Smart Citizen workshop at the OpenLivingLab ENoLL summer school on 4 September 2014 in Amsterdam, presented by Waag Society, FutureEverything and Amsterdam Smart City. Talks on Smart Citizen projects in Amsterdam and Manchester were followed by a paper prototyping session in which participants from living labs around the world came together to devise and sketch early stage ideas and concepts for future sensing projects.

Post By: Drew Hemment, Frank Kresin, Saskia Müller.

The Smart Citizen Kit is a bottom up environmental sensing community and platform. The goal is to enable citizens to become active in shaping the development of the city, and in capturing, sharing and making sense of data on the local environment.

Saskia Müller (Amsterdam Smart City) presented the motivation of Amsterdam city for participating in the Smart Citizen Kit project, and its place in the city’s smart city strategy. The vast majority of Amsterdam inhabitants are not aware of the role data already plays in their lives and will increasingly do in the future. Making small scale measuring devices available to as many people as possible will make people more aware of data collection and the power of data. Furthermore, bottom-up measuring in cities will increase knowledge about the living environment and consequently increase action perspective for citizens. Knowledge is power.

Frank Kresin (Waag Society) elaborated on the notion of Smart Citizens, as opposed to Smart Cities, and then presented the Amsterdam pilot in which 100 Smart Citizen Kits were distributed to citizens that were concerned with the air quality. The pilot aimed to enhance the understanding of the local environment, and establishing new dialogues between citizens, climate and health experts, and city officials. Having learned from the pilot, Amsterdam will now build a more elaborate testbed where citizens will be facilitated to use different range of sensors and get to actionable results.

Drew Hemment (FutureEverything/University of Dundee) presented on the Smart Citizen Manchester deployment and community in Manchester, SMARTMCR, and the ideas that inspired it. In Manchester, the focus has been on creating a small community around the platform to begin, and on combining different sensors, with the plan to combine data from the Smart Citizen platform, Intel sensors, and official weather stations. With plenty more developments in this pipeline, the most powerful outcome is the way this is placing citizens at the centre of sensing and smart city development in Manchester.

Participants in the workshop – visiting Amsterdam for the OpenLivingLab ENoLL summer school, many coming from living labs in cities around the world – then took part in a paper prototyping session to imagine, sketch and debate early stage ideas and concepts for future sensing projects. Each group then presented their sensing idea and paper prototype sensing box.

Paper Prototypes – The Sensing Ideas

These are early stage ideas, from a workshop brainstorming and paper prototyping session, created by workshop participants.


Health Box
Health Box enables individuals to measure their own health, and connecting them direct to health service providers. The box measures blood sugar level, heart rate, sudden movements, calories in food, and the pH of drinks. It can send updates to health providers, or sound an alarm. If an elderly person falls down, an alert is sent, and a display on the box shows the location of the hospital.

Emotion Route Sensor Kit
Riders of bicycles and motorbikes can press a button to indicate if they are happy or unhappy, on a device that also tracks route and environmental data, such as CO2 and CO. This measures emotion levels along a route and in different conditions. This can enable city planners and individuals to understand and improve the happiness of the route and hence the city.

Family Sensor Kit
Capturing nice sounds in city, not just noise levels. The sensor recognises sounds such as bird song, and captures those sounds. Designed for families, it can also measure particulate matter to protect the health of children, and incorporate location tracking so that lost kids, mums and dads can be found easily.

Household Sensor
Looking beyond sensing to sharing information and motivation for behaviour change, the Household Sensor measures energy used, waste produced and temperature, and compares households with others in their neighbourhood. This presents a wider picture of the local environment, and also ranks individual households and awards the most sustainable ones, to give incentive and (somewhat provocatively) shame households to do better.

Happy / Unhappy
This is a very simple interface that presents only information on happiness and quality of life. Limiting the range of data captured and insight shared can avoid the problem with some real time systems of creating anxiety or unrealistic expectations for service improvement. The idea here is for a happiness sensor and indicator where the design principle is ‘less is more’.

Tamagotchi Sensor
Like the early digital pets, this is a sensor the owner has to keep alive, and can name, and carry around with them. Portability is a focus here, with a five day battery life it goes wherever you go. And it can hop networks too, with multiple ports giving backward compatibility. This friendly pet moves away from a focus on the tech, with the goal to be more relevant to an individual, and to make for a better life.

The AmbienceKit gives insight on the ambience of urban spaces, where the crowds are, and the mood of people in different streets. Sensors in urban spaces measure smiles, mood and stress levels, density of people and their speed, and environmental variables such as light levels and noise. The urban ambience can then be boosted, by adjusting street lighting and background music to the mood and needs of people.

Block Sensor
This is a personalisable, reconfigurable, modular sensor, which users can adapt and add to, in any way they see fit. This sensor speaks back directly to the owner, and is more visible than an anonymous box. It can combine with various personal data, highlighting privacy questions.

Thanks to everyone who took part, and to the Smart Citizen communities in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Manchester who are helping to make this project a reality.