Eindhoven lies at the heart of the Dutch Brainport Region. 125 years ago, Philips was the main motor behind Eindhoven’s industrialization. Presently, high-tech companies such as ASML and NXP, both important players in the global chip market, and Eindhoven University of Technology play an key role in the city. Despite being a frontrunner in the field of technological development and ICTs in particular, the city’s local government only presented a smart city programme entitled “Smart Society Programme” in October 2016. This programme focusses on five themes, namely data; connectivity, infrastructure and platforms; living labs; communication & ecosystem development; and communication & branding.
As part of this programme, a number of projects are running in Eindhoven. For example, companies Signify (formely Philips Lighting) and Heijmans are experimenting with smart street lighting. The municipality selected these two companies through a public procurement process, but unlike a conventional public procurement, no specific agreements have been made with regard to the number of lamp posts that have to be placed or the lamp posts’ characteristics. Instead, the companies are obliged to interact with local inhabitants of the streets in which they are experimenting to define what kind of functionalities the lamp posts will have. Another interesting development is that of the Brainport Smart District – a participatory greenfield redevelopment project. This project, in which a wide range of actors including Eindhoven University of Technology, Helmond and Eindhoven’s local governments and a number of private partners are involved, aims to build a new neighbourhood with around 1000 homes between Eindhoven and the town of Helmond, using a wide variety of smart technologies.
Besides these “quadruple helix” initiatives with invited participation from citizens, initiatives that started with active involvement of citizens also take place in Eindhoven. For example, Waag Society, an organization working to democratize technology, runs a project that aims to enable people to measure nuclear radiation instead of being dependent on official radiation measurement.
As researcher Evelien de Hoop argues: “Eindhoven is an interesting city to study because of the city’s experimentation with new forms of public-private partnerships combined with cases in which bottom-up initiatives attempt to challenge who creates, has access to and can act upon environmental data.
Jouw Licht op 040 [Your light at 040]
A consortium of Signify (formely Philips Lighting) and Heijmans (with infrastructural expertise) is experimenting with smart light solutions in five different locations in the city, namely three residential areas and two main traffic arteries. In a quadruple helix set-up consisting of the business consortium, local government, the city’s university and inhabitants of the area, the project identifies problems in each area and then looks for a wide range of smart lighting solutions to those problems. The quadruple helix ranks and selects a small number of solutions that get implemented in the area. For example, to address a lack of social interaction in the neighbourhood, an interactive bench that changes its light according to people’s behaviour has been proposed; to address safety concerns at night in a tunnel for cyclists, an system that enlivens the tunnel with light and sound has been proposed; and to address problems experienced by pedestrians in crossing a busy road, a colourful, interactive zebra crossing has been proposed. The project is currently in the process of designing and fine-tuning the first solution – an interactive lighting system that reacts to by-passer’s online activities – for the first test-location.
In this case, we study two forms of knowledge politics. First of all, engagement with citizens is a central component in the set-up of this initiative, so what kinds of knowledge are generated about them and their interests in the area? And how does this figure in the way in which problems are identified and solutions are selected and materialized? Secondly, many of the smart lighting solutions that are proposed generate and function based on data about the environment and people using or passing it. How do these technologies render the environment actionable? How are people imagined in this data? And how do these technologies influence or govern people’s behaviour?
(040: landline phone numbers in Eindhoven start with this number)
Brainport Smart District
A newly constructed neighbourhood, co-created, inclusive and community-based, using smart technologies for all aspects of life, and with strong sustainability goals: this is what Brainport Smart District aims to be. This greenfield development is planned in Helmond, part of the high-tech innovation and business ‘Brainport region’ around Eindhoven. While creating an innovative space for people to live, the initial drive behind Brainport Smart District came from the department of the Built Environment at Eindhoven University of Technology with the interest to create a space for academic and collaborative research and innovation. Since its inception, the range of participating actors grew substantially, including the local governments of Eindhoven and Helmond, the provincial government of Noord-Brabant, Tilburg University and SPARK campus – an innovation space for the built environment.
In this case, we primarily study the process through which this neighbourhood comes into being, with a particular focus on the aim to do this in a co-creative way, and on the role of the project’s ambitious visions. Furthermore, in this process we follow the way in which discussions take place about the governance of data that will be generated through the use of smart technologies in the neighbourhood.
Gamma radiation – the type of radiation that comes from the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei, for example in nuclear power plants – is currently measured and monitored by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The GammaSense project aims to co-create a tool for citizens to measure and monitor nuclear radiation themselves, for example using the camera of a mobile phone, laptop or tablet. The project was initiated by Waag Society, an organization working to make technology and society more open, fair and inclusive, and involved active participation from WISE, an anti-nuclear energy movement, RIVM and local city governments. Co-creation sessions took place in Amsterdam, where Waag Society is based, and in Eindhoven, Bergen op Zoom and Maastricht: three cities that are in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor or storage facility.
Research in this case focuses on the aspects of the tool’s development which were subject to knowledge politics. Which aspects were controversial, and what remains taken for granted or inaccessible for public debate? Who participates in these debates? How do these debates relate to understandings of democracy and citizenship, and how do these shift along with changes in the tool’s design?