blog – relations shaping cities of things

The first month of the year is a moment for looking ahead to the year. Predicting is something that does not make too much sense. A year is too nearby to expect big shifts as the real changes can be found looking back for some years. Nevertheless, there is a strong uprise in robotics, and uncertainty about what is real.

There were a lot of critical notes on Web3 last month. It was clear that not all is sunny for the future of decentralizing. Moxie’s article was a kind of accelerator.

Another topic that will remain relevant this year, and I expect to deal with later is living a meta world. Not as a world or company, but as a feeling. Do we have lost connection with the real? It represents a kind of uncertainty for the real. More than specific forms.

But let’s dive a bit into another aspect: the defining role of relations in cities of things.


blog – predictive systems shaping an ownership economy

In this reflective blog I like to dive into one of the fundamental concepts of Cities of Things that is touched upon in several posts but deserve a specific fleshing out I think; the active and initiating role of the bottom-up based network of objects that builds a Cities of Things, what makes a Cities of Things stand out other smart city concepts. It has a lot of aspects that can be dealt with in several posts. Like the role of relations as defining element, and the connection to incentified systems.

Back in 2012 when we kicked off the INFO innovation lab, big data as an important new concept was a rising topic. I reflect on the developments in a whitepaper and promoted an angle where big data served the creation of tiny services, meaning that you should not use the big data as just profiling, generalizing, analyzing tool, but keep it connected to the personal interest of users. I defined three separate layers to support that focus: the objects and the relations between the objects, the people, and the relations between the persons, and binding these together in an intelligent orchestrating layer that generates bespoke services via rules.

field lab Cities of Things Lab010 update

City of Things Lab010 selected by Rotterdam municipality

We are very happy that our proposal for setting up Cities of Things Lab010 as part of the CityLab010 project is selected by the commission. Together with partners Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences research group Creating010. Afrikaanderwijk Co-op and Studio voor de Stad we entered the project in the summer. We plan to start the project in early 2022.

From the CityLab010-website (translated from Dutch):

After an exciting time for many Rotterdam initiators, the decision is finally made. 49 Rotterdammers will receive a starting budget from CityLab010. Good for over 3 million euros. With this, they can make their dreams come true.

Aldermen Roos Vermeij (Economy, Neighborhoods and Small Districts) and Arno Bonte (Sustainability, Air Quality and Energy Transition) and chairwoman of the city jury, Carolien Dieleman, congratulate all the initiators on their starting budget and wish them every success with the implementation.

The short description of the City of Things Lab010 project is:
More and more intelligent and autonomous objects are appearing on our streets. This is changing the city at the system level, with impact at the hyperlocal neighborhood level. The Cities of Things Labkar allows neighborhood residents to design and prototype citythings together with designers.

We will create a special page on this website to keep you posted with the progress of the project.


blog – Embodied reality with citythings

There were a couple of impulses for the reflection this month. One was an exploration of trends I did for a workshop that discussed amongst others the relationship between sport, data, and intelligent systems. Apart from the very functional use of data, the role of the coach is super interesting here. Peleton is a popular home training system in the States that is a mix of datafying products and human coaches that become stars. Last month Facebook became Meta and introduced a peek into their -skewed imho- future vision on the metaverse. With a fitness program too of course. Now still with the normal controllers, but you can expect all kinds of physical objects like dumbells made for the metaverse. How will these look if they only have an appearance in the virtual world? Optimizing for weight and sensors, that is an interesting design project. How to prevent a reality sketched in Wall-E with everyone immersed in a chair becoming obese… So how it will develop is unclear; will we live a life where everything is made frictionless like in Wall-E or create a full representation of physical experiences enhanced or augmented.

Lidar point clouds create reality through a dialogue with objects

This embodiment of virtual life is super interesting but not what I wanted to address here. I had to think a bit further on how we will relate to the concept of sports as an individual activity. Last month we learned that gen z is losing the connection with the physical mental model with virtual service-based systems like file systems. What will be our understanding of the psychical world if every object is becoming an active object?

It feels like a balancing act; are we turning technology into a collaborative relationship and understanding, or we are getting more disconnected from reality. Not the disconnection with reality that is happening with fake news and opinions become facts through the dark patterns of social media amplification. The disconnection, the distance is more a subtle one; what does it mean to our relation to services, to objects, to an embodiment of our lives if everything is in continuous flux and what is real is defined on the fly? Do we still have a touch-base that is reality?

We need to find a new balance. In this article on how AI is reinventing computing the different relation is a key point.

Traditionally, to get a computer to do something like recognize speech or identify objects in an image, programmers first had to come up with rules for the computer. With machine learning, programmers no longer write rules. Instead, they create a neural network that learns those rules for itself. It’s a fundamentally different way of thinking.”

The training and needed interplay is promising for the collaborative technology; there is also a need for having reality-anchors if everything is adapting to everything. The designer of the (near) future is not designing the end state but is designing the training objects that a robot (or service) is encountering to become valuable. It is now explored for basic activities such as the walking of a robot, but why not also for cognitive tasks?

The new movie by Superflux is in that sense a hopeful future sketch however we need to drive a bumpy road first. That is an intersection. The road we are on now, is extrapolated a bit. So there are possible dangers that it takes a different route if we don’t get out act together.

“What’s most compelling about sci-fi literature isn’t the technology but how people’s relationships change within technology,” says Jack Weinstein, a philosophy professor at the University of North Dakota (source)

To bring it home to Cities of Things; living in a city with all kinds of intelligent objects that are touchpoints to mixed intelligent – self-initiating systems, and the objects becoming more and more self-supporting and initiating. How we relate to these objects and through these objects to others is the defining question. How we can use intelligence to make an impact? What is the role of the mentioned sports objects in understanding a game more than the rules? What will the embodiment of reality look like in a virtualized life? The system of these objects, these citythings are shaping how we perceive, and value reality.

This blog was published as a newsletter via

field lab MUC-AMS update

Reporting Creative Embassy MUC-AMS 2022-2024 kick-off

At different locations in Munich,
11 October 2021

On October 11, after a year of preparations and sessions, online a Dutch delegation traveled to Munich to officially kick off the second phase of the ‘Creative Embassy MUC-AMS’. 

Alderman and deputy-mayor of the city of Amsterdam Victor Everhardt, and Head of Department of Labor and Economic Development and city councilor Clemens Baumgärtner of the City of Munich together with numerous supporting partners signed the Letter of Intent to continue the cooperation between both cities. The goal of the cooperation is to stimulate innovation, strengthen the creative industry, learn from each other and inspire. Munich and Amsterdam, therefore, aim to develop cross-country field labs in specific topics. 

This aftermovie shows an impression of the day. Read further to learn more about the outcomes of the day.


blog – How a change of perception of file systems is shaping a new mobility era (and vice versa)

Thanks for tuning in for this new monthly update on Cities of Things. I am at the moment on my way to Munich to officially kick off the field lab Cities of Things MUC-AMS (Munich-Amsterdam) that have been in the planning and shaping for the last year. I will definitely keep you posted in the coming months on this initiative. On this website, you can find some background information.

A signature part is looking into the impact of mobility on the cities. We have different partners involved in this and there is a natural link. I like to have exploration on a broader development, the way new generations treat possession which can be seen in the way we treat bikes (and other goods that we used to possess).

field lab MUC-AMS update

Signing LoI field lab MUC-AMS 11 Oct

This press release is sent out by Creative Holland, October 8.

Successful collaboration between Munich and Amsterdam enters next phase with Cities of Things field lab

On 11 October 2011, at the EXPO REAL event in Munich, City of Amsterdam alderperson Victor Everhardt and Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of the Department of Labour and Economic Development of the City of Munich, will sign a Letter of Intent regarding the continued partnership between the two cities on innovation and the creative industry. This signals the joint launch of the ‘Cities of Things’ field lab: a program to identify and test new solutions for urban issues.

This joint field lab follows from the Creative Embassy MUC-AMS initiative, in which Dutch and German creative companies cooperate to develop solutions for the challenges facing society. With these programs, Creative Holland (an initiative of the Dutch ‘top sector’ program supporting the creative industry) aims to stimulate international business development. The goal is to give Dutch creative SMEs a kick-start on the other side of the border.


Building a collaborative relationship with a travel buddy for multimodal journey planning

Yeonju Jeon finished her graduation 31st of August 2021. I invited to describe her findings.

Life is a series of choices from a small decision such as choosing what to have for dinner to a major decision that will change the course of life ahead. And we are handing over many simple and repetitive decisions to computers. We used to depict a dystopian future where the world is taken over by machines and robots. To this day, where we get recommended with new content by the algorithm and automatically filtering out spam by machine learning, we are still concerned about the negative impact that technology will bring in our lives. If we can’t stop machines from mimicking what we do, then wouldn’t it be our job to give it the right intention that will benefit us?


blog – co-performance of human and nonhuman

Due to my holidays, I write this post a bit later than usual. Welcome to the new subscribers! Every month I take one article in the domain of Cities of Things that trigger thinking about one aspect that is part of the Cities of Things elements of living together with intelligent things in cities that shape our city life so to say. That can be a new insight or a connection to one of the core aspects. This month I like to dive into one of the latter categories. One of the concepts I ran into while doing research at Delft University of Technology is the co-performance as described by Kuijer and Giaccardi in 2018. It reflects on a notion that we grow into a form of collaboration with technology that is based on shared goals, on a certain leveled interest almost. At least that is what I especially take out of it.


Research – predictive behaviors of vacuum robots

Last 2nd of August Peicheng Guo graduated with his master research project “Towards an active predictive relation by reconceptualizing a vacuum robot”.

Peicheng not only used the proposed method for designing things that predict, but he also added a couple of valuable models both on the level of relations with domestic products as with autonomous objects in general. Via a Research through Design approach, he developed new insights and brings the knowledge on predictive relations a step further. To illustrate possible future collaborations with objects we use he redesigned the user manual in a guidebook for learning to understand each other’s (human owner and object) intentions.