SCP EP13: Using Technology to Accelerate Sustainability, with Chris Castro

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In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I had an early start to have a great discussion with the Director of Sustainability of the City of Orlando Chris Castro. Chris and I really just scratched the surface on a number of projects that the City of Orlando is currently undertaking ranging from floating solar, connected and automated vehicles, solid waste and public safety. We also talked about Orlando’s culture of innovation and how the city is pioneering in the smart city space. Chris is particularly interested in how technology can play a role in accelerating a more sustainable future.

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“What sparked my interest is how technology can play a role in accelerating a more sustainable future”

“I envision this nexus between sustainable development and technology coming together to enhance quality of life, to protect the public, to improve government operations, to save tax payer dollars,  of course protect natural resources and environment and overall make our city a better place now and into the future”

“what smart cities has allowed us to do is really be this comprehensive, cross department initiative that allows us to work together and share resources, and really be more deliberate about how we’re incorporating technology to enhance the liveability, workability and sustainability of Orlando”

“one of the greatest challenges that humanity faces in the 21st century is global climate change and figuring out ways which we can essentially address this through economic development opportunities and ways we can spurge off creation in the green economy”

What we cover in this Episode:

  • Examples of how Orlando is using technology to accelerate sustainability
  • Some of the projects that are happening in the city of Orlando
  • How the Smart City concepts has allowed for a more comprehensive and integrated approach
  • Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge (Winners 2017)
  • Orlando’s culture of innovation and robust engagement across all demographics
  • Smart Cities Council framework and key enablers
  • Orlandos approach to Smart Cities governance
  • Investment in renewables and zero emissions
  • Security and privacy in a digital age

Projects and People Mentioned:

Connect with Chris:

You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn

Connect with Zoe:

You can connect with me via email:

On Twitterand Facebook @smartcitypod


SCP E12: Asking who the Smart City is for, with Katharine Willis



In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I had a really thought-provoking conversation with Katharine Willis about who the Smart City is for. Katharine is an architect and Associate Professor at Plymouth University and initially was reluctant to get involved in the Smart City space. She continues to challenge commercially driven initiatives and focus on what the people actually think about so-called Smart Cities. We discussed Plymouth’s new Masters in Smart Urban Futures, and also a number of projects that Katharine researched about who was included and actively excluded in Smart City planning and implementation around the world. We also talked about how some fo the Smartest places in the world are in the regional and rural areas.

Disclaimer: Everything discussed is personal opinion only and does not represent the companies we work for or associated in any way with these companies.

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What we cover in this episode:

  • Katharine’s background in architecture and design and the societal aspect of it
  • The expanding field of architecture that designs for not just brick and mortar spaces but also digital spaces
  • What sparked Katharine’s interest in Smart Cities and the questions she asks about the Smart Cities movement
  • What the Masters in Smart Urban Futures at Plymouth University offers
  • Katharine’s research into how Smart Cities can provide benefit to marginalised communities
  • The problem of Smart Cities excluding certain groups and only including and benefiting certain people
  • What’s happening in some cities around the world, including in India and Brazil, and how we need to empower people locally to use Smart City in their neighbourhoods
  • The best approaches to Smart Cities that Katharine saw in the UK
  • The reason it’s important to aim for realistic rates of change in all cities, including Smart Cities and why
  • How pilots of Smart tech should be working with communities to implement projects
  • The importance of planning for the maintenance of Smart initiatives so they don’t become underfunded and then unused long term
  • Why the joined up approach and Living Labs  helps create management scale by working with communities rather than working at the city level
  • The need for long term funding to ensure the ongoing, sustainable change of Smart communities
  • The fundamental flaw Katharine sees in the competitive business style marketing of cities approach in the Smart Cities conversation around the world
  • The need to think beyond the global city and instead focus at the local level and the rural or regional areas
  • What Katharine thinks we’re not talking about in the Smart City space and why we need to get beyond the glossy marketing and down to the practical level


“Having worked in the area of looking at digital technologies and cities for a long time, when [the term] Smart Cities came along I was initially quite reluctant to get engaged with having a discussion because it’s quite techno-centric and not really thinking about [people]. Although it argues it’s about how people inhabit cities, a lot of it is selling tech to deliver solutions for cities.

“Is the way that we’re looking at Smart Cities right? Should we be thinking about more nuanced ways? Should we be thinking about what people actually think? getting Smart Cities has been discussed as a very citizen-centric, bottom up way, but a lot of the ways it’s delivered is not that.”

“If you look at any large-scale Smart City project, what you’ll see is a rationale that says cities are failing and are a problem…But we actually think that cities are not a problem, they are a solution. There’s lots of people, they are messy and they are complicated, and we don’t need technology to solve those solutions, we need technology to help people to do things they’re already doing maybe better or in different ways.”

“Actually Smart can be very low cost and local.”

“The main one is that they’re generally the ones that have failed because they have promised things that they can’t deliver. There’s a lot of Smart Cities projects that promise a lot of large-scale, fairly quick change in the city and that’s just not realistic…Technology as a fix for a problem that we have, is a poor way to think about it and that’s generally where we’ve seen things have failed.”

“One of the challenges with Smart City is when you ask anybody about it there’s a different answer depending on who you speak to. So just establishing a common ground initially about what you all agree Smart is and what you want to achieve with it is a really good approach.”


Connect with Katharine:

Get in touch with Katharine on Twitter @trolleytweet or visit to find more about the Masters of Smart Urban Futures

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

The Smart City Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E11: Using data to make Smart decisions, with Claire Daniel


In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I interviewed another self-confessed data addict and fellow member of the Smart City Council Emerging Innovators, Claire Daniel. Claire is a town-planner at heart and loves exploring exciting ways to use data to make our lives better. She studied a Master’s degree in Smart Cities and Urban Analytics at the University College, London. This is where she learnt to code, amongst many other things. Claire thinks cross-disciplinary learning is so important to make Smart decisions, as well as using data to monitor the outcomes of these decisions to enable us to make even better decisions in the future. She is keen to see what innovations will come from having more time to do more exciting tasks when administrative tasks are taken over by automation.

Disclaimer: Everything discussed is personal opinion only and does not represent the companies we work for or associated in any way with these companies.

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What we discuss in this episode

  • Claire’s background in town planning and how she became interested in data and the Smart City space
  • What Claire did for her Master’s project and how she’s using her Master’s degree in Smart Cities and Urban Analytics
  • How data can help us better run and manage our cities
  • Why we need to take better advantage of the technologies we currently have as well as looking at the new, fancy tech
  • The projects Claire is currently working on now
  • The importance of monitoring strategic plans appropriately to make the best use of money spent on implementation
  • The way technology can help with the monitoring process to make it more efficient, more up to date and more accurate
  • The importance of open data and opportunities for crowd sourced open data
  • Why it’s important to think holistically about the influence of cities and why Australia is playing catch up
  • The advantage of Brisbane and other big regional towns for piloting Smart City technology and the benefits of local councils
  • Why we need cross-disciplinary learning to be more mainstream in order to have successful Smart Cities
  • The reasons Claire believes Australia can be a leader in the Smart City space
  • The things people aren’t talking about when they’re talking about automation
  • Why we need people used to community planning to be involved in the decision making and technology development


“My interest lies perhaps not so much in fancy new technology, although that’s really cool…but I think my main interest lies in the application of technology that we’ve had probably for a while now, and actually applying it in government policy work, town planning analysis…maybe the less fancy stuff.”

“There is a certain political reluctance to doing monitoring properly, but I think more than that, I think it’s just getting used to the idea that it’s not so hard anymore. Most people still in the management positions or even elected officials have had most of their careers in the era where it was a very time-consuming and expensive thing to do.”

“Building an awareness of what is possible…If we can at least build an awareness of what is possible, what can be done, and then connect the right people up and find the people to do it.”

“I think it will take a little bit of courage to get over that first hurdle to be the organisation that decides to be that open, but we’ve come a long way in the open data movement in Australia.”

“I believe in the Smart Cities concept. It can be seen as a bit of a buzz word but it’s a really useful way of thinking systematically and thinking holistically about the influence of technology on cities.”

“It’s about having people in one discipline that know what can be done in the other discipline, even if they don’t know specifically how to do it. It means that those conversations can happen, rather than potentially not even thinking of solutions that are out there.”


  • SGS Economics and Planning website
  • Masters of Smart Cities and Urban Analytics at University College, London website

Connect with Claire

You can connect with Claire on LinkedIn

Connect with Zoe

You can connect with me via email: or on Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

Podcast production by Ellen Ronalds Keene

SCP 10: Creating a Digital Democracy with Brook Dixon


In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I interview Brook Dixon, the Managing Director of Delos Delta, the go-to consultant for all things Smart Cities. Brook is also the newly elected President of the Australian Smart Communities Association (ASCA) and a Churchill Fellow, which allowed him to travel the world and explore Smart Cities. He is passionate about creating a digital democracy, and including the community in decision making. In this episode, we dive deep into some of the things Brook witnessed overseas, as well as the exciting things Australia is doing. We did have some technical difficulties during this episode.

“The world around us is changing. We’re in the middle of a digital revolution. If we cannot apply digital technology to the modernisation, the evolution and the progress of our democracy, then I don’t think we’re trying hard enough.”

“One of the greatest forces in the Smart City ecosystem, is the forces of marketing and hype. Now, that is part of the program because it’s about attracting investment, attracting interest, attracting new ideas…I think Australia is actually doing very well.”

“These sorts of companies, there are hundreds of them across Australia that are doing fantastic things int he Smart City space. What we want to do, what we need to do, is work to promote them internationally.”

“[Smart Prioritisation Methodology] That’s a fantastic example of not only using data in a more disciplined, analytical robust way but actually being inclusive in decision making and really democratising the allocation of public funding.”

“The thing that I’ve learned from digital disruption is that it’s disrupting everything…We’ve been quite blinkered to the possibilities of digital disrupting government. That’s going to happen more and more and we need to really be on the front foot rather than let digital disruption happen to us.”

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What we cover in this episode:

  • Brook’s background in economics, finance and government policy, including the part he played in the Digital Canberra plan
  • Why Brook is passionate about communities first and foremost, and how technology and digital transformation fits into that
  • How studying philosophy and Ancient Greek led to Brook’s interest in Digital Democracy
  • What happens when citizens are removed from the democratic process and how we can use digital platforms to empower communities
  • The places in Australia that Brook sees doing good things in the Smart City space
  • The reason we in Australia need to do a better job of marketing ourselves on the international stage
  • Where to start as a local council to get innovation and future city strategies in place
  • How Smart City approaches can change the way we allocate public money in a way that can maximise community outcomes
  • Brook’s Churchill Fellowship experience to see the best and brightest of Smart Cities around the world, including Peru, Korea and the US
  • The new, exciting and innovative finance and infrastructure models emerging that are creating win-win-win outcomes for all
  • How co-working hubs around Australia are breeding innovation
  • The opportunities and challenges in Australia becoming leaders in the Smart space
  • Areas that we are already seeing digital disruption and those that will see digital disruption in the future


Connect with Brook

You can connect with Brook via LinkedIn, on Twitter @dibrookie or reach out via email

Connect with Zoe

You can connect with me via email: or on Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

Podcast production by Ellen Ronalds Keene


SCP E09: The key to resilience is human, with Mike Legatt

SmartCityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode9In this episode of The Smart City Podcast, I interviewed the CEO of ResilientGrid, Inc Mike Legatt. Mike is passionate about focusing on the human when it comes to the resilience of critical infrastructure. I really enjoyed this discussion particularly around the Smart Citizen and how descisions of individuals together can impact a Smart City. We talked about some of the projects ResilientGrid, Inc is working on as well as why it’s so important to give humans a purpose in an ever increasing automated world.

Mike will be presenting at the IEEE GreenTech 2018 of Smart City conference in Austin Texas this Friday 6th of April you can check out for more information. As always I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

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“My biggest passion is finding the humanity in an ever increasing high tech world”

“…ultimately these places where smart city deployments are going to be successful, are places where people want to feel a part…of something bigger…the ability to embrace not just new technologies but also new kinds of habits of collaboration”

“one of the places where human beings really shine…is that we can come up with solutions for experiences and situations that we’ve never been exposed to before”

What we cover in this episode:

  • Mike’s background as a programmer, clinical psychologist and a power systems engineer
  • How Mike became interested in resilience of critical infrastructure
  • Setting up human beings to make a system resilient
  • How the Smart City includes not just technology but Smart Citizens, whose decisions can have significant impact
  • Great pockets of growth and collaboration happening in the US
  • The importance of trialing smart tech in both the cities and rural areas, not a one size fits all approach
  • The idea of better habits of collaboration for the success of Smart Cities and responding in emergency situations
  • Leadership in the Smart City space being fluid and requiring continuous growth
  • Resilient Grid working globally and learning from the differences in organisational cultures
  • The trade off between resilience and robustness
  • The importance of giving human beings purpose in an ever increasing world of automation and “out of the loop syndrome”

People and Projects Mentioned:

Connect with Mike:

Connect with Mike via LinkedIn or Twitter

Connect with Zoe:
Connect with me via email:
Connect via Twitter and Facebook: @smartcitypod
Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene

SCP E08: The Agency of Citizens in Smart Cities, with Irina Anastasiu

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In this episode I interviewed Irina Anastasiu, who describes herself as a perpetual chameleon. She has a wide and varied background, which is perfect for the Smart City space, and a genuine interest in citizen co-creation, so much so that she has created a framework to nurture this collaborative approach. This approach helps people see people as people and not just the organisations that they work for. Irina believes Smart Cities should include an integration of the small-scale projects with the larger ones, and build a shared vision that involves everyone. She has interesting views about how Australia’s societal norms are refreshing and could help shape Australia’s leadership in this space. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it!

Disclaimer: Everything discussed in personal opinion only and does not represent the companies we work for or associated in any way with these companies.

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“This once progressive idea of human-centred design has gone mainstream to the point where everything becomes a customer-like relationship…The most important thing for me in this context is the genuine desire to give agency to people and the genuine belief that everyone can be seen as an asset, as someone that brings something to the table.”

“The common denominator between all of us is that we’re all citizens and we all somehow have a stake this place.”

“The debate around Smart Cities often obfuscates deep structural problems of the city, like housing precocity, job insecurity, social, class, economic and digital divides. It’s always or often times painted as the Smart City will bring prosperity and balance to everyone, and equity, but oftentimes the discussion remains superficial around how we can actually do this.”

“I think it’s important to keep track of that and rebalance something that came out of balance, where we focus on big and shiny objects, big interventions and working with big businesses, and rebalance that to bring in small-cali, networked, grass roots, citizen-led, and actually bring these two together.”

What we cover in this episode:
  • Irina’s background as software engineer and IT consultant in Germany and then her Masters work at QUT in Brisbane
  •  How Irina became interested in the flow of feedback between government and citizens, and the challenge of finding hard win-win solutions
  • Why looking at people as consumers is problematic and the power of seeing people as part of the solution
  • The role of technology in new business and governance models that can facilitate people contributing to the community
  • The framework Irina is facilitating to nurture a collaborative approach between stakeholders from as many sectors as possible
  • Why there needs to be a social relationship and trust established between collaborators first, before taking discussions into the digital realm
  • The problem with a superficial conversation around Smart Cities that doesn’t properly address social and political issues
  • How small-scale interventions that may not even be viewed as Smart are required to complement large scale projects
  • The frame of reference challenge that is a barrier to real integration across different disciplines
  • Why we should be focusing on and developing a shared Smart City vision and taking responsibility for what happens in the process, rather than on getting to economic outcomes as fast as possible
  • The advantage of flat social hierarchies and the tall poppy syndrome in Australia, and how we can make use of that to lead the citizen-led movement
  • How we can expand and grow the grassroots and collaborative approaches that are emerging
  • The importance of a sense of meaning in the lives of people in the Smart City

People and Projects Mentioned:

  • The Urban Informatics Lab at QUT, Brisbane
  • Nambour revitalisation and the Springfield flagship project
  • Mark Zuckerburg’s New Years Resolution
  • Participatory City Project, UK

Connect with Irina:

Connect with Irina via LinkedIn or Twitter @iriphon

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook: @smartcitypod

Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene

SCP EP07: And…we’re back!


In this episode, I share a bit more about my background, the Smart Cities Council Emerging Innovators (SCCei) and why I’m so passionate about the Smart City space. I explain where the podcast has been for the last month and what’s to come in April! April will be filled with interviews of people from all different areas, from world-travelling bloggers to academics to people using Blockchain as the basis for their company. I’m really excited about all of this coming your way! As always, it isn’t just about the tech but about the people in the cities and how we can use technology to make places more liveable. Enjoy!

Listen here:

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook: @smartcitypod