London Tech Week 2018 ‘Smart City Hack Day’ was organised by Tech Nation Visa Alumni. Open to anyone interested in the enhancement of cities through tech, more than more than 60 people headed to London’s Old Street to create novel solutions to the biggest problems facing cities. The event was high on tech talent but a little low on urban planners as the teams confronted some of the biggest urban development issues of today.
Erika Nitsch, data scientist from Metail and one of the organisers of the event, explained how the focus on smart cities came about. Like many good ideas it started with a conversation in the pub. She explained that they wanted a focus on something useful, that would draw on a range of skills and “allow people to get really creative about the problems they are solving”. And creative they were. Proposals ranged from urban farming systems using artificial intelligence, recycling apps to biology inspired smart grid cyber security.
Kadine James 3D tech lead at Hobs Studio, reflected on the complex challenges of cities from pollution to navigation and the role of tech in responding to planning challenges. Highlighting a 3D masterplan project with social housing providers Peabody, Kadine explained “technology and in particular virtual reality has very powerful communication reach and it allows communities to witness first-hand what a site and what a location will look like before a single brick is laid”.
Smart city ideas were abundant but planning and development professionals were not very well represented at the event; at an event focused on making cities more efficient and enjoyable where were they all? Erika acknowledged that a ‘hackathon’ conjures images of guys in hoodies coding but she explained “… it is really not what this event is about. It’s about group problem solving; it’s about getting together and being creative with design skills”. Sounds like a bit like urban planning right? Erika said it would be great to get people with a range of skills outside of programming involved especially urban planners in future events.
Kadine James, Hobs Studio and Erika Nitsch, Metail give us the downlow on the Tech Nation Visa Alumni Smart Cities Hackathon
Planning and development professionals – smart city hacks need you! You have much to offer in analysing problems, explaining the policy regulatory context and contributing to creative and feasible solutions that have commercial legs. There is also much to learn from the systems thinking, problem solving capacity and creativity of programmers and data scientists and their approach to generating solutions. And if is anything like Tech Nation Visa Alumni’s ‘Smart City Hackathon’ it will also be really good fun.
If you are interested in the role of tech and you missed out on smart city events during London Tech week then make sure you don’t miss Plan Tech week 2018. Run by the talented team behind the Future of Planning at Future Cities Catapult, it is a week of events exploring how new technology and digital transformation are changing the planning sector. Make sure you book your space to hear more from Kadine and other plan tech innovators.