Sustainable innovation in cities PART 2: The challenge of information products

18 January 2013

Blog by Kirsten Jack, Acting Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

This blog post is part of a short series profiling LLGA | Cities Pilot the Future (previously the Living Labs Global Award) success stories, as well as current open challenges for LLGA 2013. 

LLGA is a global initiative that brings together cities to implement solutions that will improve the lives of their citizens. The Climate Group chairs the panel of experts that assess the sustainability of each solution that is submitted. Our work with LLGA is part of the Agile Cities program, which aims to connect cities, citizens and innovators to drive accessibility, efficiency and growth. 

In the blog series I explore how innovative solutions for economic developmentenergy efficiencymobility and information products can each play a role in supporting cities that are at the forefront of the clean revolution.

You can submit solutions for LLGA 2013 current challenges until January 31.

LLGA has a history of information product challenges. Inspiring examples include San Francisco, Barcelona, Londonderry, Rio de Janeiro and Sant Cugat, all of which have found and are piloting smart data solutions through LLGA, as will be explored later.

Information product challenges are also crucial to our Agile Cities program:

  • Information products are central to promoting carbon reduction, as highlighted in our Information Marketplaces report.
  • They are also a key element of the ‘package’ of ICT services enabled services that are forecast to enable 15% emissions savings by 2020, as outlined in our SMART 2020 report. For example, applications, monitoring and big data services that enable behavioral change or optimization of city and citizen processes.
  • It is a large market: access to public data in the EU is forecast to be worth Euro27 billion.
  • The information product market is also a huge growth area. The use of pen APIs to support data driven city services has grown 400% since 2005.
  • 5 billion people have mobile phones and 50% of web connections are mobile making data products for citizens one of the most accessible and widely available services for citizens to utilize to support a low carbon lifestyle.


This year there are two major challenges in LLGA with a focus on information products. Firstly London, UK, which is looking got an energy and greenhouse gas measurement solution to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Secondly, San Francisco, USA, is seeking a storm response coordination tool to triage storm-related services calls and dispatch crews.


The methodology employed by LLGA makes it a unique 'call for solutions' program. Rather than simply publishing the challenges it also tasks its multi-lingual in-house research team to explore potential niche solutions and coalitions of existing service providers.

I spoke with Abraham Jimenez, LLGA Researcher, who is currently looking into energy and greenhouse gas measurement tools for London, to find out a bit more about the solutions on offer and new ideas the city would like to see. He said: “London is looking to create a dynamic way of measuring the energy that is used in the city and the CO2 that is created, as their only source of info at the moment is via central Government which takes up to a year to reach them. There are lots of solutions that monitor the grid, but companies are focusing either on solutions for domestic or on management platforms for large systems. One company targeting the domestic market is, that allows monitoring and control of your thermostat via your iPhone, or, a smart metering rewards system via social media or commercial consumers that allows them to monitor and optimize usage (including wireless, and reward based products). This is currently seen mainly in the US where there is greater competition over the network. The other categories are products which are are aimed at large scale distributors and consumers of energy, mainly software products.

“But there is a gap between these two product categories, and a solution will probably require a consortium of smart metering building scale, sending information to an area hotspot, then to a city central hotspot, then on to the utilities. One of which that is now developing software to utilize this data is


There are many LLGA Pilots, both in progress as well as completed. A number of success stories have resulted from this global program.

San Francisco, USA, is an example of a success story to come out of LLGA. Socrata, then a 12-person software start-up in Seattle with about 15 customers, was fortunate partner with one the world’s most innovative cities to deliver an early roll-out of its cloud-based open data system. After San Francisco issued a call for solutions through the first edition of LLGA in 2010, it saw procurement completed within just nine months of winning the call, accelerating the spread of their Open Data Cloud Solution to 50 leading public sector organizations around the world as a result.

On March 9, 2012, Mayor Edwin Lee affirmed the city’s ongoing commitment to open data through the manifestation of this plan, aptly named Jay Nath, the City’s Chief Information Officer told The San Francisco Chronicle, “Two years ago, when we launched, Open Data was a visionary experiment in reinventing the government of the future. Today, with increasing worldwide adoption, we view Open Data as part of our new cloud infrastructure to deliver citizen, social, and programmatic interfaces to government services, in a much more cost-effective and agile model.”

Three cities that are also leading the way are Barcelona, Spain; Londonderry, UK; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Connecthings, which was the chosen winner for all three cities in the LLGA2012 edition, is a real-time information and contextual services on transport, cultural heritage, tourism and day-to-day life through NFC, QR codes and SMS, offering inexpensive smart data tools which help reduce paper use, provide audio guides, mapping and e-ticketing functions and above all, is also highly scaleable.

Another success story is in the city of Sant Cugat in Spain. Mindmixer is a web-based town hall which empowers citizens to engage, inform and collaborate with government officials anytime and any place. It was attractive as a solution due to its low annual service costs (around US $12,000), and the fact that it maximizes input from citizens regardless of time or location. It also has the potential to build valuable social capital.

So that’s my insight on role of information products in the development of smarter cities. Be sure to return next week, when for part 3 and 4 of the sustainable innovation in cities blog series, I will be exploring the role of economic developmentenergy efficiency and mobility in supporting cities that are at the forefront of the clean revolution.

You can submit solutions for LLGA 2013 current challenges until January 31.

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