A special cake marked the beginning of research on effective and inclusive communication about sensors in public spaces. Together with a group of national partners, this project focuses on increasing awareness about the use of smart systems in the city in order to safeguard democratic values. A standard approach is currently lacking, while it is of great importance, on the one hand, to properly inform citizens about the choice and deployment of sensors and, on the other hand, to promote interaction - participation and dissent - between government and citizens.

The use of smart city applications is increasing. For example, sensors are used in monitoring crowds in the city, charging electric cars, managing waste and maintaining public order and safety. In many cases, this makes the city more livable for its residents and leads to greater efficiency. The question is whether citizens are actually aware of all these systems and the impact they have.

Responsible Sensing Lab

Responsible Sensing Lab

Responsible Sensing Lab

Responsible Sensing Lab

Securing democracy

Many of these smart city systems are invisible and difficult to understand. Communication about sensors varies from city to city; this can confuse citizens. In addition, it would be inefficient for each province and city to work separately to improve this.

“Traffic signs in the Netherlands are recognizable and understandable to everyone. If everyone were to design them themselves, it would become a mess. With this project, we want to work toward as clear a national communication standard for sensors.”

Thijs Turèl

Program Manager Responsible Urban Digitization

Awareness and accountability are essential for a functioning democracy. Only when citizens are aware of smart applications and these systems are clearly explained is it possible for them to ask questions and denounce possible undesirable situations. A special feature of this research project is the empirical approach: for example, by investigating directly on the street what does and does not work for residents and passers-by and asking what information is needed.

National approach

The scientific and design research is a collaboration between AMS Institute, The Municipality of Amsterdam, Municipality of Rotterdam, Municipality of Utrecht, Municipality of The Hague, Province Noord-Brabant and Vereniging Nederlandse Gemeenten (VNG). The collaboration will last for one year. The coming period will be devoted to knowledge development. In the long term, the goal is to formulate a national standard approach in the field of sensor communication.

“Municipalities want to be transparent about the use of sensors as well as a nice, quiet outdoor space. It can be done simultaneously and in this project we learn how!”

Dirk van Brederode, public values manager, VNG

More about the project

If you'd like to know more about this project and follow its progress, please visit theResponsible Sensing Lab project page.