Smart Cities



Dr. Sebastian Denef
Research Fellow at Fraunhofer IAO



45 contact hours



Goals and objectives:

This course aims to support students in developing comprehensive knowledge and skills of designing Smart City products and services by applying stakeholder-centered design methods to design smart city technologies and managing them efficiently.

The course outlines the importance and role of users and other stakeholders as well as technology trends such as big data, machine learning and IoT in the process of designing such services needed for Smart City development. The course provides the toolbox for transferring those needs into technology concepts and finally designing user experience.
The practical part of the course will be developed in collaboration with IBM and consists of interactive business projects for students that will involve creating a minimum viable product (MVP) for a particular Smart City product and/or service based on design thinking and service design methods.

Course Content:

Topic 1. Introduction and User Research

  • Concept Smart City Services and Solutions
  • Smart City Domains: Payments, Water & Waste, Health & Human Services, Public Safety, Built Environments, Energy, Telecommunications, Transportation
  • Current Examples in the Area of Utilities
  • Current Examples in the Area of Transportation
  • Current Examples in the Area of Public Safety
  • Current Examples in the Area of Urban Planning
  • Concept and Definition of a Wicked Problem
  • Concepts and Paradigms Human-Computer Interaction
  • Ethnography, Pattern Language and Grounded Theory to understand stakeholder needs
  • Project: IBM topic introduction and team building
  • Project: Development of plan initial for user research

Topic 2. Service Design

  • Smart City Technologies: Big Data
  • Smart City Technologies: Machine Learning
  • Smart City Technologies: Internet of Things
  • Introduction to Service Design
  • Design Methods: Participatory Design, Empathic Design, Vision-Driven Design
  • Service Design Tools: Cause Diagram, Personas, Moodboard, Affinity Diagrams, Future Headlines
  • Fundamentals of user interface design
  • Current Example of the introduction of safety-critical services
  • Project: Presentation of results of user research phase 
  • Project: Planning the design of the MVP

Topic 3. Smart City Service Evaluation, Management and Improvement

  • Evaluation Paradigms and Techniques
  • User Acceptance of Smart Homes in Smart Cities
  • Performance Management in Smart Cities
  • Service Usability Testing
  • Service Experience Testing
  • Project: Final Presentation

Teaching Methods:

Group projects, group work, creative exercises, brainstorming, presentations, case study discussions

Course Reading:

Required reading

  • “Mapping Smart Cities in the EU”, DG Internal Policies, European Commission, 2014
  • a digital version will be provided to students
  • «Building Smart Cities: Analytics, ICT, and Design Thinking», Carol L. Stimmel, Auerbach Publications, 2016 (available in GSOM online database “Books 24x7”)

Supplementary reading

  • Denef, S., Oppermann, R. and Keyson, D.V., Designing for Social Configurations: Pattern Languages to Inform the Design of Ubiquitous Computing, in International Journal of Design.
  • Alexander, C., The timeless way of building. 1979, New York: Oxford University Press. 552 p.
  • Dourish, P., Where the Action Is : The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (Bradford Books). 2001: {The MIT Press}.
  • Glaser, B.G. and Strauss, A., The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. 1967: Aldine Transaction.
  • Harper, R., Rodden, T., Rogers, Y., and Sellen, A., eds. Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the year 2020. 2008, Microsoft Research: Cambridge.
  • Harrison, S., Tatar, D., and Sengers, P. The Three Paradigms of HCI. In alt.chi. 2007.
  • Leonard, D. and Rayport, F., Spark Innovation Through Empathic Design. Harvard Business Review, 1997: p. 102 - 113.
  • Suchman, L., Human-machine reconfigurations: Plans and situated actions. 2007: Cambridge University Press.
  • Weiser, M., The computer for the 21st century. Scientific American, 1991. 265(3): p. 66-75.
  • Bell, Genevieve, and Paul Dourish. "Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision." Personal and ubiquitous computing11.2 (2007): 133-143.

Exam format:

Length: 90 minutes
Format: online, open-book
Final test structure: The exam consists of approximately 10 open book questions. 2/3 of questions will address general theory learned during the course. 1/3 of questions will address key aspects gained during the group project.

Grading Policy (% or points):

Control forms

Weight in the course grade
Group project 50%
Final exam  50%

Overall project assessment criteria:

  • Project Documentation (10%)
  • Written project report (25%)
  • Project Presentation (10%)
  • Customer Feedback (5%)
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