What does a smartcity officer do ?

A quick site update to reflect my new position as a smart-city officer at AREP. Which leads to a natural question:What does a smart-city officer do, beside having a job with a really cool job name ?

First you have the top-down approach to my work. Here, somebody (a stakeholder, a politic) comes to us and say  “Hey, I heard smart-cities are cool. I want mine. You make it?. Sure we do but… is he speaking participatory urban planning or driverless cars  or smartgrids ? Or all of them ? Does even know ? So here my job is to decypher the notion. I have to understand what people want in a particular case—even though they are using the same question for asking very different things— and find out what we can offer as a solution with the many talents we have in the company. (And we have basically every kind of architects, designers and engineers you can think of.)

Then you have the bottom-up approach to my work. With the help of different experts, I test connected technologies and try to make a new project with it or input it into a new project. For exemple it can be a smartphone app for crowdsourcing informations in a GIS or testing a new energy storage device. Here, it’s all trial and errors. I find something that looks cool, we try it for real, we learn. The most important thing is to the put the new technology to the test as fast as possible, without too much theory about it —especially on “is it true smart” side. That last part being way easier said than done.

The two approach are helping each other. Decyphering a smart-city vision may lead to try a new technologies and mastering a new tool may help to be more tangible about what we mean by smart-city. Hopefully, in the middle, we find some sort of strategic positioning, real projects and a way to value the expertise of all our architects, planners, designers and engineers. That’s the plan !

There is one fun thing you might notice. In the top-down approach, it’s not me to define smart-city, nor to debate what a smart-city should be. And in the bottom-up approach, we don’t even want to think about it. So if I succeed in my job, well the very word smart-city will disappear from our practice and the sooner the better. But then my job title will sound way less cool…