New episode of ADAPT Radio’s ‘HumanAIse’ focuses on AI and Sustainable Cities

24 April 2023

ADAPT Radio’s HumanAIse series continues this month with a discussion on AI and Sustainable Cities with Professor Aphra Kerr and Dublin City Council’s Jamie Cudden.

As we live faster lives, we need our cities to be smarter, more sustainable and easier to live in. Currently, Dublin City Council, in partnership with ADAPT, are running two research projects as part of the Smart Dublin initiative: Smart D8 and Digital Twin. Joining this month’s podcast to discuss is Professor Aphra Kerr, Professor in Sociology at Maynooth University and funded Principal Investigator (PI) and Science Lead in ADAPT, and Jamie Cudden, the Smart City Programme Manager at Dublin City Council. Both Prof. Kerr and Mr. Cudden worked directly with this initiative and shared the details of the work so far during the podcast.

The Digital Twin project aims to engage the community, enterprise and other stakeholders of Dublin in an innovative collaboration to explore stakeholder and community engagement with Digital Twin technology.  The Smart D8 project is a testbed for innovation, collaboration and engagement in Dublin 8 and aims to explore the new technologies and pilot innovative health and wellbeing solutions to improve quality of life and address challenges facing local communities in the area. For example, one example given during the podcast is the creation of  virtual cycle paths that can be tested via a Virtual Reality (VR) cycle ride to review the potential impact. However, the Smart City program raises questions about citizen data and best practice when involving residents. 

Kicking off the podcast, Mr Cudden discusses the increase of sensors and technology around Dublin in the last ten years that has created an almost invisible city of technology and potential trackable data. He draws examples from traffic light optimisation, i.e. ensuring pedestrians have priority on the roads and creating sequences to optimise the flow of traffic within the city. These sensors can collect information on the amount of cars or cyclists on the road that can be used by Dublin City Council to determine if their schemes are helping with congestion or assist in policy intervention.  Another example he refers to is the huge amount of smart bins currently operating in the city that can compact waste and update waste management on their levels to ensure cleaning is completed in the most efficient way possible. He refers to the potential of utilising this kind of data to improve services and policies in our cities for our citizens. 

Prof Kerr discusses the potential issues around data governance and the collection of this type of data that Mr Cudden refers to. She highlights how ADAPT can develop trustworthy data governance practices and how important it is to design them as early as possible into new technology systems so the collection of data takes place in an ethical way. She also highlights the importance of citizen engagement in this kind of work as citizens are often the first response to the actual barriers of an area through day-to-day engagement. The collaboration of citizens, legal scholars, computer and social scientists within ADAPT can ensure the data is being used in a way that is both ethically and legally compliant with emerging regulations nationally and at a European level.

Mr Cudden also delves into how the Smart City programme developed and evolved providing a unique insight into the project. He discusses a two year span of pilots run with Dublin City Council and the digital hub as well as the dimension of expertise that ADAPT researchers brought to the partnership. Both Mr Cudden and Prof Kerr also discuss their vision of success for the projects. Both projects are in relatively early stages and Mr Cudden highlights the importance of delivering impact and traction over the next five to ten years. He mentions how this is a great time to test and learn from the projects in order to take the most workable parts that could potentially be developed into additional transformative programs. Prof Kerr highlights the potential for reviewing best practices in other cities and the impact of new training initiatives being rolled out that are upskilling Dublin City Council workers in certain areas on these new technologies. Finally, Prof Kerr discusses the potential positive impact of the projects in that they could be rolled out into other districts, and even other cities across Ireland, and both seamlessly transform the areas and encourage citizen engagement.

For further insight into the interactions of humans and AI, catch HumanAIse on SoundCloud, iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

ADAPT Radio: HumanAIse is ADAPT’s newest podcast series providing an in-depth look at the future of AI, automation and the implications of entrusting machines with our most sensitive information and decisions.