“Among all the noise about smart futures, it looks as if the really smart citizens will be the ones who are in control of their own data.” – New Scientist
Smart Citizen is the world’s largest independent environmental sensing network, and the platform is now live in Manchester.
Manchester is only the third city in the world to create its own Smart Citizen community, after successful launches in Barcelona and Amsterdam. This experimental network enables citizens to become active in capturing, sharing and making sense of the data that lies within their city, through the use of low-cost sensors – the Smart Citizen Kit (SCK). The platform is open to anyone, anywhere, and the first Mancunian Smart Citizens have been recruited from an open call announced by FutureEverything; a range of technologists, educators and environmentalists, who will both help shape the evolution of the platform in Manchester, and build new tools using the data captured by the devices.
Connecting data, people and knowledge, the objective of Smart Citizen to serve as a node for building productive open indicators and distributed tools, and thereafter the collective construction of the city for its own inhabitants.
Smart Citizen is based on open platforms for data collection and sharing, comprising of the Smart Citizen Kit itself, RESTful API, a mobile app and web interface. At the heart of the kit, which is around the size of a pack of cards, is the ‘Ambient Board’, a piece of hardware comprising of two printed circuit boards: an interchangeable daughterboard, or ‘shield’, and an Arduino-compatible data processing board.
The kits measure:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen Oxide (NO2)
Once set up, the Smart Citizen Kit streams data over WiFi to the Smart Citizen network. The low power consumption of the kit allows for it to be placed in outdoor locations, such as balconies, window sills and on top of buildings. The modular design of the Arduino-based units also allow for users to add extra WiFi antennas, batteries, permanent power supplies, and solar panels cheaply, and easily.
The technology and accuracy of the sensors at the heart of the kits are constantly evolving, and at this early experimental point in the project we aim to observe how tendencies change in relation to sensor data or other events, and one of the main challenges is the difficulty in achieving accurate measurements. As the project evolves, we aim to keep building better tools, together with the Smart Citizen community. We expect customised mobile apps, sensors and API use, and we count on technology partners, such as Intel, to maintain and help accelerate the evolution of bottom-up citizen innovation.
Smart Citizen is all about the community. The Manchester Smart Citizen community, ‘SMARTMCR’ meet regularly to develop new ideas for the project, discuss how the devices, interfaces and design of the kits can be improved for future deployments, and develop new tools and uses for the data produced.
The project was born within Fab Lab Barcelona at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia , both focused centres on the impact of new technologies at different scales of human habitat, from the bits to geography. FutureEverything, Waag Society, Intel, Cisco, University of Dundee are now partners in the global Smart Citizen project. Smart Citizen was brought to Manchester by FutureEverything in partnership with Intel.
Smart Citizens was a theme of the 2013 FutureEverything conference and the Smart Citizens publication by FutureEverything in 2013.
To configure and use your Smart Citizen Kit, you will need:
- Power supply (such as a mains socket or USB port)
- Desktop/laptop computer running Mac OS, Windows or Linux,
- A Smart Citizen Kit (SCK)
- Micro-USB cable
- WiFi network and Internet connection
Connect the kit via the USB cable to a powered USB port on your computer (not on the keyboard). Windows users need to recognise the Arduino (1.0.5) and install the the right drivers. Click here to download the Installer.
Using Chrome/Firefox, visit the Smart Citizen website, and create a new account. Save your login details and use a strong password. You are seen as a ‘citizen’ on the website.
Go to the Dashboard. Here, a new sensor can be added by clicking ‘Add Smart Citizen Kit’.
Make sure your location is set by searching for the precise location the kit will be installed. Click ‘Save sensor’. Give your sensor a logical name, such as the name of your street or building.
The SCK must now be configured for your WiFi network. To do this, you may have to download the free Code Bender plugin. Click ‘Configure’ and select the ‘Kickstarter SCK 1.1.’ SCK model.
Ensure the correct port is selected (This must be done manually – COM port on Windows). A check is performed to see if an update is available – if necessary, upload the new firmware and reset the device.
Fill in your exact network data: name (SSID), password, and security type for the WiFi network (E.g WPA2) . You have no ‘external antenna’ (not checked). Click ‘Sync’.
- After a short wait, the web interface will indicate that the process is finished. Unplug the SCK, click ‘Register the kit’ and then plug the kit back in. Wait a few moments, and the sensor data from your kit will be displayed. Refresh the page to see if the device is publishing data to the server. Each kit has its own number on the website in the form of 1234, e.g. http://smartcitizen.me/devices/view/124
Mounting your kit outside
Once your kit is set up and connected to the network, you can mount the device in a suitable location. Choose an appropriate place, with good WiFi reception, away from direct sunlight and shelter from rain (the supplied casing is shower resistant, but not waterproof). It should be installed in a location that is easily accessible for charging, maintenance, and ideally close to a power socket, for permanently powering the device.
When installing the device, be careful not to directly touch the sensors – these are extremely sensitive components, and can be easily damaged.
Check the Smart Citizen website regularly to check that your kit is publishing data, as it is very important that the kit is always online. If your kit goes offline, this is usually due to a power supply issue – recharge the kit and switch it off/on again to reboot the unit.
NB: If you make changes to your network settings, you will need to configure the kit again.
Data and privacy
Portions of this guide are provided courtesy of Waag Society.
Asa Calow (Mad Lab)
Steven Flower (Open Data Manchester)
James Galley (Tariff Street)
Saoirse Higgins (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Alex Hillel (The Neighbourhood)
Dmitry Ignatyev (Biospheric Foundation)
John Sibbald, Alex Garry (Manchester Communications Academy)
Drew Hemment, Simon Webbon, Tom Rowlands (FutureEverything)
The Smart Citizen community is made up of individuals, and in some cases includes affiliations to organisations that host a kit as listed above.