Dublin Month #6 - Smart Balbriggan: "A Smart Community Initiative"

Episode 18 September 21, 2022 00:26:28
Dublin Month #6 - Smart Balbriggan: "A Smart Community Initiative"
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
Dublin Month #6 - Smart Balbriggan: "A Smart Community Initiative"

Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In the sixth and last episode of our Smart Dublin mini-series, we talked about the Smart Balbriggan programme and the community-based and innovative projects of this small town of 25,000 inhabitants on the northern edge of Dublin’s coast. 

For this, we had the pleasure to discuss with Aishling Hyland, the Fingal County Council Digital Programme Officer.


Overview of the episode:

02:26 - Aishling's background

03:27 - Teaser: Fun facts about Balbriggan 

06:24 - What is the population of Balbriggan?

07:37 - What are Balbriggan's challenges? Is it too small to be qualified as 'Smart'?

09:36 - What's the story of Smart Balbriggan? How did it start with Smart Dublin, and what were the milestones?

14:00 - The WeCount project: EU-funded 'citizen science' project that empowers citizens to take a leading role in measuring road traffic and air pollution in their neighbourhoods

14:44 - What has been the biggest challenge in getting citizens involved?

18:38 - A digital replica of Balbriggan for citizen engagement

21:32 - Roll with the Punches: our guest answers this or that questions quickly and with their first instincts 

23:34 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


Liked our show? Remember to rate it! Want to join us for an episode? Contact our host Tamlyn Shimizu.

And for more insights, join our Smart City Community!


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Lots of challenges when you're, you know, rejuvenating a, a main street or a Harbor area, you know, you're, you're disrupting people, you know, where people live for, for quite a time. So this model has been great in the fact that we can map the, the, what the future of Bob and will look like Speaker 2 00:00:24 Welcome to smart in the city, the Bob podcast, I am your host Tamlin Shasu. And really at Bob, we aim to connect the players in the smart city industry with high quality information and ideas through our platform and services. This podcast is really an extension of this goal and mission to drive the change for a better urban life. Before we get started, I wanted to inform all you lovely listeners about a great opportunity. Babble has extended the deadline for the innovation market watch for 2023. So top smart city companies are invited to apply before the 30th of September, and it's completely free. So just follow the link in the show notes. So today on the journey through Dublin, uh, we are going to the Northern edge of Dublin's coast to the town of bald Brien, um, to talk about the smart, bald Brien program and the community based and innovative projects that this small town of 25,000 inhabitants is boasting. So, um, yeah, with me is no better person to speak about this than, uh, Ash Ashley Highland, um, who is the fing county council digital program officer? Uh, yeah. Welcome Ash Ashley. Speaker 0 00:01:42 Hi Tomlin. Thanks for having me on Speaker 2 00:01:44 Yeah, our pleasure. Um, yeah, we've been digging through a lot of different, wonderful things about, uh, smart Dublin and I'm really excited to hear from your perspective as well. So, um, also for our listeners a little bit about, um, your background, um, and why you're speaking to us is that you're really the responsible for the development and implementation of, uh, fing digital strategy. Um, and you're coordinating digital initiatives and activities to drive. You know, obviously the, the end result, the end goal is the better quality services for the citizens. Um, and you're also the, the coordinator for smart Dublin, um, and representing fing county council, um, on many smart city forums, um, like the all Ireland smart cities forum and major cities of Europe. So, um, did I sum it up? Okay. Or do you want to add anything Speaker 0 00:02:32 <laugh> yeah, I think that sums it up quite well. I I'm responsible for the, the NGAL digital strategy and yeah, I work with smart Dublin and, um, represent, um, the all learning smart cities, forum, and major cities of Europe. Um, and yeah, deliver, I suppose, digital projects and initiatives, um, to, I suppose, better the quality of life of the citizens, businesses and, uh, visitors of people to Fingal, which is located, um, north county Dublin. Speaker 2 00:03:08 Okay, perfect. Yeah, that's, um, it, it's really interesting also to, to always understand how did you get to, how did you get to this role? Um, what's your background? Speaker 0 00:03:20 Yeah, well, I suppose, um, my background, uh, traditionally I would be, um, I, I studied, um, multimedia and communications, so that's, that's formally where my education background is in, but then I went and worked with the department of communications for a time working on the national digital strategy. And I suppose from there, I kind of got my love of public service and working with people and delivering, I suppose, initiatives that would have, um, uh, an effect in real life and have, I suppose, uh, policy changes that would, uh, affect citizens and businesses. Speaker 2 00:04:01 Great. Um, and then you ended up, um, at, uh, this at smart Dublin, um, really representing, um, F uh, county council. And, uh, maybe just to get us a little bit, uh, started off is, uh, a bit of a teaser. Um, so I read that bald Brien is the youngest large town in Ireland. Speaker 0 00:04:25 Um, is that true? Yeah, <laugh> yeah, bald Brien. It's, it's one of the, it's one of the fastest growing towns in Ireland. It's also one of the most culturally diverse and it has, um, on average, one of the youngest populations, um, of, of a town in Ireland. So we have quite a, quite an interesting mix there, a lot of young people, a lot of diversity. Um, and so when we were thinking about smart districts and, uh, you know, digital initiatives and projects for the town, young people and community are really our focus. Um, cool. Yeah. So it's made quite an interesting, I think the demographics make quite an interesting, um, area for a smart city project, uh, initiative. Speaker 2 00:05:15 Yeah, absolutely. Um, can you give us another, maybe fun factor, any kind of related fact about bald Brien? Speaker 0 00:05:24 Oh, um, okay. Uh, it's co it's coastal. Um, I dunno. Do I have any facts it's um, it's I can tell you what it has, I suppose it's a coastal town, but it also has around, it has quite, uh, rural, um, like farmyard there's lots of growers around B and lots of growers of fruit and, and tomatoes and that kind thing. Um, and it's got, um, a castle F more castle, um, and I suppose traditionally like many towns in Ireland, it has like main street where you've got lots of economic activity, like cafes and hotel and that kind of, um, and it has the train, so it has dart and we call it the, the dart train. Um, and I suppose that makes it quite popular for people to be able to commute into Dublin city. So a lot of people that live in B and actually work in Dublin city, so they're commuting out. And that was actually one of the challenges of the district. We were kind of, we see, uh, this Exodus of people, you know, going out of B Bri and to work. So how, how do we support, um, job creation and economic growth within the town itself and keep the jobs within B Bri? And so, I dunno, do you live? Speaker 2 00:06:52 Yeah, no, no, it's perfect. Yeah. You painted a wonderful picture. So, um, do you live there yourself? Speaker 0 00:06:59 I don't Speaker 2 00:07:00 Actually. OK. <laugh> no, no, all good. Um, oftentimes people don't work actually where they live, uh, vice versa. Speaker 0 00:07:07 <laugh> yeah. So, Speaker 2 00:07:08 Yeah. Speaker 0 00:07:09 Um, Speaker 2 00:07:09 So how many people are in Breen? Okay. What's the population. Speaker 0 00:07:16 So the last census, the, the population that was 2016 census census said it was just over 24,000, but we've done. Um, I suppose we've, we've just done another census. The results are still, um, I suppose, coming in, it's only done this year, but it's estimated that it's, it's over the 30,000 now in populations, so it's quite a significant growth and it it's grown substantially since I think I, I don't have the facts in front of me. <laugh>, that's fine, but it's, it's, it's grown a huge amount over the CA of the last 15 years. I had quite a substantial growth, um, the largest growth in any town in Ireland. So it's, it's quite significant. And I think that's the placing of Ric and you know, where it is in, in Dublin, it's, it's north county, Dublin, it's easy access to the city it's on the train line, you know, all those kind of factors have played into it. And, um, yeah, population has just sprawled. Speaker 2 00:08:24 What are the challenges? Um, so I, I guess when you, when we speak of like smart Dublin, right. Um, we're, we're thinking of like a big city that has lots of capabilities and resources to go to be smart. Right. Um, but it can, is BGAN actually like too small to be called, you know, really classified as smart. And what are the challenges that you, uh, view with that? Speaker 0 00:08:51 Yeah, I suppose Speaker 2 00:08:52 We, we Speaker 0 00:08:53 Like to kind of nearly stay away from the concept of smart city, because, well, we're not a city, first of all, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, we're a town. And, um, I suppose the district that we've kind of developed is focused on the community. So we call it a smart community initiative. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and yeah, I suppose the way smart Dublin have developed these smart districts, each district kind of focuses on a theme and, you know, some of them districts are located within Dublin city itself, and some of them are, are located in the, the rural Dublin local authorities. So, um, yeah, I dunno. Does that answer your question? Speaker 2 00:09:40 <laugh> yeah, yeah, no, no. I, I think it fits very nicely also into our definition that yeah, smart city is not. So, um, when, when I think of smart city, I actually think of, you know, smart places, um, the towns, how to connect better the, with the rural areas. And I think that's really what makes the bigger city smart is if they also incorporate, um, the surrounding regions and the smaller towns into that concept and include them in a lot of an initiative. So I think that fits quite nicely also with when, when I say smart city, I, I really mean like smart places or like these, these, uh, the whole fabric of how, uh, a, a place would be, um, become smart, I suppose. So, um, yeah. So what's the story of, uh, smart Boban? Like how did it start with smart Dublin and what have been some of the milestones? Speaker 0 00:10:30 Yeah, well, we, um, I suppose in fing county council, we were looking to develop a, a smart district. And, um, we, I suppose, wanted to create a district that was focused on community. We were looking at Bob Brien because in 2019, Bob Brien had a, a huge, I suppose, community, um, consultation and survey, um, called the RAL and rejuvenation plan where, um, we engaged with, I think it was 40% of the population took part in that engagement. And, uh, we got a lot, an awful lot of feedback on lots of different areas within Bob and, uh, lots to do with the public realm improvements and Rejuven rejuvenating in the town itself, but the likes of, um, having more activities for younger people, more, I suppose, uh, different types of outlets, different types of, um, uh, activities and initiatives that younger people and people looking for jobs could, um, get involved in. Speaker 0 00:11:43 And I suppose sports is very, very well covered in Ireland. We have quite a, um, an active community, uh, GAA and, uh, group sports. That's, we're very well covered when it comes to organized sports in Ireland, but when it comes to digital and coding and initiatives like that, um, sometimes we're, we're not, we don't have as many avenues, um, as, as maybe sports or, and that other recreations would have. So, um, yeah, we, we looked at that survey engagement from 2019 and we developed the smart pub and, um, district and its priorities based on the feedback from that survey. So we took back all the relevant feedback that could feed into the district. And yeah, we, we launched then in June of 2020, just, just in time for, you know, lockdowns and COVID and all of that. So perfect timing. Yeah. A difficult time to LA launch a community initiative when the community couldn't really meet in person. Speaker 0 00:12:54 So it was very challenging. Um, but yes, we, we launched online cuz that's what we have to do at the time. And yeah, we had a couple of, I suppose, areas that the district was gonna focus on. Um, and I briefly mentioned them earlier, that was the focusing on improved public realm, um, community building and job creation and economic growth. So all of our projects, um, all of our initiatives are they're focused on one of those themes and we've kind of mapped that all and made that all publicly available on a public Trello board for the community. And I suppose we've, we've engaged with the community annually to get their feedback on what projects they would like to see developed. Um, but yeah, so that's how, how initially we started, we, we used that background information from that huge engagement that took place. And we tried to listen to the people of Breen first and foremost, and then develop this district, um, based on that. Speaker 0 00:13:59 So we have a couple of areas that we've kind of, um, focused on a couple of different projects. Um, cuz we're a small team we've had to start small it's it's not a huge district at the moment, but the likes of, um, we've put in, uh, public wifi in the town and some smart benches that you can charge your phone on and they're solar powered as well. And we've put in an OT network and then some IOT projects like, um, a ring buy sensor project where if a ring boy goes missing, it sends a signal to the, the water safety officer to replace it so that it's not missing for two weeks and nobody knows about it. Um, and a couple of other science based UHT projects, um, that we're working directly with the community so that they receive the sensors, they get involved to get some education about it. And I think they're traffic, um, they're tracking things like traffic and air pollution and that kind of thing. Speaker 2 00:15:09 Yeah. Is that the we count project? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I, I, we actually have that as a use case on our platform already. Um, great. Even, you know, of course collecting use cases from, from smart Dublin as there's a lot of great lessons to learn. Um, and I actually know about the project previously as well from an event too. So, um, it, how, how do you think, what do you think is the biggest challenge in getting people involved and what has the, um, kind of the big, biggest success been as well? Speaker 0 00:15:42 I think the biggest challenge has been COVID because normally with a, with something like this, it's, we're coming into a community and yes, the people that are already interested in sensors or that are already have some basic understanding of a smart district and maybe even know of some of these projects already, they are great to have, and they're brilliant in the community, but we're trying to reach the people that don't know about us and that don't know, you know, trying to break down silos and make this accessible to the community mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so when, when we speak to the community, we don't tend to say O T you know, we just say these connected devices and we try and make it more real for people. Um, so the hardest challenge has definitely been COVID cause traditionally we would come to the community, we would go to the community hall, we'd meet people where they already are instead of, you know, doing the webinar because you're gonna get the people traditionally that are already interested in hearing about what you have to say. Speaker 0 00:16:47 So, uh, going into schools and going into, um, community centers and going, you know, having a, a popup outside the supermarket, that's where you get the people that live in the community when you are at the train station in the morning, uh, when people are going to work and letting them know where they're, you know, go to where the people are is where I suppose we would, would've liked to start the district. Um, so it's kind of been a challenge in that sense, you know, that we couldn't do that engagement that in person engagement at the beginning. Um, but since the easing our restrictions, um, we have now been able to, you know, do some of that in person engagement. So we've gone into schools, we've um, got into each secretary school in BAU and spoke to the transition year class. So that's the class, um, before they start their leaving cert exams. Speaker 0 00:17:47 Um, so yeah, we've gone in, and we've done some education and awareness around, you know, O T and the work of, you know, smart Dublin to educate and to let people know about the different types of jobs that there are out there and also to get their feedback on, you know, what this district should be for them, you know, what sort of projects should it focus on and that they have a voice in it. Um, so yeah, it's great now to be able to, you know, go into schools and go into where people are and, and meet them and tell them about this district and get their input and involvement. And when they hear about some of the projects, they get really interested, especially when it's something they're passionate about. So, um, that's where the ring boy sensor project came about, you know, lots of people, uh, because it's coastal town use the beach. And that was one project that actually, you know, initiated from the community Speaker 2 00:18:45 Really cool staff. And I actually have so many more questions I was thinking about asking you, um, but unfortunately this is a mini series, so we have to keep a somewhat of a time limit. Um, but I would like to give you a, a few minutes if you'd like it as well, um, to really touch on any points that you feel like are really important for people to know about what you're doing. Um, really an open floor for you. If you'd like it, you don't have to take it, but you can have it if you'd like <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:19:15 Yeah, I suppose one thing I haven't mentioned that, um, would probably be one of our biggest projects at the moment is, um, we've developed this, um, this, uh, 3d model of B Reagan and it's kind of like a digital twin and we've, you know, we've mapped the town, we've used LIDAR data and we've, um, created this model that is a replica, I suppose, a digital replica and we've mapped the, um, the public realm projects. So there's huge rejuvenation. And there's lots of, I suppose, with that, there can be, um, lots of challenges when you're, you know, rejuvenating a, a main street or Harbor area, you know, you're, you're disrupting PE you know, where people live for, for quite a time and you're changing things, you know, and change can be difficult. So this model has been great in the fact that we can map the, the, what the future of Bob Bri and will look like. Speaker 0 00:20:17 So we've mapped these, these new areas on the model, and we've been able to now go out into, you know, public consultation events and go out to schools and to the community to show them this is, you know, the way the Harbor and the key street area will look like. So, um, as a tool, I think that's been a, a really, really interesting, um, I suppose, way of citizen engagement that we haven't used before. Um, and yeah, it's just, I suppose it's one of the biggest projects that has come off the, the district, um, that, uh, yeah, I suppose, is a physical project that we can show people, which is Al always good. And they view it using a, a VR headset as well. So I suppose for, for people it's, it's, it's a nice way of engagement so that they can really feel the space and feel like they're in it. Um, yeah. So that's just, yeah. Speaker 2 00:21:16 Yeah. That's super cool. And I can also tell that you have this communication background too, because you really talk about how the people, how you're disrupting the people's lives. So really taking that into consideration and how you communicate with that with them. So, um, yeah, well done. Um, <laugh> with that, I will, uh, move on to, uh, another segment of ours and it's one of my favorites. Um, it's called roll with the punches roll with the punches, answer this or that questions quickly. And with your first instincts, um, it's not too tough, don't worry. Okay. Um, but we'll just go through all the questions and, uh, after, after we've gone through all the questions you answer quickly, um, then you can get, uh, your chance to explain your answers if you'd like. So, um, they're just fun questions. So no pressure. Um, yes. Are you ready? Speaker 0 00:22:14 Yeah, sure. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:22:18 Don't all right. So, uh, town or city Speaker 0 00:22:23 10 Speaker 2 00:22:24 Fall or spring in Dublin Speaker 0 00:22:27 Spring, Speaker 2 00:22:28 Citizen engagement or stakeholder engagement Speaker 0 00:22:31 Citizen, Speaker 2 00:22:33 Coastal city, or mountain city, Speaker 0 00:22:36 Coastal Speaker 2 00:22:38 Technological advances or cultural heritage. <laugh> Speaker 0 00:22:42 Cultural heritage. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:22:46 Good. Do you want to, uh, explain any of your answers? Speaker 0 00:22:51 I suppose the only one that would maybe not make sense is that I went for cultural heritage Speaker 2 00:22:57 <laugh> yeah. And Speaker 0 00:22:59 I suppose the main reason is I think technological, technological advancements are happening anyway, and, you know, they'll, they'll happen and we'll, you know, uh, policy will catch up and all of that. I, I just think it's a natural evolution and I just love, um, culture <laugh> so that's why I chose it. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:23:22 No, no. I agree too. And I work directly in smart cities as well and everything, but <laugh>, I think I agree with you, but I think they have to be balanced a bit, um, and taking both into account. So, um, now we will ask, I will ask you one, um, final question and that is a question we ask every single guest and it is, um, to you, what is a smart city? Speaker 0 00:23:49 Um, to me, a smart city is a city that works for the people that is just, you don't even notice it, it it's just something that the citizens don't even realize they're in a smart city, because it's just so, um, non-intrusive <laugh> yeah. Yeah. So if it's something to do with sensors, collecting air quality, or, um, telling, uh, a local authority staff member to collect a bin, or to check a, a ring boy, or if it's helping a citizen get onto a digital skills class, you know, it's just exists without there being any hardship. Yeah. Um, that's, and, and it's connecting, it's all connected with, you know, the local authorities. So we're able to, um, oversee, you know, the, and make efficient, uh, decisions on, on the town. So that's, that's where I see it. Like, people don't even know they're in a smart city that's Speaker 2 00:25:02 I love, I, I actually really love that answer. So, um, I, I don't, I ask this so many times, right. To so many people, um, and I, I've never gotten the answer of non-intrusive before, so that's a really unique perspective that you bring. So I appreciate that. Um, and so with that, it, hopefully it wasn't too painful that I, and I really enjoyed speaking with you. Um, and yeah, thank you so much. It was really interesting to also learn about how, um, yeah, a small, such a small town can still be, um, working on such innovative and, um, looking forward at so many different projects. Um, and I'm really excited to see where it takes you. So, yeah. Thank you so much. Speaker 0 00:25:43 Thanks, talin. Great to speak to you. Speaker 2 00:25:45 Great to speak to you too, and to all of our listeners, uh, yeah, don't forget. You can always create a free account on babble, smart cities.eu. Um, there, you can find projects like the one, the, we count project that we just spoke about. You can find solutions, other implementations, lots of knowledge there, um, that you can take advantage of. 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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