A big focus of our pilot programme is to test and explore what is the best way to teach the basics of the Internet of Things (IoT) and help participants understand how it can be used to address city challenges.

In late January we held our first pilot workshop. The purpose of this first workshop was to test whether participants saw value in the programme, to get feedback on the workshop style and content and to understand how it could be improved to provide more value for local government staff.

We held the two hour interactive ‘maker’ style workshop at the Dogpatch Labs Ideation Space in the Dublin Docklands and brought in Conal Laverty, the CEO and Founder of Wia to facilitate. We invited 16 participants from the Smart Dublin team, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown City Council and Dublin City Council.

During the workshops participants were given an overview of; what is a smart city, the Internet of Things and different connectivity options. Conal also provided a brief introduction to the company Wia and talked through some of the ways their technology is helping to address different challenges around the world including traffic congestion and air pollution.

For the first activity participants were asked to brainstorm the different city challenges that they had experienced or were working on in their current roles. These challenges included flooding, noise control, pollution, congestion, energy consumption and waste.

Participants were then introduced to the Wia Cloud Platform and the Dot One Sensor Kit. These kits were equipped with the Wia Dot One Maker Board and a range of different sensors including; moisture, temperature/C02/humidity, particulate matter (pollution), PIR (motion), noise and ultrasonic (distance).

In pairs, participants were asked to choose one of the city challenges that had been identified earlier and choose one or more of these sensors to help provide information to address the challenge. They were given 30 minutes to connect up their sensor(s) using the Dot One to the Wia Cloud, create a data feed, and to prepare a 90 second pitch which detailed how they would use the sensor(s) to address the city challenge. 

In their pairs, they pitched their solutions back to the group highlighting what was their city challenge, what information they would need to help solve the problem, which sensor they would use to collect the data and how it could help address the problem.

The workshops wrapped up with a demo of the Gully Spy sensor that Dublin City Council is currently piloting Docklands to help predict and reduce surface level flooding. It demonstrated how when the sensor is submerged in water (as would happen when a gully is full) that a notification is sent to a dashboard to alert the responsible team in the Council that one of their gully is blocked and now flooding.

Following the formal workshop we held a 30-minute evaluation and feedback session. Participants filled in an evaluation form and then we had facilitated discussion about their perspective on the workshop highlighting what worked well and what could be improved.

The overall sense from participants was that they saw real value in the programme – with all scoring either 4 or 5 out of 5 as to whether they would recommend the session to others. General comments included “very educational and informative and practical”, “very useful exercise to understand how IoT can be used to measure issues in a city location”, “It was great to learn about the architecture and potential of IoT. Ideation exercise was great as a team building piece”. 

Participants reported that they loved being able to actually build their own sensor network – “very rewarding to build a sensor network myself”,  “really enjoyed the hands on experience” and “great to see what’s behind the technology”. They also felt that the programme would provide benefit to not just local authority staff and secondary school aged children but also to a wider more general audience including community groups and those looking to retrain or upskill. 

While the overall feedback indicated that there is definitely value in teaching these concepts through an interactive way, the participants and project team also highlighted aspects of the session that could be improved. The key areas that participants felt we need to review were; the amount of content covered in the 2 hour session – could some of this be delivered online or in a follow up session?, making it real for participants – the Gully Spy demonstration helped to bring the concepts to life so it would be great to have this early one, what’s next – participants had a lot of practical questions about how they actually deploy sensors in the city so would love some information about that. 

Running a pilot workshop was such a valuable experience for us. We learnt that there is a real need and want for this programme and also great ideas about how it can be improved. Since this workshop we have hired professional maker workshop facilitator to help us bring the workshop to life and also have begun developing online learning modules to better structure the programme.