Urban Innovation Games

Design Thinking & User Centered Design for Innovative Business Ideas in Cities

Design thinking and user-centered design can play a crucial role not only in product design, but also (or maybe even more) in service design. Surprisingly enough, they are not so frequently applied to public utility services though. This is quite unfortunate, as they could foster significant improvement in people life and at the same time open up interesting business opportunities for startups and also established companies.

To put this to test, we organized a set of hands-on workshops in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with the aim of creating innovative solutions in the urban context. The sessions applied the design thinking and user-centered design methods over urban problem solving.

We defined five teams, composed by a diverse set of experts coming from academia, industry, and public administration. Their expertise covered data science, urban studies, architecture, design, computer science and others.

The teams have come up with extremely interesting problems and solutions that proficiently combine domain knowledge about the city and large-scale data collection and data science contributions.

Here are the problems emerged and the proposed solutions!

Problem 1: delivery trucks blocking the streets

Trucks delivering parcels of online purchases to the home of the final customers are growing in number and more and more creating traffic issues.

Solution: to build centralized delivery platforms where trucks drop the parcels, and users can either collect them themselves, or have middle-man (crowdsourced?) delivering the parcels at home by bike for a slightly higher price.


Problem 2: shortage of houses in Amsterdam

Long term solutions: apply policies similar to the ones where families can buy their own home, where groups of families work for renovating abandoned or old office and industry buildings.

Short term solution: 40sq meter containers for students and immigrants for temporary use. They can be paired for bigger-size houses.

Data used: demographics and predictions for studying the house demand, available areas.

Problem 3: garbage piling up in the streets at night

A lot of garbage (mainly from restaurants) piles up at night in the streets, although the allowed time for putting it outside is only from 6am to 8am.

Solution: build a tube system where people can drop trash. There would be access points where to drop trash and the tube would push it away with a vacuum / pneumatic pressure.


Problem 4: difficulty to find and collect information about city environment and public transportation

People may want to spend time in some new areas of the city (not precisely known), want to know the reasons of delays, or want to know about fares and rules.

Solution: mobile app that applies augmented reality, heatmaps, FAQ and official data, crowdsourcing of hashtags on locations.


Problem 5: Puddles on the streets after rain may create problems to bikers and pedestrians

People get wet when driving-by cars splash them with the water of puddles that form after storms and rain. This same problem can be a reference, on a bigger scale, also for more critical problems like flooding and road disruptions.

Solution: use the data on the materials used for building the streets, for predicting the status of the street with respect to puddles. Considering also other data types (steepness of streets and slopes, sewage maps, and so on) can increase quality of the monitoring. Also, crowdsourcing on the position and risk of puddles can be used.


Ack. This workshop has been organised by the Crowdinsights project funded by EIT Digital. The workshops were organized in the context of the EIT Urban Data Science bootcamp in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, held by instructors from Politecnico di Milano, TU Delft, AMS — Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, and FBK.