Designing for smarter cities with mixed reality

How can we promote collaborative governance and urban sustainability when planning for the cities of the future?

We believe that mixed reality offers interesting opportunities to engage citizens who are normally excluded from the planning process, and whose participation is important to foster urban sustainability.

Many contemporary urban challenges are best understood as complex. This means that they are often a confusing mess of interrelated problems which are difficult to define and are often disputed. This is why it is absolutely crucial for cities to promote citizen participation in urban planning. Citizen participation is important in order to mobilize knowledge, innovation and support for solving some of the most pressing sustainability issues of our age. Yet in reality urban planning often lags behind urbanization and lacks effective means of collaborating with citizens.

This is why we have decided to take on the challenge of thinking creatively around how ICT could foster citizen participation in urban planning and ultimately urban sustainability. By merging virtual and real world objects to produce new environments and virtualizations, mixed reality presents yet unexplored opportunities to build urban sustainability.

We have therefore developed a number of concepts for a mixed reality platform which could support any city to plan for the future.

The concepts present ways to visualize a city as it looks today as well as future urban plans, including buildings, parks or infrastructure that are not there today but might be so in the future. Equally important they present ways for citizens to explore alternative futures and urban data, including impacts of existing urban plans on dynamic elements like traffic, noise, air quality, services, and so on. As we think that connectivity is a precondition for radical innovation we have also tried to visualize how such a platform could support communication and collaboration among various stakeholders.

Based on field research, we think that mixed reality could help citizens to overcome some of the high barriers associated with citizen participation. By dissolving time and space mixed reality can enable people with difficulties to be present at a certain location and time to participate in urban planning. Families with young children or people with restricted mobility are example of groups whose participation could be supported. Certainly mixed reality presents interesting opportunities to foster engagement among youth. Supporting their participation is important for a number of reasons, not least to enable inter-generational dialogue and to foster young people’s self-esteem by reinforcing their sense of being an important part of their communities. It is therefore intriguing to ponder how mixed reality could create an enabling environment for participatory behavior, making it easier, cheaper and faster for citizens to engage with planning issues.


What will the cities of future looks like?

As we at Ericsson want our stakeholders to use our technology in ways that support democratic stewardship of cities, it is interesting to note that mixed reality can allow every individual to speak about his or her desires for the future (provided citizens have the digital skills required). We believe that when provided a safe space to speak, the self-confidence to participate in urban planning can increase.

New digital technologies like mixed reality also create ample opportunities to strengthen the transparency of urban planning. While this can enhance two-way communication and install an impetus for improved accountability, it can also empower citizens to make informed choices. This could help to improve the quality of citizen dialogues as well as decisions making to produce outcomes that are more likely to contribute to sustainable development.

Based on our research we therefore believe that mixed reality can enable new interesting interactions between cities and citizens, and support collaborative sense-making of urban challenges. While this could have a profound impact on inclusiveness and help to improve the representativeness of the planning process, it could also strengthen cities’ problem-solving capacity and responsiveness to complex urban challenges.

Multifaceted information and collaborative governance have to be recognized as key resources when designing and managing our cities. Looking ahead this will certainly be crucial to legitimize and create public support for smart city adoption.


Autors: Anna ViggedalCristian NorlinFanny von HelandJoakim FormoMarcus Nyberg.

Towards Security issues in Smart Homes?

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The Internet-of-Things (IoT) and the idea of the “smart home” have grown dramatically in the last few years. Smart home technology has entirely changed our lifestyle in such a way that everything from the fridge to furnace everything is now interconnected. Everyone around the world is now embracing smart cities applications, yet the matter of security of personal data has become more important than ever. Recent reports about the risks of smart cities applications have revealed the security breaches of smart home security. It was revealed in 2011 that fitness tracker giant Fitbit found their profiles were public and accessible on Google. Smart home devices are prone to data breaching as well. It was reported in a recent article that Comcast’s Xfinity Home Security had some flaws. It showed that the windows and doors are secured when in fact they were unlocked and open. Tod Beardsley of Rapid7, in response to these security weaknesses told CSO that, “IoT devices tend to be designed with a happy path in mind, often don’t consider an active adversary.”  In this article, we have discussed potential cyber security challenges for IoT devices based smart homes along with some possible innovative solutions.

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What are the key security challenges in Smart Homes?

It is evident that each week there are new challenges reported about the IoT Security, fuelled by reports of homes suffering from ‘digital break-ins’ and family members intimidated by the perpetrators. Smart home security is the top priority of every individual. There are several potential smart home security solutions available that promise to keep smart home inhabitants safe with some intelligent supervision at home. Smart homes can assist its occupants to not only monitor their home remotely but also to ensure to safety of their children at home. However, deployment of IoT smart home solutions may cause potential security issues to our personal data and privacy at home. Many app-controlled smart home devices relay information about the home to external servers for processing. By storing information in the cloud, these solutions offer convenient control for the home. An overview of potential security vulnerabilities in various IoT-based devices such as smart plugs deployed in a smart home is shown in figure 2 below. However, homeowners who opt for several smart home devices may need a separate app for each product. As a result, there might be a greater chance of data breaches.

A case study of security drawbacks in Smart Homes

In this section, a case study of smart home security camera issue is presented. Specifically, network connected cameras have many security vulnerabilities because they don’t encrypt data and have weak policies regarding passwords.  It was in an article by Infosec Institute. Although devices like webcam and hidden cameras are subject to give extra security assurance about one’s home. However, there could be some drawbacks of IP based connected cameras connected to smart homes. Specifically, it can allow hackers to access into IP base camera recordings. For the purpose of safety it is recommended to search about the history of security of the camera manufacturers so that you will come to know about the level of encryption used in the device.  It also recommended to use secure Wi-Fi and strong passwords to optimize security. About 73,000 security cameras were hacked in year 2014 as a result of the unchanged default password.  Weak passwords are more prone to cyber attacks and should be regarded seriously. Even though users cannot have the right to control device’s security infrastructure, users do have the power to avoid public networks and set highly secure passwords. Lack of security infrastructure in the manufacturing of smart home devices is the most evident cause of vulnerability of smart devices. A recent article by Business Insider asserted that IoT products lack particular industry security standards for their manufacturer.

Future Work for security in Smart Homes:

Although IoT has made our lives easy yet our personal data is more at risk. We are now responsible for our own protection against the weakly secured IoT devices. Since smart home devices purely rely on remote access and cloud servers, security of customer data in the cloud server and on the devices has become an inevitable challenge. Despite the fact that connected home products guarantee consumer’s convenience, these devices may have some serious loop holes.  Security needs should be included at an early stage of product design, and implemented in every aspect of the system.

To know more about Smart Security Challenges, and Smart Cities Technologies, you can join our Smart Cities Essential Courses here.