Academy of the Near Future (new website incoming!) is a smart cities education programme being developed by Dublin City Council, Smart Docklands and CONNECT, the world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications at Trinity College Dublin 🚀

At the beginning of 2021, we received Science Foundation Ireland funding to develop a version of the programme designed specifically for transition year students. In subsequent programme phases, this experience will be built upon to accommodate a wider group of learners, from citizens interested in learning more about how technology is changing their city, to local authority staff looking to upskill.

The programme is a blend of hands-on workshops (featuring fun with Microbits📲) complemented by online learning. Learners will be introduced to smart city concepts, the Internet of Things, connectivity technologies, and ethical considerations associated with smart cities. 

Why do we need a smart cities education programme?

Cities today are facing a hugely complex set of challenges including climate change, shifts in population demographics, economic downturns and pandemics. Technology is both a disruptor and an enabler for cities. Smart technologies, in particular, present a huge opportunity for cities working towards holistic solutions to these issues, but the use of technology in the public realm also raises important questions for citizens around issues such as privacy, safety and sustainability.

As cities move towards more connected and data-driven infrastructure, it is vital that information and education opportunities explaining the concepts and technologies underpinning these initiatives are available to everyone if we are to facilitate inclusive growth and avoid using “tech for tech’s sake”.

What have we achieved so far? 🌱

Starting out on this journey, we worked closely with Wia, an Irish IoT startup, and design experts Context Studio to design and run workshop pilots over the course of 2020. The success of these helped us to secure Science Foundation Ireland Discover funding to scale up a version of the programme for Transition Year students in 2021.

Since January, we’ve been preparing to deliver the Academy programme at scale. This has included hiring a new Programme Delivery Manager and working on the launch of a new website that will host the Academy’s educational content.

We’ve also been working closely with transition year students to co-design the learning experience. Through a blend of interviews and workshops, insights from the students themselves are helping us shape our approach to programme delivery.

What’s next? 🪴

We’ll be launching our transition year programme in June this year and engaging 1,000 students across the country over the following 12 months. In the later part of this year, we’ll be launching a version of the programme for Dublin City Council staff who want to learn more about how smart city technologies are affecting their areas of work. 

ANF programme timeline

What do we aim to achieve? 🌳

The mission of the Academy is to educate and raise awareness of the opportunity smart city technology presents, empowering learners and facilitating the development of inclusive smart cities.

We aim to achieve this through the following key goals:

  • Deepen understanding of smart city technologies (with a focus on IoT, sensors and connectivity).
  • Reduce the barriers for people wanting to engage with these technologies.
  • Provide knowledge of how these technologies can be used to address city challenges for local government officials, citizens and entrepreneurs.
  • Build trust in the possibility of technology to address city challenges.

Get involved! 🙋‍♀️

Interested in running a smart cities workshop for transition years at your school? Or just want to learn more? Get in touch at 👋