In 2016, the CityVerve project set out with one goal to increase meaningful citizen participation in the Smart City and Internet of Things.

To help realise this vision, FutureEverything introduced Community Key Performance Indicators (or Community KPIs) as a framework to involve communities and residents in the design process of the Smart City, and to engage them as stakeholders and contributors to define and measure success criteria for the CityVerve project.

This framework is proposed here in this FutureEverything Report (Hemment, Woods, Appadoo, Bui, 2016). These built on prior work in a citizen sensing project, Making Sense, where Community Level Indicators are co-created by citizens not only to define, track and measure outcomes, but also, to annotate sensor data for extended analysis, particularly relevant for IoT environmental monitoring projects (Woods, Hemment, Bui, 2016).

In CityVerve, Community KPIs refer to social metrics for evaluating factors that are crucial to user acceptance of technologies and services. Here, they are introduced as one component in a human centred and participatory design framework that is tailored for the IoT and Smart City projects.

In the past, IoT and Smart City projects have tended to privilege a top-down approach, over human-centred design, and with little or no engagement of citizens in design or assessment. Effectively, this sidelines the point of view of the users these emerging technologies are designed to serve, be that the citizen, or specialist users in industry or government. As a result, many projects have failed to build trust among consumers, accommodate concerns on issues, such as privacy, or deliver services that people really need or want.

The proliferation of sensor and data analysis technologies offers new ways to configure cities – we have seen this applied in streetlamps, vehicles, heating equipment, bus stops, air quality monitoring, and so on.

These emerging technologies have given rise to the Internet of Things (IoT), networks of devices and sensors that can communicate with each other. The IoT provides enabling technology for Smart Cities, cities in which ubiquitous sensors and devices allow for more efficient processes of city management, smoother flow of systems, and optimized use of infrastructure.

However, a city is never merely its buildings, open spaces, streets, or vehicles. Nor is technology there solely for engineers to optimise processes. IoT and Smart City development can make lasting changes to the places in which people live, work and play. It can shape neighbourhoods and the lives of residents, in the same way as the development of urban road systems did in the 20th Century.

Therefore residents and communities have a stake, and need a voice, in deciding which technologies are most relevant to them, as well as defining the processes that measure the success of these technologies.

Trial and outcomes

A pilot of Community KPIs was delivered in a CityVerve Community Forum and Community KPI workshop on Wednesday 7th September 2016 at Contact Theatre on Manchester’s Oxford Road.

For this workshop, the guest speaker at the event, Cassie Robinson, developed a tool to be used as a part of the Community KPIs process.

As the workshop was also the first time the Community Forum was convened, this event was the first time the community were introduced to CityVerve. More time was needed for introductions and open discussion than anticipated, and, as a result, it was not possible to follow every step in the method outlined in the report.

The workshop did result in a set of community goals and indicators. But the final stage of narrowing down and refining all goals and indicators into a well defined and agreed final set of KPIs did not happen within the workshop. Consequently, the final step was completed not by the community representatives themselves, but by the FutureEverything design team.

The design team summarised the selected goals and indicators so they could be easily understood and implemented, while striving to remain true to the community intent as represented in the full list of goals and indicators captured during the workshop.

The Community KPIs were included as a portion of the overall KPIs for CityVerve, and documented in the deliverable CityVerve Key Performance Indicators. The limitations of this pilot were clearly documented here, and lessons for future implementations will be developed in the project evaluation.

The technology that underpinned the original KPIs has developed and iterated, and project ambitions have changed. So, over the remainder of CityVerve, the Community Champions will continue to develop the Community KPIs and refine their relevance to the project.