#59 DOLL Living Lab: An Innovation Playground Building Synergies in Smart Cities

Episode 65 January 10, 2024 00:35:31
#59 DOLL Living Lab: An Innovation Playground Building Synergies in Smart Cities
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#59 DOLL Living Lab: An Innovation Playground Building Synergies in Smart Cities

Jan 10 2024 | 00:35:31


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In this episode recorded at the 2023 edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress, we discussed with Teddy Axelsen, the Head of DOLL Living Lab at We Build Denmark.

In this conversation, Teddy delves into the concept of the "Innovation Playground," detailing how DOLL bridges the gap between technology partners and decision-makers in the realm of Smart City solutions. From addressing city challenges to measuring the success of initiatives, the dialogue covers key themes such as data visualisation and the role of living labs in shaping the future of sustainable and connected urban spaces.


Are you interested in gaining practical experience and knowledge of Smart City developments through a site visit to a Living Lab? Register your interest here.


Overview of the episode:

[00:01:45] Teaser: If DOLL Living Lab were a recipe, what would be the key ingredients for its success?

[00:02:34] Teddy's Professional Background

[00:03:58] What is DOLL Living Lab and what is its mission?

[00:07:37] What is the main challenge that cities are confronting today?

[00:11:10] Two types of technologies that have been tested in DOLL: Waste Management & IoT

[00:13:23] BABLE & DOLL collaboration: "Deep Dives"

[00:17:02] What is behind the concept of an "Innovative Playground"?

[00:18:59] What are the advantages for public decision-makers in participating in initiatives like DOLL Living Lab?

[00:20:57] How is the success of the initiatives and technologies tested within the living lab measured?

[00:23:03] What are the drawbacks and concerns associated with the extensive digitization of public spaces and the deployment of smart technologies in cities? 

[00:26:53] Flip the Script: our guest is asking the question!

[00:31:51] Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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Want to join us for an episode? Contact our host Tamlyn Shimizu.


And for more insights, visit the BABLE Smart Cities Knowledge Hub!

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Tamlyn Shimizu: Welcome to Smart in the city, the BABLE podcast, where we bring together top actors in the smart city arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. I am your host, Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope you will enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to accelerate the change for a better urban life. [00:00:31] Tamlyn Shimizu: Smart in the City is brought to you by BABLE Smart Cities we enable processes from research and strategy development to co creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at BABLE Smartcities EU. [00:00:46] Tamlyn Shimizu: So what are living labs and how are they contributing to sustainable urban innovation? And how does Europe's leading living lab address the needs of emerging smart and connected cities? So that's some of the questions that we're going to be talking about today with our guests. I am back at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. So big thanks also to Fiera Barcelona, the organizers for hosting BABLE as official collaborating partners this year. I'm recording with our partners and other stakeholders, and this is the fifth podcast episode I'm recording here at the event, so I hope you enjoy all of them. So with me today, without further ado, I want to introduce our guest, and I know him already quite well from some of our work together. So it's really a pleasure for me to welcome him and introduce him to all of you. His name is Teddy Axelsen. He's a head of DOLL Living Lab at we build Denmark. Welcome, Teddy. [00:01:42] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Thanks a lot, Tamlyn. And thank you for having me here. [00:01:45] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. Our pleasure. We've been talking about having the podcast for a little while, and I'm glad that we finally got the chance to do it. So I like to start off with a little teaser to get us warmed up into the main interview part. And the teaser I've selected for you today is if DOLL Living Lab were a recipe, what would be the key ingredients for its success? [00:02:09] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Wow, that was a good one, I think. Now, being in Spain and Barcelona, I definitely would prefer as a tapas, a tapas with different ingredients, meals, so we can, like building blocks when we can make different components, sorry, different combinations, et cetera. [00:02:34] Tamlyn Shimizu: Bringing all the tapas together. Yeah, absolutely. Good. So I like to also start off with letting the listeners know a little bit about you. Who are you? What's your background? How did that lead you to your role today at DOLL Living Lab? [00:02:47] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: All right, my background is I have a business background. So focusing on business development, innovation, sustainable business models, requiring the possibilities to work across the value chains, try to combine different domains, different areas within a single focus, with a platform, focus, platform leadership, basically involving the different business partners to support their business development, to support their innovation. So definitely I'm feeling that the background I'm contributing with here, I can unfold and apply it in many different ways, together with different partners, being company partners, but also our development partners, strategic collaborations like BABLE and universities, knowledge institutions, so many different perspectives on things. [00:03:51] Tamlyn Shimizu: Bringing it all together. [00:03:52] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Bringing it all together. [00:03:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very nice. [00:03:55] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Forging the new developments, new business opportunities. [00:03:58] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. Very important in this landscape that we're seeing today. So can you start also with providing a bit more of an overview, maybe describing also what is a living lab, what is DOLL Living Lab and what is the mission. [00:04:15] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Well, having nearly ten years of experience working with living labs, developing on a continuous basis new layers to what a living lab can do, I do not think there's one answer to what a living lab is. There's many different versions, examples of living labs across Europe, the world. But I'm quite confident in saying that the DOLL Living Lab started out in 2014. We have been on this living lab journey for quite some time and doing on our way. We also been confident in saying this is a leading liver lab in Europe, and it has been born in that way to have an international outreach, to be an international facility to bring together different partners from different regions, pockets of knowledge and technologies, et cetera. So the DOLL Living Lab, to my knowledge and to the feedback we get from the different partners, is quite unique in its way. It has been designed, been born, established, and the continuous development we've added to it presents some unique opportunities for the users of the living lab, both the technology partners of different kinds, but also the decision makers, public private decision makers, having the need to get closer to the newest developments of different kinds. [00:05:50] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. So walk us through it a little bit. So, a living lab also, for those maybe that aren't super familiar with the term, the goal is basically to test technology right in a real environment and see what's actually feasible for this living lab. [00:06:08] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: It's absolutely about having this neutral meeting place, this innovation play in innovation platform, where we on the one hand can bring the ones who have the solutions, best practice, next practice, and on the other hand, the decision makers. So we can bridge the gap between what are the next opportunities, the new technological developments, and how to apply it in practice, how to implement it in a real world, so it can have the effect, the impact that we hope for, and having this neutral facility to be able to do that. That's the whole point, to test and demonstrate in different manners, different ways. And by that, bridging the gap, mature the mindsets of the ones who need those new solutions to address goals, developments, having the right impact. Easier said than done. But important here is we have a continuous development, and that's also, from my perspective, an important aspect of the living lab that it is, as opposed to a project. It doesn't have an ending line. It's a facility where we can add on the newest development on a continuous basis. And that's important. [00:07:37] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. What do you think? So you're very well up to date with what's going on in the space. What do you think is really the main challenge from your area that cities are confronting today? And what do they need to accelerate change? [00:07:59] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Throughout the years, we have encountered some main challenges from the city perspective. One is definitely the opportunity to adjust the structure within the organization of the cities, to be able to adapt the solutions, to make use of the solutions in a way that makes fully sense, because this is not only about investing and starting use of new ways of addressing a service in the city, but it's also about having the opportunity to operate it on a continuous basis afterwards. So that's definitely a focus point, a challenge that the city organization have the competencies, the capabilities, on a structural level to absorb the new developments. Often I also hear about the technical challenges, and yes, they're there. But from my perspective, it's not always the ones that are the most difficult barrier. It is, to a fair extent, the structural barriers that are more dominating, because the technological developments, the devices, the protocols, the communication, the access to the data, et cetera. Of course, there are some still elements in this that has to mature more. But overall, the maturement of that part of things is on a quite mature level. [00:09:50] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. [00:09:51] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Okay. So that was one of the challenges. And another one is definitely also having this critical sense about what dates do we actually need. It's not a problem to generate a lot of data, but we need a very clear scope on what particular dates do we need. How do we put activate them in the best way possible to generate right insights and the right appliance of the information it generates? I think that's where we are at the moment to practice more on this. And that's where one of our main focuses at the moment with the development of the living lab, is to be able to demonstrate this data, insights in trading ways together with partners, on top of still keeping in mind that the technology, the way the data has to find its way onto the different platforms, different applications that is needed to make it work. [00:11:10] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. Do you have an example of that in practice? Some kind of practical example or use case or other use cases of types of technologies that have been tested in DOLL? Yeah, there are many, I know, but. [00:11:28] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: There are quite some. Yeah, but a clear example, and that's, for example, in waste management. That was one of our main focuses not so long ago to work with that domain or that service area. We had great solutions, we had great technologies in play, and it all worked out really well. But again, back to the structural barrier, that was the main focus, to make it be able to go all the way into the organization of the city, to be able to apply it. So that's definitely within one area of technology, and a newer example is definitely also the appliance of technologies, let's say within the intelligent traffic systems domain, intelligent traffic lights, where we also have great opportunities to make that junction in our cities more dynamic, because those junctions or intersections are organizing a lot of the flow in the city. But to have it in a more dynamic manner, we have many quite interesting opportunities to make that more smart, the more dynamic, more efficient, but being able to pass it on for have one first step is to do it in practice and then pass on the experiences. The opportunities to the decision makers is certainly another exercise. [00:13:23] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. And I've actually had the pleasure of visiting Dahl for your launch of the lab. And in my experience, it really is so dynamic to go and see it and be able. I think some guy was pedaling us around in a bike and we got the opportunity to go and visit and see all the different solutions in action, go across the street and see how it works to change the lights in a dynamic way and all of this. And it's just different than seeing it on paper. So that was my personal experience. Also to share, I want to touch on our collaboration, of course, with DOLL and BABLE, we've partnered on a collaboration, we've called it deep dives. And can you maybe give the listeners a little bit of a background story of our collaboration and what the program is? [00:14:15] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Absolutely. Well, it started out getting to know one another and we quickly found out that at our end we have some unique contributions and you, and you have some unique contribution, but having a combined package were actually a nice fit. So in the sense of the living lab having the best practice, nest practice implemented on very practical level, in combination with your knowledge, your deeper modules of how to contextualize around the technology being plotting in practice is a nice combination, and the possibility in this is that we have the opportunity to, after having explored how to do in practice, having the opportunity to also go behind and see, okay, how do you then make the most use of this new information, this new technology you're applying, linking it to the goals of the cities and discuss how they can build their capacity, can build their competences to make the most of it? [00:15:35] Tamlyn Shimizu: Basically, yeah, absolutely. It's been really fun getting to know DOLL on a deeper level. And a little bit of a call to action, too, for any of our listeners out there. If you are interested in having a site visit to DOLL, as I said, in my experience, it is really phenomenal. Also, it's not so far from Copenhagen, which is not a bad place to visit, and it's really in such an innovative area and such a forward way of thinking in the region. And there you can come, you can visit DOLL, you can see all these different implementations firsthand, and then you can also learn together with other people, either from your team or maybe from other people in your region, et cetera, together with our BABLE trainers, with our BABLE academy. So we have a lot of great modules that we can offer, and then combine that with DOLL's expertise and this really dynamic site visit. I think it's a really cool experience. So just a little plug and a little call to action there to reach out to us. We'll definitely link it in the show notes here, too, but back to DOLL completely. Now, I love this wording that you use called innovation Playground. And you say that DOLL is an innovation playground. Can you explain what that means and how this concept kind of benefits the development of solutions? [00:17:02] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: All right, as mentioned in the beginning, having the opportunity to play with a lot of bricks or building blocks, basically, that's what's unique about this facility, this innovation playground. So all the different, that being the knowledge, the expert knowledge from the different partners, the technology, the devices, the different niche developments from different partners, the network, the collaborations from different partners, put it into the same pot, melting pot, basically. That's where it becomes really interesting. And that's what, to our experience, being working with this every day is making a lot of fun. [00:17:56] Tamlyn Shimizu: You feel like kids on a playground. [00:17:59] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Well, it's like having this base legal platform, and we have different colors of legal bricks and different sizes, shapes. And every time we have a new partner coming into the lab, we have more of one of the colors or new shapes. Then we can build new combinations. And in that sense, that is what is happening. And that's also where the innovation grows by making these new combinations, exploring how to apply the technologies in different contexts and together with different partners, different combinations with partners and technologies. That's where the extra things and the extra synergies, the extra sparks of new ideas, developments and how most importantly to apply. It often happens. [00:18:59] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. So a large portion of our listeners are from public sector, and you often host public sector participants. In your visits to Dahl, I'm wondering what you've seen has been the biggest advantage that they've taken away from the visit with them and then to start making change in their city. What is that advantage that they gain? [00:19:30] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: To my experience, the biggest advantage is definitely that you, on a very practical level, go to see how things are installed in a real life environment. You build your understanding from that perspective and onwards, and from there on, you learn more about, okay, what I see in a one to one scale, in a real life environment, on street level is, well, it can be a light pole with a luminaire on top. But when we are at living lab, we go different levels behind that physical element and explore, okay, what is decisive for having this intelligent solution in our urban space? How to make it work the best way possible? What are the data, what are the controls behind it? And basically make it as familiar as possible. Because you have this combination of having explored it in practice, have been demonstrated, the functionalities in practice, and afterwards can talk about the different layers behind it, creates the full understanding in a much better way. [00:20:57] Tamlyn Shimizu: And then it quickens the speed of implementation. Right. It accelerates that since it's already been tested and it's already been implemented in this way, it really accelerates this process. Right? Yeah, very important in the context of developing livable and sustainable communities, of course. How do you at DOLL Living Lab kind of measure the success of initiatives and technologies tested? [00:21:30] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Well, success we measure in different levels. One is, of course, the technological level. We need the devices, we need the technology to work well. It has to be a certain level of comfort in it and trust in a system that it actually does turn on. If you would like to regulate, it does regulate, et cetera. Right. And that's a very important first thing, that you can provide that experience of the technology being applied, that it does react according to how you would like it to react, basically. But on top of that, and I've been mentioning that a couple of times, to apply it in the right manner, to, to have the opportunity to evaluate whether it makes the right impact in the right context. That is the most important thing because we can build a lot of smart things, smart elements that can do a lot of great stuff, but it needs to fit the right context. That is also a big part of the living lab, to understand those different ways of applying less advanced or more advanced approaches to a certain need, a certain problem. [00:23:03] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. And what do you think about kind of concerns or potential drawbacks associated with kind of maybe extensive digitization of public spaces and deployment of smart technologies? What are really the drawbacks or concerns that you're seeing, like, viable concerns in the space? [00:23:27] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Again, it's easier said than done, and you can also tend to be fascinated about different new approaches, new ways to solve, to address a certain need or a certain problem. But the key is really to understand at what level are you able to apply the right technology, the right use of data, et cetera, to address that need on the go. As part of this development, this journey, we are faced with different opportunities, different solutions at different levels, and some can be really great, really advanced, too. But that's not always the level of solutions you need in some cities to solve that particular problem you're looking for. [00:24:32] Tamlyn Shimizu: So the level of application of data and that kind of thing is one of the main concerns, from your viewpoint? [00:24:39] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Yeah, we have a lot of technology, a lot of opportunities to apply to the data, but we need to understand much better when to address when to make the right use of what level of advancement to when and how much. [00:24:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, very good. At this point, I always like to give the open floor to my guests in case you have something that you're really passionate about, that you want to get off your chest, that you really want the listeners to know about, this is your time. Do you have something for the open floor? [00:25:13] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Absolutely, I have. What I also would like to make clear for the listeners is definitely the opportunities of understanding the data side of things much better. In the DOLL Living Lab. We have been progressing a lot during the years in terms of having the opportunity to test and demonstrate on a physical level, but the opportunity to also visualize and demonstrate the data and build innovation on top of different data via local digital twins. Data spaces, common data spaces across on a country level or a european level. That's where we also are heading towards at the moment, and that is offering some new opportunities for living labs or demonstration sites, because to a certain extent, we can be more connected. We can be connected on a digital level, so we can work with the solutions, say, in a Copenhagen based area like ourselves, but also together with a city in Germany, a city in Belgium or in Norway. Or the, like, other places in Denmark. So we have the opportunity being offered that we can connect the different pockets of innovation on a next level, so to speak. [00:26:53] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. All right, that's all I have for you. In the main interview part now is a segment. So in each episode, we select a different segment. And the segment that I chose for you today is called flip the script. Flip the script. You are the one asking the questions, and I'll be the one answering them. Do you have a question for me that you want me to answer? [00:27:21] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Well, we are right now in Barcelona for the smart city Expo. What have been some of your most interesting experiences in the last couple of days? What have making most light bulb moments. [00:27:39] Tamlyn Shimizu: Light bulb moments. [00:27:40] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: The biggest impressions to you? [00:27:41] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah. Okay. So I have a few. So, on Monday, we had our side event, and that was together with Barcelona, actually, with Pem, which is a strategic plan of Barcelona. And with them, we had a really dynamic event, and we had some key takeaways around co creation, around democracy as the european capital of democracy. And I think there were amazing takeaways. I won't get into them in too much depth, because we do have a lot of writing to do and taking, really a lot of concrete work that a lot of the participants did together. But it was really cool to see everyone come together. And that was all about how democracy. And I think when I hear democracy, I think of maybe politics first, but actually, democracy is about citizen participation in all the processes that go along with urban innovation. So that was a really good understanding for me. I haven't worked so much in the field of democracy, let's say. Then the next day, I had a podcast episode. It was together with our partners, Resi, the spanish network of smart city cities. And we brought together the CDO from Madrid and the CDO from Istanbul. And by the end of the podcast, they didn't know each other before. That's the aim of this kind of series. And by the end of that, I swear I said it on the podcast, too. I was like, they're hugging each other. They said, this is the start of such a long standing cooperation between Madrid and Istanbul. And that was a really cool moment for me. And the last one I want to highlight is just earlier this morning, we had a session called Urban Shark Tank. And that session, the sharks are cities, actually, in this context. So we brought together on the central Agora here, we had a shark panel. So we had someone from the city of Barcelona. We had someone from a council part of Dublin, and then we also had someone from a city in Germany. And then we had three companies who applied. They submitted use cases to our BABLE platform and they pitched their use cases and they got incredible feedback from the sharks. They asked really tough questions, so they had 5 minutes to pitch and then the sharks could ask them. Each had a time to ask them one question, and that's the second time we've done that session, last time being at urban future conference. And that session to me just embodies of what we want to do as BABLE in the field, which is bringing, and I think it aligns very well with also what you are trying to do, which is bringing these innovations, these innovators to a space with cities and having them build upon each other and ask each other the tough questions to get to the place where the companies are providing something really useful for the cities of high value and it's what the citizens want. And the cities are giving them honest feedback and helping them build this together. So those are kind of a few of my highlights. There's many more. We've had some great sessions, but I won't go too much into it otherwise. I become a monologue here. And this episode is about you. But I appreciate that question. There's a lot of really cool experiences here. [00:31:14] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Well, thanks for sharing javelin. And it pops into my mind. Building on what you just mentioned here is that we have some similar missions. [00:31:25] Tamlyn Shimizu: Absolutely. [00:31:26] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: We are able to pursue. One of the important elements in this is we have the opportunity to be this neutral platform for creating the interesting meetings between decision makers and the ones who provide the new interesting solutions. [00:31:43] Tamlyn Shimizu: Absolutely. [00:31:43] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: That particular space, a lot of nice questions, perspective on things. [00:31:51] Tamlyn Shimizu: Absolutely. Watch that space, that space where innovation can thrive. And I think that's what DOLL does so well and also what we do at BABLE in different. So, yeah, really, really happy that we can collaborate in this space. I have one final question for you, and it's the question that we ask every single guest, and it is to you, what is a smart city? [00:32:17] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: Wow. Well, it's first and foremost a city that's comfortable for us to thrive, to develop and grow and enjoy life in together with our dearest, well, family, friends, nice colleagues, et cetera. So we as human beings, we have to have this space where we can grow and develop. And, well, history shows that we have designed our cities in some way complicated manner. So we are challenged to smaller and very big extent and that we need to do smarter, to do more sustainable. So we have smart and sustainable cities that we can thrive and have a nice future together with the ones we have the greatest time with. [00:33:19] Tamlyn Shimizu: Yeah, absolutely. [00:33:21] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: But I think a key aspect in this is of course to also a part of our job as part of BABLE and part of the Webull Denmark organization with WoodDOLL Living Lab is to be very specific about what are the city goals that we need to make the development move towards and how we do that in collaboration. And it's an ongoing challenge, but we have been giving some nice stepping stones on our way to understand the city goals better and more specific they are. And the better we will be in collaboration to turn those goals into practice, the more interesting it gets. Absolutely. [00:34:16] Tamlyn Shimizu: Thank you for that insight. So with that, yeah, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom. Thanks for sharing. About DOLL I hope you all also to the listeners, I hope you take a look at DOLL and also check out we'll link to it our joint program that we have together. It would be really cool if we could show you around DOLL and then deep dive into some really cool topics that we have. So I look forward to hopefully seeing you again soon, Teddy. Maybe. I'm actually hoping to have it in Copenhagen next time, but Barcelona is also really nice. So thank you so much for coming on. [00:34:53] Teddy Sibbern Axelsen: My pleasure. [00:34:54] Tamlyn Shimizu: Thanks and to all of our listeners, don't forget you can always create a free account on BABLE smartcities EU. You can find out more about smart city projects, solutions and implementations. Thank you very much. Thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life

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