“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 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)
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Light
  • Sound

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.

Explore the Smart Citizen network here

#SmartMCR Participants:
Stephen Bookbinder
Asa Calow/MadLab
Steven Flower/Open Data Manchester
James Galley/Tariff Street
Christopher Hackett
Saoirse Higgins/Manchester Metropolitan University
Alex Hillel/The Neighbourhood
Michelle Hua
Dmitry Ignatyev/Biospheric Foundation
John Sibbald/Manchester Communications Academy
Gabriele Schliwa
Vasileios Vlastaras
Caroline Ward
Yulin Wu
Drew Hemment/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.

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.