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In the bustling city of Dublin, Ireland, the Smart Dublin program is addressing urban challenges through innovative solutions. From the heart of the capital to the surrounding areas, Dublin's commitment to technological advancement is shaping the urban landscape. With over 2 million people living in the Greater Dublin region, the city’s embrace of cutting-edge technology and digital literacy has propelled it to the forefront of the smart city movement. In this episode of Better Cities by Design, host Davion Ford explores the realm of smart cities with Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Manager, and Payal Pandya, Project Manager and Business Analyst both at the Dublin City Council.

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Dublin's rich history of attracting top companies and fostering innovation has positioned it as a hub for digital transformation. In this episode, we discuss the Smart Dublin program's focus on connectivity, data insights, and collaboration to tackle urban issues. We delve into the intricacies of innovative projects like the Curb IQ pilot, designed to revolutionize curbside management in Dublin and enhance urban mobility. Furthermore, the discussion underscores the profound impact of COVID-19 on mobility patterns, highlighting the need for adaptable solutions that not only address immediate challenges but also enhance the overall quality of life for Dublin's residents.

In this episode, you will learn about the transformative initiatives that are driving Dublin's Smart City program. Gain insights into the role of technology and innovation in shaping sustainable and resilient urban environments. Listen in to discover the future of smart cities and the positive impact they are having on communities.


The Arcadis global podcast

Better Cities by Design

Arcadis' fortnightly global podcast series, where we talk to change-makers to discuss how they are making our urban environments better places for people to live, work, and play

Episode transcript:

We recognize that not everyone is able to listen to our podcast, which is why the show is also available in text. If you would prefer to read what happened in the show instead of listening, please click the link below for the episode transcript.

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    Davion Ford

    Welcome to Better Cities by Design a podcast brought to you by Arcadis where we talk to changemakers who are working to make our cities better places for people to live, work, and play. I'm your host, Davion Ford. In this episode, we're gonna take a look at the innovative Smart City Program in Dublin, Ireland. We're happy to have two great guests to tell us more, and they both work for the Dublin City Council. That's Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Manager and Payal Pandya, who is a Project Manager and Business Analyst. Together we’ll explore specific smart solutions and projects that are being implemented in Dublin.


    Davion Ford

    The city of Dublin is the capital and largest city in Ireland. In fact, with a population of around 2.1 million people, around 40% of Ireland's entire population lives in the greater Dublin area. A convergence of factors has helped propel the city to the forefront of digital innovation and technology and has also established Dublin as a highly attractive location for startups, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. With its low corporate tax rate and generous economic incentives for research and development, Dublin has attracted some of the world's leading companies including Google, Apple, IBM, Pfizer, Facebook and HP to name only a few. But it's not just the private sector that makes Dublin one of the world's most technologically savvy urban environments. With so many cutting-edge tech companies, research institutes, startups and a digitally fluent population, the city of Dublin Council set up the Smart City Program to test and scale up digital and technology initiatives that have the potential to improve conditions in the city for residents, businesses, and for visitors. This includes exploring how best to integrate 5G, Internet of Things technology and even drones into the lived experiences of people living, working and visiting the Irish Capitol. And one of the focus areas for the Dublin Smart City program team has been the use of the Curb space in the city. Whether it's for parking, cycling, taxis picking up or dropping off people, companies delivering goods or myriad other uses, the Curb space in cities is highly valuable and often poorly managed, and this creates challenges for cities and their citizens. For more on this here's Arcadis' Peter Richards.


    Peter Richards

    If I asked city planners and engineers how many parking spaces or loading zones for deliveries they had in their city, they probably wouldn't know. And they probably wouldn't be able to quickly look this up. This is because cities don't understand their curbside, which is a part of the road where you park load and stop. This means cities are making ineffective decisions. It also means curbside users like delivery drivers circle the block or may be parking illegally as they don't know where loading zones are being provided. For cities that do have some form of a curbside dataset, they're often not consolidated or maintained. CurbIQ solves these challenges by digitizing curbside regulations and creating a space-by-space inventory, allowing you to keep it up to date, but also analyze the information. This can include a sandbox environment to test initiatives like new cycling lanes or outdoor dining to integrating demand sources like sensors and cameras to have real time availability. With this digital information in CurbIQ, cities can better understand their parking and mobility options, which can lead to increase revenue, reduce congestion, and ultimately increase sustainability and equity at the curbside.


    Davion Ford

    That was Peter Richards from Arcadis, who is the product director for CurbIQ. The Dublin Smart City program has conducted a pilot project using our CurbIQ product, and we're going to learn more about that, but also about many of the other innovative projects underway there. To find out more it's my pleasure to welcome to the show Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Manager and Payal Pandya, Project Manager and Business Analysts, both work for the Dublin City Council.


    Davion Ford

    Hello, Jamie and Payal. Welcome to Better Cities by Design.


    Jamie Cudden

    Hey, Davion. Great to be here.


    Payal Pandya

    Hey Davion.


    Davion Ford

    So Jamie, first to you. You lead the Smart City Program in Dublin. Can you explain what your work covers when it started? And what kind of challenges you're working to solve?


    Jamie Cudden

    Yeah, no, absolutely. So I lead our Smart City program in Dublin and we started the program about nine years ago. And that seems like a lifetime when it comes to technology and innovation. So a little bit of context in terms of what I do basically focus on new and emerging technologies and look at how these can be used in a way that can deliver better services and better outcomes for communities, and citizens, and it really ties into our corporate plan for the city, which futures on this concept of future-proofing Dublin. And if you think about some of the trends in smart cities, from Internet of Things to big data to 5G, future connectivity, drones, AI and ML, digital twins, future mobility, there's so much happening, and the pace of change is absolutely relentless. So we've technology that didn't exist five to 10 years ago now becoming mainstream. So from our perspective, in Dublin, and through our Smart City program, we collaborate with public, with private sector and academia and also communities to really look at, I suppose, where there's this intersection between the opportunity of to technology and how can we use this to address challenges that we face in our city? So, you know, there's plenty of challenges, we have no shortage of challenges in our cities, from sustainability, to environmental to future mobility to energy, and even how we manage extreme weather events, and how do we bring citizens along these journeys and communicate better with them. So this is really, I suppose, the intersection of technology and challenges and opportunities. And for Dublin, you have wonderful companies based in our cities, such as the big tech companies, you've got amazing research centers, startups. I suppose the question is, how can we as a city, bring these opportunities together to challenges and uncover new innovations and opportunities to transform our cities? So that's kind of a short summary of what our Smart City Program is in Dublin, and how it's evolved over the last nine years.


    Davion Ford

    Wide reaching remit there that you're dealing with, but a lot of great things that you mentioned. So, maybe we can make that a little bit more concrete as well, too, and you could talk about some specific smart solutions or projects that have delivered some positive results for the folks there in Dublin. And I'm also curious, what does a successful Smart Cities effort look like?


    Jamie Cudden

    Yeah, absolutely. So I guess, you know, what we've seen over the last nine years is this emergence of Internet of Things, I think is particularly interesting, in terms of how we can collect data more quickly and effectively for everything from weather events, whether it's flooding, whether it's the quality of air, on our streets, or whether it's even tracking assets, or movement in our city. So, I think there's a big area where the technology is enabling us to gather better data to make better decisions. And from our cities, underpinning that really important piece is connectivity. So I think what we've learned through COVID, is that cities need connectivity to function, you know, whether you're working from home, or whether we're collecting data around different things in our cities, connectivity is absolutely essential to that. So from our Smart City program, we build it around four core teams. Its connectivity is at the heart of what we do, so that's super important. It's about data insights, and how do we use this data to make better decisions. And then we have an emerging technology program, which looks at some of these emerging technologies and how from a city perspective, we can, I suppose, grab the opportunities, but make sure we're doing it the right way. So if you think about drones, if you think about AI, if you think about Internet of Things, these are all kind of technologies that have kind of come fast over the last 10 years, and we need to be positioned ourselves to actually utilize them in ways that can benefit our citizens. And then the core piece to that is how do we collaborate and engage? So, how do we bring citizens and communities along on that journey? So we have drones in the lower airspace? How do we make sure people feel safe? And they're not concerned about their privacy? How do we make sure that they've got connectivity to be able to work from home, and the city plays a really important role in terms of bringing together public and private sectors. But another area that's really important to us is how do we see pilots and demonstrators to show the potential of this technology? And then where technology is starting to show potential, how do we embed it within the organization that is the city council and scale up these solutions? And one area that's worked really well for us is back, you know, eight, nine years ago, we were testing, what 5G looks like for a future city. And on the back of that, and COVID, we realized that cities need to play a much more proactive role in how we roll out these technologies. So we set up a telecoms unit to support this. So an example of how we piloted something and then took it into the organization and scaled it to a new service, I think is something that we're really, I suppose positive about in terms of the role of smart cities, and how we can make a difference for Dublin.


    Davion Ford

    So Jamie Cudden, you just actually mentioned COVID, and it's a nice segue into this question that I have, actually for Payal. We know that COVID brought about some significant changes for how we're all moving around in our cities. What impact did that have on Dublin and how is the work that you all are doing in terms of smart cities impacted by that?


    Payal Pandya

    So COVID was a very difficult but interesting time because it kind of affected the mobility. And when we say mobility, it is about how we move people and how we move goods as well. So it was a very interesting point in time where a lot of things changed. The city kind of came on a standstill, where the movement of people was restricted. And so we kind of increased our range, so for example, the outdoor dining came into place, the E-commerce increased to a big extent during the COVID. So we started looking into that, how can we integrate those changes that came during the COVID time in our present time, as the COVID is now lifted. And then we coincidentally, were also working on a European Union-funded project called Senator, where we were aiming to see that how can we improve the last mile deliveries that is the movement of goods within the city. So how do we make it more efficient, how do we make it more sustainable, and we started looking into various projects in relation to the last mile deliveries, and some of them include the use of the micro consolidation centers, the use of the urban consolidation centers, and when of our kind of a feature project like curbside management, where we actually also connected with Arcadis and the CurbIQ team. And apart from the goods, there were other projects and the movement of people as well, for example, the outdoor dining piece and the Smart Mobility Hub and the E-scooter. There were there were a lot of projects, but I think the COVID was a great time to shift our focus toward the movement of goods. It is really interesting that the E-commerce industry is growing, and it is expected to grow for about like 56% by 2026, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are many cities in the world who will face challenges or are still facing challenges in terms of how the movement. how the deliveries are made in the cities. And I think that's a very interesting aspect of the work that we do.


    Davion Ford

    They really harken me back to some, let's say not the best time in my life during the COVID period. I think that's probably the case for most of the folks who will be tuning in now as well. But you also touched upon the curbside work that you're looking at also in conjunction with our team here at Arcadis. Maybe you can talk about that a bit as well. I don't think that most people out there and cities have necessarily considered how valuable curbside space is. Again, COVID did teach us some lessons about this. But maybe you can share a bit more about the pilot that you're doing with CurbIQ.


    Payal Pandya

    Absolutely Davion. And as I said with the project Senator with the European Union-funded project that we were working on, we started looking into the last mile deliveries. And when we talk about the last mile deliveries, loading base comes into picture, it's about how we manage those loading bases, how we manage the last mile deliveries as well. And just for the context loading bays are like the parking bays, but for the commercial vehicles, so the delivery companies could use that space for 30 minutes, they can park there for free and then make deliveries. So we thought about how can we manage the loading bays in a more better way? Is there a way that we could do it digitally, for example. But Dublin has a very unique talent because when we started talking about loading bays, we realized that some of the loading bays in the city, they turn into the taxi ranks at certain point or a certain time of the day, some of them turn into the parking bays for like private cars at some time of the day. Some of them turn into the bustling, during certain times. So when we started talking about managing the loading bays, we realize that there are many things to manage that actually affect how the loading bays operate. So that includes the bus lanes, that includes the cycle lanes, that includes the parking bays, the taxi ranks. And then we started looking into that, oh my God, there are so many things that are happening on the curbside, we want to make space for the cycling infrastructure, we want to make space for the movement of the people, for the pedestrians, we want to make space for the bus stops or bus lanes, we want to make space for the loading bays, we want to make space for the private cars. We want to put plants there and so on. So we want also want the outdoor dining to be there, and I think people don't realize that we are talking about the same space and Dublin's infrastructure could date back to hundreds of years. So there is limited space that we have there. We cannot really increase that space, we cannot make like wider roads. So that made us think that we have to manage the space that we have now. And the question that we asked ourselves was, how do we manage it? And I think that's where the curbside management piece really came into picture. And in order to manage any space, I think it is really important for us to know what we are trying to manage. And that's where the digital inventory of the curbside assets came into picture, and we started working with the CurbIQ team to collect those kinds of data from the streets. But for a very small area for the pilots to see, is that really important for us? What are the challenges in collecting such data? How do we keep it updated? Would it really work? Is it really useful for the stakeholders that we are dealing with, and is the solution all worth it? And I would say that the solution was quite a success for us; the work that we have done with the CurbIQ team has been very fruitful, it is still going on, but will be soon closing of the project, the pilot there.


    Davion Ford

    Payal, I think everyone listening will be maybe familiar with the adage that you can only manage that which you measure. And so it's so important to actually have data about what's happening with anything that you want to manage. You talked about relative to the pilot that you're running with CurbIQ, an inventory of what's happening, essentially, with the curb space within the pilot. Can you speak a bit more about that, and also talk about what you can do with that data?


    Payal Pandya

    Absolutely Davion. So, as I just mentioned that we have already collected all the data, and now even that is something that we are thinking, that, okay, we have all the data, now what do we do? So we have a number of stakeholders that we work with for this project, specifically, and that includes the delivery and the logistic companies. There are businesses that are there in the city, so we do talk to the business representatives as well. And then there are the internal teams that are there in the Dublin City Council. And I think that's one of the major parts of the project as well as how do we use the data so that it is useful for the stakeholders. And that would be one of the biggest things that we have to do, is to make the data available for the people who would actually use it. So I think these are the questions that we are trying to answer through the pilot that we are doing. It is all about bringing, as Jamie has said, it is all about bringing people on the journey with us and see what works for us and what doesn't. And I think the curbside management project, we always call that project as kicking chaos from the curbside. We very fondly call it that way because we do feel that there is a lot of chaos that is there on the curbside. And we really need to figure out a way in that, how do we manage all that.


    Davion Ford

    So Payal, briefly, this is a pilot that we're looking at, with CurbIQ now being used in Dublin. What would need to happen in order to see this scale up?


    Payal Pandya

    So this project, this is a pilot project, yes, but this project has also been recognized as one of the 35 projects under the National Pathfinder Program, which is an initiative by the Department of Transport where they have selected 35 projects from all over Ireland; these projects will play an important role in the net zero transition for Ireland by 2050. But also to reduce the carbon emissions by 51% in the transport area by 2030. It's a great achievement for us that this project is recognized as one of those projects. That could actually accelerate the pace that we move towards the net zero target. And I think that's where it would help us to scale up as well. Now the scaling up could look like that the project becomes bigger, but for us, the scaling up could also look like sharing the knowledge and the experience that we have gathered through a project so that we can make it available to the other local authorities, to the other cities, to internal teams who are stakeholders and see what worked for us what didn't work for us. There are a lot of solutions that are available in the market, so even when we were setting up for the journey for the curbside management, we reached out to the market first to see what kind of solutions were available in the market, and we got like very overwhelming responses. There are many solutions that are available around the world that could really work in any city. But, as Jamie has mentioned, the solution is as good as the people using it, really. So it is important for us to know what solution would work in an Irish context and I think that's why we did the pilot. That's what we want to do in the future as well, that how do we share the knowledge with the relevant stakeholders there are?


    Davion Ford

    Okay, Jamie. When it comes to smart cities and digital transformation across sectors within cities, I know there can be a real focus on the technology piece of it. And there's a lot of innovation that comes into play, new things are being utilized within the city. My question for you is, how do you do this in such a way that the work doesn't become technology and innovation merely for its own sake, right? So what is that connective tissue between the work that you're doing and the lived experience of people there in Dublin?


    Jamie Cudden

    Yeah, that's a great question, Davion. I think, as I mentioned, like our journeys have been interesting, for the last nine years, where we kind of started where a lot of this technology didn't even exist. And I suppose our role was to inspire people in terms of the art of the possible. So we kind of had to chase the technology a little bit at the start, just to kind of see, what does it do, how does it work, and inspire people with kind of ideas in terms of how they could apply it. But increasingly, what we found is that the key ingredient to success is to kind of find a business owner, who has a challenge within your city, whether it's a curbside challenge, whether it's an environmental challenge, or a climate challenge, and create a kind of environment or a space where you can spin out a short, quick demonstrator that shows them to potential. That's low risk, but it kind of helps bring them on a journey of transformation. And for us, that's been the secret to our success. In that, we've pivoted to make sure that all our projects have an internal sponsor who's a business owner, and sees the potential. And that then we reach out to the external companies, the researchers, and work with them to kind of bring the opportunities and that connection between the business owner and the technology. And I think that's where you start to uncover that, you know, maybe the technology is very mature, like what we're working on with CurbIQ. But actually, the challenge is probably as much a people challenge, a culture challenge. Or as Payal said, it's a challenge around changing policies and bylaws to make this possible and scalable. But without doing that demonstrator without showing the art of the possible without sharing the experiences of what's happening in other cities around the world, it's very difficult to bring them on that journey. So it's finding the right projects matching the right technology. And then, you know, as we’ve done with the curbside project, we've connected with the Department of Transport, where the results of this then will inform policies and regulations that will enable us to move from a world of analog curbside to a digital world where we can be more dynamic and real-time, and, you know, help inform and support drivers and logistics companies and businesses and citizens to use curbside more effectively. And by using curbside more effectively, we can help reduce emissions, we can help meet climate targets, and we can help make a difference to making our city more livable.


    Davion Ford

    So Jamie Cudden, tell me about some of the other cool projects that you have underway. You've got lots going on, what has you really excited?


    Jamie Cudden

    Oh, I could talk all day about this. I get so excited about all this technology. I mean, we've probably got a portfolio of 50-plus projects at the moment. And yeah, I mean, to me, there's the pace of change. I mean, a year ago, I wasn't even thinking about AI and Gen AI. And all of a sudden, that's the biggest, you know, hottest trend happening in tech. And four or five years ago, I was presenting to our senior management team about the potential of drones, and they were looking at me as if I was crazy. Yet now we have 14 different departments in the city council using drones to deliver a better emergency response with our fire brigade to building inspections and building control to environmental monitoring. It's just amazing how quick this technology has moved. And I suppose from a smart city perspective, I'm really fortunate that we have the leadership in Dublin City Council to establish a space where we can look and work with the companies delivering these technologies, because you know, the day-to-day role of the city is very busy, it's very stressful. You need dedicated teams to be able to future forecast, to be able to work with industry and think about, hey, what's the role of the city and how we manage lower airspace, for example. Citizens are going to be wondering about, you know, these drones flying over their properties or the streets, so they want to know that it's safe, it's trusted, and that it's doing something good for society. So you know, I think that's the really important role that smart city teams can play. And ultimately, at the end of the day, it's can we create those opportunities to transform our cities to make them more livable and better places, but also, there's a huge economic opportunity as well, if these companies, the drone companies, the Internet of Things companies, the Gen AI companies, if they think Dublin's a great place to test and experiment we can co-create solutions for the future and we can create job opportunities and innovation opportunities that can support Dublin's economic future, as well. So if you get the intersection of all these right, I think you're onto a good thing. And I think Dublin is really leading the way in a lot of these emerging and new technology opportunities. And I guess that's because of who we are our DNA, the companies we have on our doorstep. And it's a, it's a wonderful place to be. And I think it's just going to continue to scale and grow. And we just need to make sure that we're doing this the right way. And I think there's a whole separate conversation about ethics and privacy and making sure we don't rush to technology that we might have second thoughts about into the future.


    Davion Ford

    All right, Jamie and Payal. Thank you both so much for joining Better Cities by Design.


    Jamie Cudden

    Cool. Thanks, Davion.


    Payal Pandya

    Thank you, Davion.


    Jamie Cudden

    Wonderful to talk today.


    Davion Ford

    That's it for this episode of the show. I want to give a big thank you to Jamie and Payal, from the Dublin City Council for joining us. And for all of you out there, please stay tuned for future episodes as we continue to bring changemakers to the table who are driving progress in urban development. If you haven't done so already, we'd really appreciate it if you'd subscribe and check out our other episodes. I'm Davion Ford and you've been listening to Better Cities by Design, a podcast brought to you by Arcadis, the world's leading company delivering sustainable design, engineering and consultancy solutions for natural and built assets. You can learn more by visiting our website or by following Arcadis on LinkedIn or Facebook. And please, stay curious, get inspired and remember, the future belongs to those who dare to make a difference in the cities we call home.

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