Universiteit Leiden

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Designing a smart city together

How can we make clever use of new technologies to improve quality of life in cities? The answer is in the NL Smart City Strategy, which Mark Rutte officially received on January 25th. Three professors from Leiden University - Carolien Rieffe, Joost Kok and Wessel Kraaij - gave advice.

‘A gift for the Netherlands,’ Rutte called the NL Smart City Strategy. At the Prime Minister’s request, more than 140 representatives from cities, companies and universities collaborated on the smart city of the future, with the use of new technology. Co-creation is the slogan, bottom-up is the approach to improve the quality of life for residents and to exploit economic opportunities. The prime minister stressed how important it is to keep collaborating on an international Smart City.

Children in the Smart City

Involve children in designing new plans for that smart city centre, argued developmental psychologist Rieffe. Rieffe was invited to participate in creating the new strategy report, which every municipality in the Netherlands can benefit from. After all, why reinvent the wheel again and again, if others have already come up with smart solutions in similar situations?

Connecting to young people’s lifestyles

In big cities, for instance, typical urban problems occur. What kind of environment is attractive for young people, Rieffe asks? We are familiar with  the squares for toddlers with a swing and a slide, or the small football squares for older children. But what is there to do for children and youngsters who don’t like sports? Rieffe: ‘We should involve children and adolescents in shaping their own environment. How can we arrange these environments, together with them, in a way that suits their lifestyles and interests? Besides, the young generation is well aware of many of these new smart possibilities.’

Young people and their mobile phones

As an example, Rieffe thinks of the interactive fountains that respond to movement, which can be found in the garden of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or in shopping street Koopgoot in Rotterdam. By extension, young people may be able to play light or sound systems by moving, or by programming them with their mobile phones. For instance, children and adolescents in the Bijlmerpark in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost create music with their own mobile phones in a public DJ facility.

Inclusive society: together with residents

If we speak of inclusiveness, let’s not forget  about children’s development. Young people are the forerunners in the field of creativity and new ideas. Children can be involved in a safe and comfortable life in the city in many ways.
Playing fields, for example, can attract different target groups (gender, ethnicity, children with developmental delays or special diagnosis, etc.) with new technologies. For instance via base plates that produce sounds to create music, a luminous hopscotch, smart games or programming options through screens. Using RFID (radio frequency identification devices), we can identify whether, for instance, inclusive education works and what areas on a playground invite bullying or promote playing together. This is a determining factor for the social cohesion in a neighborhood.

Technology also contributes to the safety of children and youth. Improved smart lighting can ensure that more people feel safe in the dark. In traffic, smart bicycle bells can warn children through apps when they are approaching dangerous areas. The city of Den Bosch runs such a pilot. By adding dangerous spots themselves, young users inform municipalities about required measures. A good example of City Makers.
Smart City Strategy report

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