“Only when urban tech innovation solves real citizens’ or cities’ problems, it can be proudly titled a smart city solution”. – Miloš Milisavljević, CEO at Strawberry Energy, Speaker Q&A

Miloš Milisavljević, CEO at Strawberry Energy will be speaking at Smart Summit London, being held in Olympia Conference Centre on the 21st and 22nd of September at the Smart Cities Summit.

Strawberry Energy develops green and smart urban devices to provide people with energy, connectivity and local information in public spaces. By bringing IoT to outdoor public spaces to around 400.000 users, they strive to improve urban living and make cities smarter and greener.

Miloš Milisavljević, who will be speaking about enhancing the smartness of outdoor urban environments on the 22nd of September, took some time to complete our speaker interview:


1.     Please provide us with some information about the projects you are working on to make cities smarter?

We develop solar-powered urban furniture for smart and sustainable cities with the mission to enhance the outdoor experience of the 21st century mobile generation. Our smart street furniture brings Internet of Things to outdoor public spaces that people visit daily, improving urban living by making cities smarter and more convenient to live in. We are retrofitting existing infrastructure by repurposing the use of a public furniture and making multi-purpose urban platforms.

Our Strawberry Tree and Strawberry Smart Bench are smart city platforms which deliver free solar energy for charging smart devices, WiFi, relevant local info, local environmental data (air quality, noise levels etc.), info about how much ‘green’ /solar energy is generated and consumed. Being a smart open and interoperable platform, it can be easily upgraded to offer much more features that bring contextual public information, safety and new data closer to citizens.

Our smart street furniture brings solar power into people’s everyday lives and this way lead to increased understanding of renewable energy. While recharging in an eco-friendly way people are contributing to lower CO2 emission by their own actions. By creating a positive attitude toward sustainable lifestyle we are motivating citizens to be environmental conscious.

Our distribution network currently spreads across eight countries in Europe and in the US. Our solar urban devices are deployed in 27 locations so far and have reached more than 500,000 users. Most recently, Strawberry Smart Benches were installed in front of MK1 and Banbury gateway shopping parks, in cooperation with the Crown Estate, while they were first launched last year in London’s Canary Wharf.


2.     What do you believe to be the key drivers for smart city growth?

●        Collaboration between public and private sector - Finding sustainable business models

●        Open dialog with citizens for co-creating solutions for answering to real city problems

●        Experimentation by cities - giving the opportunity to startups and innovators and less bureaucracy, more incentives and smart city programmes

●        Popularisation of the smart city solutions so as to stimulate more smart city accelerators and investments

●        Collaboration between local authorities to replicate successful models

●        Opening up city data that can lead us to interoperable tech solutions

●        More transparency among key players and stakeholders in smart city environment


3.     How are you working to engage the citizens in smart city activity?

Apart from being charging stations, our smart urban platforms are educational and communal public street furniture that raise awareness about environment and brings sustainability aspect in everyday life. We believe that our cities need a new generation of connected spaces that operate not only at physical level but also at virtual level. As a platform it will provide not only energy, wifi and sensors but localized space for games, for the provision of new services and for new ways of interchange.

Our smart urban furniture improves people's outdoor experience and motivate them to socialise and spend time outdoors. Fact that you have something in common makes people more open and more comfortable to start meeting new people. This way, our technology is not only influencing public spaces but has a very strong community building effect.

We are offering individuals a one point contact with other pedestrians, sitting/resting opportunity and also other indicators such as quality of air, humidity etc.

It benefits not just citizens, but local councils, community groups and businesses that want to make their spaces cleaner, smarter and safer. The importance of a solid infrastructure network like this is in fuelling our increasingly digital world and adding a “smart city layer” to any public space, unlocking full power of IoT in the outdoor environment. The idea behind the benches is to democratize the access to sustainable electricity while you walking around in the city.

Our smart benches are offering better real-time understanding of the local conditions by measuring the health of local environment, so it is much more than just transformation in urban spaces and the public furniture. It is creating a new interface to set up communication between citizens and objects.


4.     Do you think there needs to be stronger business and public collaboration?

We see two courses of collaboration between public and private sector: ensuring funds and joint work on development of smart city solutions.

In terms of the first, there is a lot of talk about the smart city technologies, but the question “who writes a check” often blocks most promising ideas. We are all aware that cities’ budgets are often quite limited.  Ideal smart city would mean enjoying in all the blessings new technologies can offer, while saving taxpayers’ money. This is where cooperation with private sector comes in, but finding a balance between benefits smart city solution offers and consequences of commercial deals is crucial. We definitely believe that public-private partnerships can accelerate development and implementation of smart city solutions.

The other point of collaboration is when city officials work together with smart city innovators in order to find the best possible models for overcoming urban issues and creating a better experience for all the residents and visitors of one city area. City officials know the processes and can best possible address problems, while innovators and IT entrepreneurs have the “innovation (working) engine” and fresh approach to solving those problems.


5.     How can cities become smarter, not just connected?

Only when urban tech innovation solves real citizens’ or cities’ problems, it can be proudly titled a “smart city solution”. Innovation that exists separately from real needs does not have any worth. Of course, every solution that contributes to overall growth and prosperity is valuable, but sometimes even very simple ones addressing the right problem can be even more powerful and with great effects on the way how we live and work in cities.


6.     Which are the key ways data is being used to enhance smart city capabilities?

I couldn’t separate some “key ways” in general, as for a specific process or problem, the exact data needed for that process is always the key. It is also hard to rank smart city services by priority and say which are the most important for the urban living.

There are many good examples how data can benefit the people living in a city or local authorities for the purpose of managing the city. Hyper local environmental data, or air quality data, can help governments to analyse patterns, while people are able to make better choices which influence their habits or health. Data from parking sensors shorten drivers’ search for a parking space, notifying them about the nearest empty one, and this way save people time while reducing waste gas emissions in the air. Smart bins measure the level of garbage and send information to local waste services when to pick it. This way, the whole process is made more efficient and cost saving. Smart home appliances provide data about the consumed energy in homes and this way enable residents to understand their energy costs and change their behaviour in order to reduce them, while some IoT solutions can automatically turn off/on home devices depending on the set criteria.

Problem should determine what kind of data we need. But sometimes, we can see the full benefit only when enough data is collected. London Datastore is a great example of open data project, providing vast array of data to public, who can use it to develop new innovative smart city applications and solutions.


7.     What are the key benefits to citizens and cities from smart city services?

Depending on the smart city service, benefits can reflect in better outdoor experience, increased productivity, costs savings, better mobility throughout public places, reduced impact on the environment (carbon footprint), increased public safety and public health, better emergency and disaster responses etc.

The age of urban tech is here, where technological advancements are leveraged for enhancing city-dweller’s experience in public spaces. We see a smart city as mix of responsive public spaces tailored to the needs of 21st century mobile generation. Innovation should make cities more convenient for all its people. Smart city solutions can shape better urban environment enriched with more urban hubs where people can connect and socialise.


8.     Are there ways in which the framework for interoperability could be improved?

The great challenge and opportunity lies is collecting, processing and analysing large amounts of data, what should lead to finding new patterns and developing innovative smart city solutions. Enabling open data platforms can contribute to interoperability and better understanding of a specific problem. Making future-proof open platforms is the key. Potential for interoperability should be included in the very first design of the smart city technology. Some of solutions are open sourcing, standardisation, reducing fragmentation and breaking down the departmental silos in city data.


9.     What are the key challenges in making the transition to a smart city and how can they be overcome?

Cities should be more open to experiments and have an open dialog with citizens and smart city tech providers and entrepreneurs through working groups and accelerators. Real-time systems enabling fast citizens’ reporting and city reactions is needed in order to make a prompt answer to city dwellers’ problems.

A future-proof urban infrastructure should be in place in order to adapt to evolving demands of people.


10.   How are security and privacy concerns being addressed?

With enormous growth of computer power to collect and process huge amount of data throughout IoT/M2M solutions, the concerns regarding privacy and security are also rising. I believe that it is up to us - innovators of these urban tech solutions to address these issues and work together with big tech companies and also governments. IoT engineers should include privacy and security requirements into architectural designs from the very beginning of the process. It should be in the line with privacy and security by design of these solutions.

Also, great responsibility lies on media houses to communicate the importance of these challenges. By using media and by using everyday language and showing real life examples and stories, we should communicate both the importance and the potential consequences of cyber security. Especially sensitive data is at risk in combination with some metadata - e.g.  real-time information about the flow of citizens around the city from combined smart transport or mobile data can help cities to deploy security services during some emergency situations. But in the same time, having these information in the wrong hands can lead us into more troubles.


11.   How are cities bridging internal silos for a cohesive Smart City strategy? 

I believe that the solution lies in the adopting new organisational structures, and abandoning the project-by-project approach. Cross-sector collaboration should be achieved through strategic, integrated and well coordinated approach, with right allocation of necessary resources within local authorities in order to achieve efficiency in innovation process. 


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