Sensors, maps, number crunching, and the Internet of Things: Reflections on the Smart Cities Expo

As the dust settles on Tech Week 2018, which was brilliantly opened in appropriate fashion by our prime minister appearing as a hologram, I thought I’d report back on the Smart Cities Expo, which was held in Christchurch last Monday. This was an opportunity for Christchurch City Council, and their commercial partners, to demonstrate some of the new technology they, and other cities around New Zealand, are using to increase their efficiency and provide better services to their citizens, while keeping costs as low as possible.

The smart city concept is essentially made up of three parts; (1) collection of data – often enormous amounts of it – about some aspect of the quality of the urban environment, or how the city is being used, (2) number crunching and visualization – often on maps – to make sense of all this information, and (3) using the results to make changes that improve the functioning of the city and enhance its citizens’ wellbeing.

Cover of The internet of thingsEasy to say, but hard to do! To take a simple example; sensors inside rubbish bins could be used to tell refuse collectors whether they need emptying, so that needless trips can be avoided, and resources can be deployed more effectively. To take this idea to its extreme, we can imagine a day when most of the things we own are collecting and sharing data that is used to improve the overall efficiency of the vast interconnected system to which they belong, to all our benefits. This has sometimes been called the Internet of Things (IoT) – a phrase that was ubiquitous throughout the Expo.

The focus of the Expo was mostly on technology, but there are, of course, significant social, legal, and ethical issues to be considered. For Smart Cities to work, we must be happy for these data to be collected, shared, and used for this purpose. We also need to be sure that the data are secure. Imagine the chaos that might ensue if someone was able to hack into the systems that run our city. Nevertheless, the feeling at the Expo was, as one might expect, optimistic that these challenges can be met, and there was even some talk of making data open access, available to everyone (suitably anonymized, of course) to empower all citizens to use it themselves in whatever way they see fit. In fact, a lot of data collected by government (both local and central) are already available, if you know where to look and how to make sense of it. For example, freely available data from the last year’s general election were used to make an interactive map of how party votes were distributed across different polling stations.

Many of the exhibits at the Expo focused on the first part of this triangle. There were devices for detecting and sensing all manner of things such as traffic, pollution, noise, vibration, etc. etc., to name just a few – the list is endless. In most cases, the data being collected are objective and easily quantifiable, but one particularly interesting application comes from a tool called Sensibel, which enables cyclists to record their subjective experiences as they cycle around the city. They can record a thumbs-up or thumbs-down at any point on their journey by pressing a button attached to their bike.

Using GPS, this records the location where it was pressed so that later on they can log in and give a lengthier explanation of what made them feel the way they did. As they do so they are presented with a view of the street where they were to jog their memory. Data collected in this way can be used to make improvements that will hopefully make cycling in the city a much more enjoyable experience, perhaps increasing the number of people prepared to ditch their cars and switch to a bike. The possibilities for using real-time data about personal experiences to make changes that will enrich our lives seem almost limitless, as long as we are prepared to share that information.

The second part of the triangle – data analysis – is harder, but again there were lots of fascinating exhibits demonstrating that rapid improvements are being made in this area. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is to translate all of this into meaningful actions – either short-term responses, medium-term policy development, or longer-term strategic directions.

It’s still early days for the Smart Cities approach, and there is much more progress to be made, but one thing is for sure, our data are increasingly going to inform how our city is run, so to be fully engaged we all need to be a bit more aware of how our data are collected and used. There has been a slew of excellent popular books about the uses and abuses of what is sometimes called “big data” published recently. Why not check some of these out of the library and explore what our future city might look like? Here are a few places you might like to start…

Big data

List created by robcruickshank

Books about the uses and abuses of “big data” and statistics. A toolkit for life in the digital age.

Cover of Automating inequalityAutomating Inequality – Argues that the use of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk modelling by governments and law enforcement agencies selectively disadvantages the poor, reinforcing existing power relationships and inequality in society.

The Efficiency Paradox – Questions whether, in our relentless pursuit of efficiency, we may as a society be missing opportunities to benefit from “the powerful potential of serendipity”.

Cover of Human + machineHuman + Machine – Explores the many ways – good and bad – that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the workplace.

Randomistas – Looks at how randomised controlled trials are increasingly being used outside their traditional home of medical science in areas as diverse as social policy, politics, business, and law enforcement.

View Full List

Find out more about Christchurch City Council’s Smart City Programme

Fun Holiday Programmes

Have a look back at our April Holiday Programmes in the Learning Centres:
‘Lego Animation’ is always a good way to kick start the holidays! We had our young movie buffs directing and producing their own short animated movies over at Te Hāpua: Halwell Centre.

At Upper Riccarton, it was all about “reduce, reuse and recycle” with our new Earth Smart programme. The children loved the activity with the miniature recycling bins.

Here at South Learning Centre, the kids had fun completing challenges using the MBots in ‘Robofun’.

Kids at South also delved into 3D printing. Their challenge was to create their own desk organisers.

Everyone loves to receive positive feedback and we did for our ‘Chill Out Tunes’ programme in New Brighton.

“I’d like to provide glowing feedback. She loved it, learned a lot, and is excited and abuzz about the programme. As a parent, I loved that I got to hear the music she’d made, and got the music emailed to me. She also had a poster of herself as David Bowie, and a CD with a cover she’d made herself.  Big thanks and Kia ora to everyone involved”.

So, if you didn’t get a chance to pop in and see what was happening, then make sure to check out the ones coming up in July.  We have a few new goodies in there! So, watch this space (new holiday programmes will go live on Friday 1 June).

Tai Sila
Programmes, Design & Delivery Team

Science and the city

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is continuing to rise. As more and more of us are crammed into these cities at ever increasing densities, there is an urgent need for innovative ideas that enable us to live together happily in comfort and good health. To achieve this, city planners are increasingly turning to science and technology for what are sometimes called smart city solutions.

As part of Techweek 2018, on Monday 21 May, Christchurch City Council’s Smart Cities programme will be hosting the 2018 Smart Cities Innovation Expo at Novotel Hotel, Cathedral Square Christchurch. Entry is free, and from 10am – 4pm visitors will be able to see a wide range of interactive exhibits showcasing local and national cutting-edge ideas for improving city life, from urban augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and smart sensors, to rapid earthquake response systems, cycling innovations, and interactive apps. In anticipation of this event, I’ve put together a list of books that explore the many ways that science and technology can help us to understand cities and make them better places to live. Enjoy!

Science and the city

List created by robcruickshank

Books about how science and technology help us to understand cities and make them better places to live

Cover of AerotropolisAerotropolis – A look at one possible future for the world’s cities

Built – This fascinating history of structural engineering from ancient times to the modern day

Built on Bones – What happened when we started living together in cities? – the archaeological evidence

Christchurch: Our underground story – A brilliant locally produced “lift-the-flap” book for children about what lies underneath our feet here in our very own city.

Darwin Comes to Town – Why cities are the best places to study evolution

Cover of The endless cityThe Endless City – A look at the future of cities around the world from the Urban Age Project at the London School of Economics – also check out the sequel – Living in the Endless City

Feral Cities – A fascinating account of urban wildlife around the world and how animals are adjusting to city life

Happy City – A travelogue the looks at the psychology of urban life around the world and how we can make cities happier places to live

Cover of The history of future citiesA History of Future Cities – A fascinating look at how four global cities have each developed and embraced modernity in their own unique ways.

View more titles in the full list

Celebrating Techweek 2018

The annual Techweek festival is here come 19-27th May, and it’s all about celebrating innovative New Zealand technology. Featuring 400 events nationwide, many Techweek events are happening in Christchurch and Christchurch City Libraries have partnered up with Code Club Aotearoa to bring the Creative Coding Minecraft Competition

Find out more about what’s happening locally.

Highlights of Techweek 2018 in Christchurch include:

Libraries and technology have walked hand in hand into the 21st Century, and Christchurch City Libraries’ own imminent new central library, Tūranga, is a flagship, paving the way with the latest in new technology (though there’ll still be plenty of that older technology known as “books”). When Tūranga opens later this year visitors will be greeted with the largest interactive touch wall in New Zealand, spanning a colossal seven metres! That would look very nice on my living room wall (if it would fit). Other Tūranga technologies in the works include:

  • Virtual Reality
  • Laser Cutters
  • 3D Printing
  • Video Editing
  • Robotics technology
Visitors to Tūranga will be able to swipe their way through a virtual world of information.

Many of these technologies can already be experienced in our libraries and learning centres.  Kids need something to do after school, and learn something in the process? Something in the wings that you’ve always wanted to get 3D printed? Or just need help getting the those photos backed up onto Google drive? Christchurch City Libraries have loads of technology-oriented after school clubs and classes for kids and adults, whether your needs are beginner or advanced!

Plus find out about how you can access 3D modelling tuition, software and print your own 3D designs at the library!

Check out our catalogue to find the latest material on computer programming, robotics, maker space and more

Cover of Kids get codingCover of Build your own robotsCover of Maker spaceCover of Robotics for young children

Find out more about Techweek 2018 >

Inter Library Robotics Competition

The atmosphere was tense.
The clock ticked down.
Sumner fought hard.
South fought back.

South 1st, South 2nd, Sumner 3rd

Next competition will see Fendalton up against South. Watch this space.

Robotics

Robotics is a six week after school programme for boys and girls Year 4 to 8. Students will learn how to programme an mBot to complete a set of challenges.

Tasty, bite-sized economics: Fifty things that made the modern economy

A History of the World in 100 Objects was my first foray into books that use something small to describe something big, and I’ve been reading them ever since.

Luckily this has proved to be a popular concept, with topics ranging from Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History, Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee, to Banana: A Global History. Each book is like a museum exhibition with each chapter a different exhibit, perfect for dipping into and reading aloud interesting facts to your long-suffering friends.

My most recent read was a little out of my comfort zone — Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford.

Cover of Fifty things that made the modern economy by Tim Harford

Hearing the words “modern” and economy” generally gives me an expression similar to my cat after he’s eaten a moth, but luckily the content delivers. Harford writes in an incredibly engaging, conversational style. Often I slog through non-fiction books as the information density can be overwhelming even if fascinating, but Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy is as readable as a novel. Each section is so short that I found it difficult to stop at the end of one chapter and not just continue on to the next.

Even more mundane-seeming inventions like the plough had far reaching effects on almost every aspect of society, a symptom of a changing life from nomadic to settled, and influencing gender relations as well as our diet (not necessarily for the better). In fact a lot of our steps forward as a species have unintentionally brought us a step back in other ways. We spend a lot less time preparing food due to ready-meals and supermarkets, but our nutrition has suffered as a result. I suppose one good thing is that by constantly creating new problems for ourselves, we’ll never run out of things to do.

Due to the nature of a long list each entry is by necessity relatively brief, but each builds on the previous chapters — Harford points out all the ways in which an invention is reliant on those that came before, or the perfect timing for an invention to take off. Some were invented several times before they caught on, and others it was only a matter of time before it was invented by someone. History is a mess of happy accidents, lucky timing and reinventing the wheel.
If you’re interested in economics, history or want to know why anyone could get excited about double-entry bookkeeping, I’d recommend dipping into Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy.

Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy
by Tim Harford
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781408709115

All About Women: Satellite Event at Christchurch Art Gallery, Sunday 4 March 2018

Cover Second SexI attended the live-streamed All about women sessions beamed in from the Sydney Opera House to the Christchurch Art Gallery on Sunday from 3pm to 7.30pm.

It was heartening to hear the introductory voiceover acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Sydney Opera House stands in both English and the local Gadigal dialect of the Dharug language.

The first session was called Grabbing Back: Women in the Age of Trump, chaired by Julia Baird and featuring author Fran Lebowitz, moderate Republican commentator Sophia Nelson, and Francesca Donner from the New York Times. Each of the panellists had been totally surprised and disheartened by Trump winning the Presidency. Nelson said she had a sense of foreboding when she saw huge Trump billboards all over rural Virginia where she lives. Lebowitz, the archetypal New Yorker, said she remembered three days in minute detail: Kennedy’s assassination, 9-11, and Trump’s election victory. She remembers the New York streets being empty at 3am on a Tuesday morning which is unheard of in “the city that never sleeps”. Donner felt that the media treated Hilary Clinton badly and that Trump’s victory was due to white fear of women and black people.

All of the panellists were puzzled by the fact that 53% of white American women voted for Trump given the many appallingly sexist comments he had made. The consensus of opinion was that those women had overlooked Trump’s sexism in order to vote for their men’s economic welfare.

Lebowitz and Donner disagreed that the #MeToo movement was not related to the rise of Trump with Donner arguing that the political climate provided the arena for the “whispers to become a roar”. Lebowitz said that #MeToo needed to concentrate now on the abuse of women in low-paid jobs. Nelson felt #MeToo needed to open up the conversation with men and that young boys needed to be taught to value women. Donner felt it was really positive that #MeToo had men now thinking much more about their behaviour.

The second session was #MeToo: the making of a movement, chaired by Jacqueline Maley and featuring Tarana Burke (Skyping just before the Oscars ceremony), and Tracey Spicer, an Australian investigative journalist.

Tarana Burke founded the MeToo movement in 2006 when it was a little-known and grassroots. The movement entered the global consciousness when actress, Alyssa Milano, started using #MeToo as an Internet hashtag in response to the allegations circulating about Harvey Weinstein.

Tracey Spicer, after 14 years with the Ten network, was dismissed in 2006 after returning from maternity leave when her second child was two months old. She took the Ten Network to court for discrimination and won. Tracey Spicer felt that the Australian media had failed to expose powerful male abusers and that women were stronger together if all their stories of being abused were told.

Tarana Burke was a community worker in Selma, Alabama, and she wondered why sexual violence wasn’t discussed as part of the social issues she was working with. As an abuse survivor from a young age herself, she felt that the young women she was working with needed a trajectory to healing. She felt a community problem needed a community solution, but most organisations were dealing with young women’s external needs, but not their internal needs.

In 1996, a shy young woman Burke calls “Heaven” told Burke how she was being molested by her mother’s boyfriend. Burke found Heaven’s story triggered her own trauma and she could not deal with it at the time. Burke later reflected that she wanted to say to Heaven “Me too”, but she couldn’t at that moment. Later, when Burke started sharing her story she found that the exchange of empathy between abuse survivors was healing.

When asked by Maley, Burke did not feel that Hollywood actresses had co-opted the MeToo movement. She felt the real co-opters were the media and corporations. Burke saw the global expansion of #MeToo as a real opportunity, but was worried about failing abuse survivors. She feels that the larger focus must be on helping those who really need the movement’s help.

Spicer made the important observation that sexual abuse/violence is a pyramid, with rape and sexual assault at the top and sexually inappropriate comments and put-downs and the like at the base. She said it all needed to be addressed as a pattern of behaviour that society should no longer tolerate.

Both panellists felt strongly that #MeToo can’t be allowed to fade into “hashtag heaven”, but must be sustained by engaging in the conversation with men and for women to continue applying pressure to the media and to politicians.

The third session was Suffragettes to Social Media: waves of Feminism, chaired by Edwina Throsby and featuring Barbara Caine, Anne Summers, Rebecca Walker and Nakkiah Lui. Each panellist spoke about the wave of feminism with which they were most familiar.

Barbara Caine spoke about the first wave of feminism. She said they started as very polite, upper middle-class women called the Suffragists until Emmeline Pankhurst made the movement more militant. The term, “Suffragette”, was coined by the Daily Mail newspaper with the intention of being patronising by using the diminutive ending “ette”. Pankhurst galvanised the movement by instigating property damage whereby the Suffragettes were determined to be arrested for the publicity and when they were jailed, they demanded to be treated as political prisoners. They sought the sexual mores of men, but were still somewhat exclusive as their aim was to seek the vote for white, middle-class women. Caine ascertained that the first wave ended with the advent of World War One.

Anne Summers was a protagonist in the second wave of Feminism. She was a young woman in the 1960s when the Vietnam War and Women’s Lib were prominent in the headlines. Although revolution was being espoused, she realised that “it was still women who were doing the shit work of the Revolution”.

Books such as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex radicalised women in the 1960s who sought a total transformation of Capitalism and Imperialism. In Summers’ pithy phrase: “women wanted equal pay and orgasms”. Through their activism, they brought about many reforms including anti-discrimination, gender pay equality, rape crisis centres, better child care provisions and getting more women into higher education.

Summers said the ’60s and ’70s saw a flowering of women’s creativity and it never occurred to her or many of her fellow feminists  that the changes they had wrought would not be permanent. Unfortunately, John Howard’s government came to power in Australia in 1996 and “turned back the clock’ by dismantling many of the reforms.

Rebecca Walker spoke about the third wave of Feminism. She grew up believing in feminist ideals, but found, in the early 1990s, that many young women felt a “deep disconnect” with Feminism. She saw a need to re-radicalise a generation of women who felt alienated by Feminism. Women of colour felt left out of Feminism, seeing it as a white, middle-class movement. She perceived that the movement needed a more diverse leadership and had to emphasise both similarities and differences. She spoke of the need for third wave Feminism to become multi-issue, inclusive and working for all forms of equality.

Nakkiah Lui wasn’t sure if she represented a fourth wave of feminism, but, as a “queer black woman”, she knew she didn’t want to be part of the patriarchy. She said her feminist hero was her mother who had only identified herself as a feminist two years ago. Her mother grew up in a tent and had to leave school in Year 10, but she left a violent domestic relationship to go into tertiary education and now she works in Aboriginal communities empowering indigenous women.

Liu said many indigenous women in Australia still endure high rates of domestic violence, have lesser life expectancy and fear having their children taken from them by government agencies. As for fourth wave Feminism, she said there can be no “true victories if they don’t include all women”.

More about women

Learning with Lynda

Have you been thinking about changing careers or retraining, but not sure if you want to take the plunge? How about checking out Lynda.com, an online video tutorial website available at Christchurch City Libraries?

With more than 6,300 courses and 267,000 video tutorials, Lynda has something for everyone. The website is easy to use – all you need is a library card and PIN and the courses are free! There is a huge range available, all designed and taught by recognised industry experts. Courses indicate their audience level – for beginners or advanced – so you are able to immediately tell if it is the right course for you.

Each course is broken up into small tutorials so you can learn at your own pace. So check out your learning options with Lynda.com, free with your Christchurch City Libraries Library membership.

Check out some of these options available right now!

  • Web Designer
  • Songwriter
  • Design a Comic Book
  • App Developer
  • Microsoft Office
  • IT Security Specialist
  • Social Media Marketer
  • Photographer
  • Video Editor
  • Project Manager
  • Master 2D Animation

Lynda.com logo

Find out more about Lynda.com

Be cyber smart this week (and every week)

Do you think much about your cyber Security?

27 November to 1 December 2017 is New Zealand Cyber Smart Week.

It is being promoted by CertNZ, an agency that exists to understand and advise both government organizations and New Zealanders about threats to their online security and how to minimize and respond to them.

They work closely with organizations such as the Police, NetSafe and Internal Affairs.

Like many things, prevention is better than cure. So, whether it is an offer that is too good to be true from a Nigerian Prince, or the fact that your password is – ahem – password, take a moment this week to think about how you can take a few simple steps to protect yourself and your family.

Cover of Internet security made easy Cover of Future crimes Cover of Understanding the digital world

Find out more

Simon
Digital Library Services

World Standards Day 14 October

Every year since 1970 World Standards Day has been celebrated to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers on the importance of standardisation to the global economy. The day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the collaborative efforts of the thousands of experts worldwide who develop the standards.

This year the theme for World Standards Day is Standards make cities smarter.

Building a Smart City is highly complex. Every city faces its own challenges and requires its own mix of solutions. Sufficient fresh water; universal access to cleaner energy; the ability to travel efficiently from one point to another; a sense of safety and security: these are the kinds of promises modern cities must fulfill if they are to stay competitive and provide a decent quality of life to their citizens.

With standards, we can make our cities smarter, step by step. Individual islands of smartness can grow together and interconnect to:

  1. Support the development of tailor-made solutions that can be adapted to the particular circumstances of a given city
  2. Open the door to a larger choice of products and services
  3. Make things work safely and smoothly together at every level in cities

Current New Zealand Standards (NZS), and joint Australian/New Zealand Standards (AS/NZS) are available online at any of our libraries.

Print copies can be borrowed at Central Library Peterborough or requested from any of our community libraries.

More information about our Standards Collection.