Realising Your Digital Place

This is a fictional case study based on experience from a variety of project engagements.   A similar phased approach would be recommended for other projects.   How those phases are timed and managed are local decisions made by the local smart city team.

Where to Start

KnowNow recommends a phased, iterative and modular approach to delivering new Digital Places.   This approach mitigates risk and allows for dedicated teams to be trained up who can then focus on a rolling program of sustainable project activity that builds on the success of the previous project delivered.

The phases are explained in more detail later in this case study.  They phases are in short:

  • Foundation
  • Exploitation
  • Disruptive
  • Self Healing and Learning

This approach can be captured in a roadmap and the projects required to deliver the roadmap can packaged appropriately so as to be easily procured.   The following phase descriptions are an outline and recommendation only and are indicative only.

The Foundation Phase

This will be delivered in stages and across a number of projects. Coming together as foundation phase. Note these projects are not all about technology. For every tech project, a people and process project runs in parallel.  If it does not then the tech aspect will likely fail to meet its expected deliverables.   Foundation projects put the starting blocks in place from which all other smart city activities stem from.

Foundation project examples:

  • Free Urban Wifi, IoT network & Smart Streetlights
  • Local Digital Governance Team established
  • Open Data Policy

Foundation projects start creating data and put in place the infrastructure (tech, people, process) to be later exploited.

Free Urban Wifi, IoT network & Smart Streetlights

Creating low cost (free where possible), fast reliable connectivity in the public realm will enable a place to offer a smoother digital experience. An ownership model for this network could be a new CIC providing this great connectivity.
Establishing a low-cost IoT network using LoRaWAN – perhaps owned by the same CIC as the urban wifi – will enable vast amounts of sensors and actuators to be deployed across the urban environment for a relatively low price. The data that is then generated can be made open and available for others to interpret and provide new services with.


Smart streetlights can take advantage of the two new networks that have been established.  They offer a great opportunity by acting as data collectors, as well as providing an opportunity for enhanced lighting in the public realm too.  This lighting can be interactive and dynamic, representing light levels relative to air quality or predicted congestion.

Dedicated Governance Team

A dedicated smart city team that can represent the key stakeholders in discussions but also make decisions; take ownership of the agreed route map for that place and manage change as situations arise.

This is the core of the governance structure.  This new governance team should be made responsible for delivering the digital vision and be given outcomes that it should seek to meet.

Open Data Policy

Because the first wave of open data is going to be created in this phase, it is imperative an early task is to define what open data will be curated, what is closed data and what data will be discarded.  All data has to be owned, irrespective of it being open or closed.  Open data is not free data either.  However, future opportunities to monetise open data will take time develop, but should be an ambition.

The Exploitation Phase

The next phase sees the first generation of exploitation projects.   This is where the Digital Experience for a smarter place can start to take off.  How these projects materialise will depend on the pace of change desired (disruption, investment, logistics).

The projects should be defined by their geographic area in terms of activities, but where possible all projects can be applied across a place consistently.   For example, an exploitation project could be using the internet of things capture air quality data, from sensors in smart streetlights.  This would then inform residents, which could lead to a reduction in car use. Not all projects are fixed, though, some have an opportunity to be Borough wide (e.g. a travel app).

This phase creates the first set of collaborations. Projects that deliver successful outcomes are carried forward. Collectively they improve confidence in the smart city agenda. As citizens are noticing the improvements in service quality they become more engaged. The new smarter place brand can now take off.

Projects in this phase may well consider obtaining outside assistance.  KnowNow has a number partners in its ecosystem that can provide expertise in a number smart city areas. Vodafone, for instance, can provide heat maps on actual mobile phone activity in your place. Our friends at Base can offer a travel app, that plugs into existing journey data from  train and bus operators and other transport providers, but could also give details on walking or cycling alternatives. Perhaps offering incentives that could be spent in local business.

The core governance team may decide that some type of portal is required. This could be a citizen-led Portal, KnowNow has great links to @WhereitsAt who can replicate their successful mix of content, education, and information.  Or perhaps what is required is a more behind the scenes focused project which has Operations Centre characteristics. What is key is that the core governance team determine the projects they want that meet the objectives and outcomes they have set.

Putting the smarts into the street furniture and public realm and how this aids the experience will be a work stream as well as a series of projects. KnowNow was part of the Cognicity Challenge at Canary Wharf in 2015. KnowNow has a first-hand understanding as to what a complex, multi-tenant and multi-use space requires when it comes to being smart. KnowNow can apply this to new smart digital places.
The urban realm needs to be in tune with its digital capability.  KnowNow will work with the appointed urban designer/master planner to determine the best possible digital/urban projects.   Ideas for considerations are:

  • Smart street furniture – charges your device, collects data, interacts with you
  • Smart signage – changing visual data displays based on mood, need, you.
  • Smart bins – sensors in bins that tell you how full they are – improves street health
  • Smart streetlights – sensors in lights – change lighting level/colour
  • Smart bollards – collect data – issue proximity warnings

Once these projects are up and running and data is being generated and being applied the first early gains from connecting things can be expected.  What does need to be avoided though is sloppy security and short term unsustainable projects (fads).  Otherwise this will discredit the new digital experience in the long term.  A KnowNow city is a sustainable, safe, secure resilient place.

The Disruptive Phase

The second phase of projects will have started learning from the data that has been created and will start to think of new and disruptive ways that data can be used to enhance the new Digital experience. This will see the re-organisation of previously held norms. Who owns something versus who uses it and pays for it will become more complicated in a joined up world. That is the implication of a digital world which today’s society is readily adapting too, see the growth of services such as Uber and Airbnb as evidence of this disruption.

Therefore, having a clear set of outcomes can help control and steer the disruption to where the core governance team want it to occur. What this will drive is a requirement for a place where the governance team can engage with the public. At this point, the build of a community dashboard showing what is happening and why in and around a place will be started. Bringing the digital data from that place alive, curated locally, with local news for local places. The use of augmented and virtual reality can be included in the requirements if deemed to add value. Open data visualisation is always a popular way of grabbing the public’s attention.


KnowNow has the background and experience to advise on what it really takes to deliver smart city projects, having led previous projects in the IoT (Liveable Cities, ENtelligence) & big data (Flood Event Model) domains.

The Self Learning & Healing Smart Phase

The third phase which will take a few years to achieve is to move the human interaction into a guardian of rules and thresholds. This is achieved through the use of tools and automation so that the smart city reacts seamlessly to challenges. What actions to take are dependent on what the core governance team has told the technology to take.

At this phase, the option of monetising data that is curated in the this new smarter digital centric place could be realised. How this is done and how valuable the data is will depend on what data is available and what kind of impact can be delivered. This will be down to innovation, access to finance, acceptance of risk and opening up established practices to new thinking and approaches. KnowNow Information has an award-winning track record for innovation and can advise on how best to nurture those ideas into money making success stories.

The smart city journey does not end here. As future changes and requirements evolve, some driven by technology, but more often driven by changing tastes and needs will require ongoing responses from the core governance team. Future expansion of the smart city agenda into all smart city domain such as healthcare and energy can be considered. The foundations laid in the first place can make this growth happen with confidence.

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