“This project is interesting because it’s about doing research differently within Arup. It’s about prototyping new ways of working: doing user research differently, building technology differently, and how we share that technology through open source means.”

In many ways, the Internet of Things for Social Cities was the perfect coincidence.

Since 2005 an abandoned patch of land, the site of an old polytechnic college, has sat semi-hidden in inner-city Melbourne. Recently, Creative Victoria decided to develop the site into an arts precinct. Matt Low—who leads Arup’s Digital Team in Melbourne—and a number of collaborators from RMIT University and local creative agency SandPit saw the site as the perfect opportunity to test a hypothesis. They believe our current relationship with technology in the built environment is not healthy, but this relationship can be improved by building technology into our environment itself.

Not only would the new Collingwood Arts Precinct make for an ideal test site; the tabula rasa nature of the precinct meant the outcomes of this research could inform the planning of the site from day one.

The result was a unique collaborative ecosystem between the Arup, RMIT, SandPit and CAP. The design process began with thorough ethnographic research in order to determine how the residents of Collingwood use their environment. Meanwhile Dan Prohasky, a PHD candidate at RMIT explored precedents, frameworks and use cases for Urban IoT.  These findings informed the development of a number of prospective solutions that were then prototyped with the help of SandPit—who specialize in rapidly ideating and deploying creative IoT solutions. All prototypes were user-tested on the CAP site and any feedback used to redesign and iterate until a final solution could be identified and scaled.

The team also took unique approach in open-sourcing the project. They recognized value in building upon tools that exist within the public domain as well as inviting community members to contribute to the project, through everything from code to critique. Research findings are being published as they are incurred and an audience has already gathered around the project. In February members of the Arup’s UK based digital team came on board, adding a new level of cross-regional involved to a project with collaboration already at its core.

 

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