Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Smart cities
Smart cities

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.3 Prototype your smart cities project

A graphic showing a lightbulb represented by a drawing and a ball of scrunched yellow paper.
Figure 5 The importance of prototyping.

Throughout the course you’ve been collecting ideas for a smart cities project, drawing on the design thinking process and making jottings in the Smart Cities Project Ideas Template. Now you’ll draw on this work as you prototype an idea that you could develop in your living lab. Prototyping is an approach to developing, testing and improving ideas at an early stage, and is helpful in developing ideas into projects.

‘Prototype’ is Stage 4 of the design thinking process, which you learned about in Week 3. You design a prototype or a series of prototypes to test all or part of your solution. Nesta has produced a prototyping framework [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] so take a look at that now.

In Week 3 you defined and articulated the city problem you want to solve and looked at ways of crowdsourcing citizen ideas. In Week 4 you explored and categorised the types of data that might help, and you considered how it might be collected. Subsequently, in Week 5, you researched any relevant data sets as well as potential help from hackathons and other forms of digital social innovation. This is the moment to review your ideas.

This is the moment to review your ideas. First, think clearly about what you want to change, who will benefit from the change and how they will benefit.

Then review the team you will need to build to help you prototype your idea in your living lab. Think about who needs to be involved from all angles: users, deliverers, professionals, senior leaders, etc.

Next, map existing products, services and approaches that are similar to your idea: where are the gaps and overlaps, and what can you learn from these? Your smart city ecosystem map will help with this.

You’ll also need to identify a location to test your idea. It might be a community, street or building, depending on the type of solution and your target users.

Finally, you’ll create a prototype of your idea to test with your users. In testing the project idea you’ll observe, gain feedback and evaluate the feedback. All your records will be fed back into the prototyping process. When you’ve worked through this cycle several times you’ll pull together the insights gained from the prototype and test stages, and make decisions on your final design.

Activity 3 Prototyping

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Have a go at taking your ideas and prototyping some solutions to your city problem. Don’t worry if you’re working alone – you can work through this as a theoretical process and start to understand who you would need to involve and how you might test it with users. There isn’t time in the course to test the solution but what you will find out next is how to grow an idea into a smart cities project.