Episode Archive

SCP E313 Designing the Smart Night, with Leni Schwendinger

Hi #smartcommunity friends! In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast I have a wonderful conversation with Leni Schwendinger. Leni is a published, award-winning authority on the many issues of city lighting with more than 20 years of experience creating worldwide illuminated environments. In this episode Leni begins by telling us about her background in arts and community activism, her passion for weaving those two things together and what sparked her interest in the Smart Communities space. Leni then shares with us what a Smart Community means to her, and takes us through her journey that led her to the work she is doing now, before she shares with us some of her observations and learnings of the city lighting space and some of the differences she has seen across cultures and different job types. Leni then discusses the role city lighting plays in safety, in particular for more vulnerable groups of society, and shares with us some of the projects she has been working on recently. We finish our chat discussing the emerging trends of community engagement and the value it can bring to Smart Communities. As always, we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it!

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Leni’s background in arts and community activism 
  • Her passion for weaving arts and community activism together 
  • What sparked Leni’s interest in the Smart Communities space 
  • What a Smart Community means to Leni
  • Leni’s journey that led her to the work she is doing now 
  • Some of Leni’s observations and learnings of the city lighting space and some of the differences she has seen across cultures and different work and job types 
  • The role city lighting plays in safety for in particular more vulnerable groups of society
  • Some of the projects Leni has been working on 
  • The emerging trends of community engagement and the value it can bring to Smart Communities 


“I had dreamed, and with my class at Parsons, architectural division, had already dreamed of creating light scenarios, on the streets, in public space. But we couldn’t dim the lights at that time. Oh, so long ago, you couldn’t dim public lights. So then when smart technologies came along, and led those two together, I just thought, Oh, my God, here it is. We can fade and dissolve and change colours, and have long life LED lamps, sources that are easier to maintain and lasts a long time. And that’s what got me excited.”

“For me Smart Community is that sustainable community, Smart Community is a district community, a city that can use technologies, to enrich people’s lives, to build capacity, which means learning and finding new professions and engaging in government and public activities. So Smart Communities to me really is not about data. It’s really much more about the person on the street, and how we can learn together and build together.”

“Who is our audience? Who are the people that are going to be involved in this light environment? And the truth is that in our societies, we have night workers, we have night shifts, we have third shift, we have second shift all through the night. And really, one of my focuses right now is what can we do in public space to make the essential workers or key workers life better?”

“I really think that you know, we’re those of us who are designing the smart night, let’s say I’ve never said that before, um, are looking at who is the audience in a sense, who is using the night who’s living in the night is the night clubber, who’s having a great time and wants to go out? Or is it night shifter, who’s actually an immigrant who has no choice, you know, in the type of work, you know, cleaners and security guards and medical staff. It really, you know, it’s time to pay attention around the clock.”

“How can we create these kinds of theatrical, beautiful, interesting inspiring light scenarios that are meaningful to different communities in the way that I just said, maybe a light chime at midnight by be useful? Maybe a light chime every half hour would be useful. We would create these scenarios together with communities and evaluate them together. And then the great thing about smart lighting is you can tweak them and change them because after all, it’s just software and it’s flexible.”

“So the interactivity, you could call that smart, right, because that’s the software and the triggers and the delays and the dimming, that once we’re the domain of theatre, I’m telling you, and now that interactivity with people participation, changeability transformation with light, you know, I would love to see that as a normal part. Just think of the smart city.”

“People are so data driven, we’re so concerned about the data, about the metrics, and it’s a wonderful thing, we know how to do that, and we can actually gather that. But, please come and bring your artists, bring your designers on board as a key important role.”

“I think I’d like to say that we are talking about real co design, collaboration, listening, acting upon teaching each other, it’s a two way street, I always like to say, you know, you know, it’s not like, Okay, now Now the man on the street woman on the street kid on the street is designing everything. No, no, no, it’s, let’s, let’s bring in that input in a strong way, in a real way, authentic way to drive and enrich the outcomes.”


Leni’s Websites: 

Raising awareness



Speaking & Advising


Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Leni via LinkedIn 

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community  

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital


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SCP E333 Data Informed Design in Smart Communities, with Bonnie Shaw

SCP E333 Data Informed Design in Smart Communities, with Bonnie Shaw

Hi #SmartCommunity friends, welcome to this bonus episode of the podcast! We will be kicking off Mobility March next week but this week I wanted to share this fantastic conversation I had with Bonnie Shaw. Bonnie is co-founder of Place Intelligence, a geo-AI startup...

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