Design Workshop with IBM’s Rahul Chenny, Xenia Zoppas, Georgios Pakos and Tim Coates.

Now we work to weave in key outcomes from the workshop into the final recommendations for the city. We do this having also experienced Thessaloniki as active tourists ourselves. If we could figure out a way to remain here for several more weeks we would. The opportunity to immerse ourselves in all that this great city has to offer has been an experience of a lifetime!

More on IBM’s Smarter Cities Team Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Smarter Cities Team // Week One
The Universal Language of Post-it Notes
Team Salonika Heads Back to School

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Team Salonika Heads Back to School

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-11-35-amWe’re off to a strong finish as we begin the final week of our Smarter Cities Challenge project in Greece. We’ve met with 40-plus municipality officials, members of the technology community, and private organizations who have all been extremely gracious with their time and willingness to share knowledge.

A highlight has been meeting with the local academic communities. We were honored to be invited to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki to give a guest lecture to students. The university is the sixth oldest and among the most highly ranked academic institutions in Greece. Named after the philosopher Aristotle, who was born about 30 minutes east of Thessaloniki, it is the largest university in the country and the Balkans with more than 80,000 students.

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The team was hosted by the school’s Urban & Regional Information Research Lab and attendees included graduate and post graduate students studying urban planning, civil architecture, engineering and computer science. The lab conducts research and offers scientific and technological services in the field of innovation systems and intelligent cities. We were asked to speak on four topics:

  • Background on the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge initiative, including the grant awarded to Thessaloniki and the work underway to help the municipality with their open data efforts.
  • Introduce the Design Thinking concept and the ways IBM is using this approach to foster innovation.
  • Share details on IBM’s approach to Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing with an understanding of the history of Watson and commercial progress.
  • An understanding of IBM’s open platform for developers, Bluemix, with a demonstration of how student developers can experiment and build with the technology today.

The 50-plus students and faculty who joined the interactive discussion shared terrific and insightful views. Many probed further regarding sustainable approaches for improving cities, raised issues related to data privacy, and also the unique cultural challenges Greek cities face. A group of coders were especially eager to learn more about building apps with Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive. Others asked about real-world examples of how these new technologies are benefiting society today and the ways they’ll collaborate with these technologies in their respective professions in the future.

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IBM’s Georgios Pakos, Lia Davis, Priscilla Parodi, and Rahul Chenny speak to students and faculty during a guest lecture at Aristotle University

Our sincere thanks to the university’s Rector, Pericles A. Metkas, the head of the Urenio Lab Dr. Nicos Komninos, and all the students and faculty who warmly welcomed us to the university.

It reaffirmed our belief that the city is overflowing with bright minds who have the know-how and skills to make a positive impact for Thessaloniki.

More on IBM’s Smarter Cities Team Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Smarter Cities Team // Week One
The Universal Language of Post-it Notes
Thessaloniki: Many Stories, One Heart

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The Universal Language of Post-it Notes

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It’s Saturday night and the Post-it notes are flying as the team conducts an impromptu design thinking session to outline key issues identified during our discovery sessions over the first five days.

After 20 plus stakeholder meetings with organizations spanning government, academia, private sector, start-ups, and NGOs, the team appreciates the complexity of the landscape and multitude of challenges.

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A few trends are coming into focus and we’re eager to plot out potential solutions and a framework for the recommendations report. Especially since the local media has already begun to report on our presence and expectations are high to deliver.  The meetings last week were far from speed dating sessions, quite the opposite.  Many ran about two hours in duration, some even longer, as the various participants in the local ecosystem have much to offer in the way of insights and knowledge sharing. Thankfully these meetings included espresso and κουλουρακι to keep the team laser focused (thanks to our hosts’ Nespresso machines were located at all meeting sites!).

Though Sunday for most of the team is traditionally a day of rest, a unanimous decision over lunch today was that we will do an additional stakeholder meeting tomorrow and skip our tourist excursion in order to ensure we’re prepared for the week ahead.

Still, we’re making time to fulfill our civic duty and assist the local economy.

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We were able to squeeze in a fun Friday evening visiting an amazing restaurant just outside of the city, Duck Private Cheffing, for an open kitchen dining experience. And today we visited the Ancient City of Vergina to tour the tomb of King Philip II. We all agree that if we had the power of King Phillip we could get this project done much sooner!

More on IBM’s Smarter Cities Team Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Smarter Cities Team // Week One
Team Salonika Heads Back to School
Thessaloniki: Many Stories, One Heart

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Surat, the Silk City

Our Smarter Cities Challenge: Travel to the city of Surat, India with a small team of other IBMers, work with city leaders, and in just three weeks, develop a plan to help make the city “smarter.”

Surat (pronounced, “SUE-raht”) has mills that produce vast quantities of silk, cotton and manmade fibers. It is known as the Silk City.  It is also a huge hub for the diamond market: 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished here. These industries provide so many job opportunities that people have been migrating to Surat from across the country, and the city’s population has been growing exponentially.  Surat is the world’s fourth fastest growing city.

January 26 is Republic Day in India, which observes the adoption of the Indian Constitution in 1950.  Our team celebrated the holiday by driving out of town to a salt marshy area called Dandi, by the Arabian Sea.  There, in 1930, Mahatma Gandhi staged an act of civil disobedience, to protest British rule in India.  He and an ever-increasing crowd of followers marched to Dandi to challenge a British-imposed tax on salt.  A huge statue of Gandhi holding a handful of salt stands outside, near a plaque that reads: “Here on April 6, 1930 A.D. Gandhiji broke the Salt Law, picked salt and challenged the rule of the mighty British which ultimately won for our motherland freedom on August 15, 1947.”

Gandhi statue at Dandi - Surat SCC - GHZ

 

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by | January 27, 2016 · 1:20 pm

In Taichung city, the progress never sleeps !

Ever since the IBM *Team Taichung arrived here, we have been overwhelmed by goodness, warmth and hospitality! The IBM Taipei team was well prepared to meet with us and prep us for our kickoff meeting with the Taichung city leaders.

And before we met with the leaders we had adequate opportunities to experience the local transportation services. And it is beyond impressive! The citizens have “multi-modal” (bikes, buses, metro, inter-city high speed trains etc.) transportation services available to them! They have conveniently located bike racks from their homes to pick up ergonomically designed, sturdy, yet fun and inspiring looking bikes to get to their nearest transportation network of buses and trains. They unlock and pay for these bikes with an ‘iPass’ card. By the way the first 10 mile usage is free. Then they have a quite well established network of commuting options of public transportation. They have Apps that show minute by minute status on the availability of these services. They use common payment cards for all public transportation.

By the way, parking for private vehicles such as scooters and cars is free, except in high density, congested areas where a nominal fee is charged. Really? Is this utopia?

In Taichung, everywhere we turned we saw “citizen centric” services, meaning the services are designed and delivered for the benefit of citizens. And then there is continued commitment to improve those services – faster routes to destinations, faster arrival times, better connections, less wait times, parking availability indicators, electronic payment systems, nominal fee, green buses, decreasing CO2 emissions and the list goes on.

Taichung city is indeed a ‘role model’ city that other cities within Taiwan and abroad can and should emulate!

And yet, the Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung and his team of leaders are focused on further improving these services, particularly the transportation services. Mayor Lin is really his people’s mayor ! He is laser focused on continuously improving. It seems, for Mayor Lin the progress never stops nor sleeps!

*Team Taichung – Rebecca Butler – @rebeccajbutler , Armando Calderon – @oacalderon1, David Kinsey – @dkinsey28, Dimitry Kharitonenko – @DKharitonenko and Suj Perepa – @sperepa

Mayor Lin

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IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Allahabad Team Effort Underway

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When asked why I chose to participate on the IBM Team addressing the challenges Allahabad faces as it embarks on a journey to evolve into a Smarter City, I expressed the honor I felt in being able to contribute to the city that my grandfather and father called home. I, too had spent 3 years of my childhood in Allahabad and felt a strong bond with the city. I wanted Allahabad to become smarter, yet retain its unique cultural heritage and identity as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus around the globe. These sentiments immediately resonated with the City’s Mayor who responded saying “Exactly! We want Allahabad to evolve its infrastructure and become a pleasant and inviting town with revitalized industrial growth but not lose its cultural identity as a home to the “Kumbh Mela.” Allahabad should remain as Allahabad, but just get smarter!”

City Authorities stressed the importance of solid waste management as a foundational issue in Allahabad’s Smarter City Planning Process and thanked IBM for investing in an overall assessment of the city’s challenges in this area.

Following the official kickoff, the team visited the banks of the Yamuna and Ganga rivers that are home for people coming to Allahabad during the annual Magh Mela and the famous Kumbh Mela (held every 12 years).

The IBM SCC team for Allahabad on the banks of the river Yamuna.

The IBM SCC team for Allahabad on the banks of the river Yamuna.

On Day 2, the team visited Sewage Treatment plants and learned about the current and planned initiative addressing waste water treatment.

The Sewage Treatment Plant at Naini

The Sewage Treatment Plant at Naini

IBM's Smarter City team at the Naini Sewage Treatment Plant

IBM’s Smarter City team at the Naini Sewage Treatment Plant

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