Digital Initiatives

Athens Partnership Shares Maker Learning Culture with Europe’s Digital Chiefs

The digital leaders of nine European cities created miniature encryption machines during an afternoon workshop this month at the Athens Municipal Maker Space, at a meeting convened by the Athens Chief Digital Officer.

The workshop was a central part of the European chapter of the Global City Chief Information Officers (CGCC) quarterly meeting and hosted by Athens CDO Konstantinos Champidis. It included representatives from Barcelona, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Milan, Tallinn, Vienna and Zurich. The challenge was aimed at building collaboration and problem-solving skills, while showcasing the value of the fab lab’s state-of-the-art technology.

CDOs at the Maker Space

European city digital leaders teamed up with the Athens Maker Space team to design, program and assemble the Eureka Box, drawing inspiration from the Enigma Machine which led to the development of the first electronic computer during World War II.

“We are trying to get digitalization, creation, innovation into the public school system and we are looking at different ways to do this,” said Marijn Franje, CIO of the Hague and founder of the European chapter of the CGCC. “I think this is a very interesting model to bring back home and try to copy it.”

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Athens CDO and meeting host, Konstantinos Champidis (right) discusses with TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis (center), Athens Partnership Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou (left) how a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach can enhance problem solving abilities.

The Maker Space, the first municipal space of its kind in Greece, is part of the Designed for Better Learning program, which has transformed the environment and educational experience in five percent of Athens public schools. The program employs participatory design, involving architects working hand-in-hand with students, teachers and parents.

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Testing the gears of the Eureka Box.

“Meeting here has been an opportunity for Athens to showcase its amazing journey of digital transformation over the last 3 years, and I was really impressed coming to the Maker Space to see what a world-class facility has been created and how open it is to the public,” said Theo Blackwell, London Chief Digital Officer.

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Clockwise from right: TUC-TIE Lab Director Konstantinos Oungrinis, Theo Blackwell, London CDO, and Marijn Franje, CIOr of the Hague

Launched by the Athens Partnership and run in partnership with the Technical University of Crete’s Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab, the Maker Space brings applied technology and design thinking to public school education. To date it has impacted the lives of 7,400 children and introduced innovative, interdisciplinary techniques to 167 teachers. The Maker Space was first launched in 2016 with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and is now funded through the City’s budget. It is also included in the City’s 2018 Digital Roadmap, a blueprint guiding Athens’ digital strategy and aim to become a premiere digital city.

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Michael Hagler, representing the City of Vienna, works with Dionysia Daskalaki from the Maker Space team to assemble the box's circuits.

“Cities offer services and now technology is part of the public services delivered in Athens,” said Akis Georgakopoulos, a production and management engineer and member of the research team at the Maker Space. “Maker culture debunked the idea that technology is this exclusive thing some people use. Through this program we have opened tech up and made its use and application accessible to everyone.”

Athens Digital Lab presents new smart city solutions

The Athens Digital Lab (ADL), the first municipal incubator of its kind in Greece and a joint philanthropic venture between the City of Athens, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), leading technology companies Cosmote and Nokia, and the Athens Partnership, presented its first results last night. ADL’s first round was completed with four new tech apps developed, focusing on smart city solutions for the management of waste, public spaces and green spaces, as well as a marketplace for big data. Three out of four ADL teams presented their apps last night to the tech community, in the presence of Athens Mayor Georgios Kaminis.

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Recytrust designed and developed a smart recycling bin, which uses sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide real-time data about recycling performance. It is the first solution of its kind globally that can monitor individual recycling performance through personalized swipe cards, measuring it to an accuracy of 10grams. These innovative bins are being placed in 20 spots, including City Hall and 10 primary schools, and introduce a gamification element to recycling.

athens digital lab recytrust

Inagros developed a smart system for green spaces management, centered around a project management platform connected with sensors installed in parks, gardens and other green areas of the city.T hese sensors enable city management officers to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health. Fifteen sensor nodes have already been placed and tested in the National Garden of Athens.

athens digital lab inagros

Smart City Spaces presented their crowd-based platform and application that allows the Municipal Police to effectively monitor public space use. Through open WiFi networks, using data from smartphones that connect to these networks, public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic can be monitored throughout the city. This data can be used by the City for policy-making decisions, to identify popular areas and to monitor public safety.

In the discussion that followed the presentations, it emerged that the success of this innovative venture is based on the rediscovery of traditional values. Mayor Kaminis noted how Athens is perhaps not yet a smart city, but a ‘wise’ city: a city that is learning to cooperate and make the best use of its resources, including from the private sector and municipal staff. “Cooperation is the key - it’s a simple idea, but also very impactful. In Greece, we have not learned to join forces towards common goals – ventures such as ADL are showing us this approach can really work.”

athens digital lab smart city spaces

Aristi Stathakopoulou, Program Officer at the SNF, noted that the Foundation made a conscious decision to support ADL as a long-term effort that can build up the capabilities of young entrepreneurs. Asked why a tech giant such as Nokia invested its resources in a small venture such as the ADL, CEO of Nokia Greece Sakis Exarchos said technological breakthroughs are based on vibrant tech ecosystems, and this is exactly what ADL is cultivating in Greece. Grigoris Christopopoulos, OTE Group Chief Commercial Officer Business Segment, noted that he is ‘extremely proud’ of the teams’ achievements, adding that such ventures are crucial to support Greece’s effort to make it to the forefront of innovation globally. Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership, noted that this public-partnership has been approached by all involved with a truly open spirit of experimentation and particularly noted the zeal of public servants involved in agencies cooperating with ADL teams for the apps’ development.

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ADL teams all stressed how their experience in the incubator provided them with valuable support and guidance. Inagros’ solution, conceived for the agricultural sector, was transferred to green spaces management through the guidance of ADL. Recytrust, for their part, noted the importance of having access to the latest tech platforms provided by the ADL partners. Teams also noted that the Athens Digital Lab opened up new markets to them, since they had not conceived that their work could be aimed at solutions for the public sphere.

The Athens Digital Lab’s second call for submissions is currently open, and up to 10 teams will be hosted in ADL in the following months, with a chance to develop their innovative solutions in the areas of Municipal Cleaning services, Mobility Data, Education Infrastructure, Crisis Management and Tourism.

ATHENS WINS EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF INNOVATION AWARD AND €1 MILLION GRANT

The European Commission announced Athens as the 2018 European Capital of Innovation (iCapital), along with a €1 million prize. Cities considered for this prestigious award are judged on how they implement innovative solutions that address societal challenges. Led by Mayor Georgios Kaminis, the City of Athens implemented an innovation strategy that delivered more results with fewer means, by engaging citizens and the private sector in broad alliances. Many of the initiatives highlighted in consideration of this award were coordinated by the Athens Partnership, with lead support by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

"This award is a tremendous recognition of our city's resilience and work to find creative solutions that address our biggest challenges," said Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis. "We have overcome many obstacles by coming together as citizens, universities, private institutions, non-governmental organizations, municipal agencies and other partners committed to making Athens stronger. Our new digital strategy, which has increased the municipality's ability to serve residents, and programs such as Athens Open Schools, which provide beacons for community members to learn and connect, are just a couple examples of how we are innovating and strengthening through collaboration."

Athens was among 26 competing cities for the prestigious award, and in a final phase of 6 finalists, which included Aarhus, Denmark; Hamburg, Germany; Leuven, Belgium; Toulouse, France; and Umeå, Sweden. Cities that were shortlisted are those that manage to build open and dynamic innovation ecosystems, involve citizens in governance and decision-making and improve resilience and sustainability. The Athens Partnership, which works closely with the Municipality to pilot innovative public initiatives with cross-sector support, facilitated numerous programs in the City of Athens’ candidacy, including:

·       Athens Trigono project leverages existing government resources and private investment to create a more vibrant and sustainable public space. Project partners included synAthina, an online platform that engages and connects hundreds of community groups in civic activities. 8,300 sq metres of graffiti were removed, new pedestrian zones created, and 29 arts events hosted in Athens Trigono engaged 178 artists.

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The Athens Trigono project is helping revitalize public space.

·       Athens Culture Net connects Athens cultural institutions through a digital platform and maximizes the city’s potential for cultural outreach and production. Through Athens Culture Net, 52 cultural institutions joined forces, forming 16 working groups, leading to 50 joint events in collaboration with another 200 cultural groups and institutions, and Athens’ first ever Culture Night.

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Athens Culture Net organized the City’s first-ever Culture Night.

·       Athens Digital Lab promotes digital innovation in municipal government to better serve residents. Launched with an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the support of telecommunications companies, Cosmote and Nokia, the Lab is developing city solutions with technological applications. In its first round, six startups were selected out of more than 110 applications, developing 4 prototype apps, which are currently being piloted across the City of Athens.

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The Athens Digital Lab helps young entrepreneurs develop their innovative tech solutions for the City.

·       Athens Digital Council provides strategic guidance to the City on the use of digital technology to improve government and services to Athenians. The Council is composed of leaders representing the largest digital, telecommunications, research and development and software solution companies in Greece, as well as distinguished professors from leading Greek universities, including Google, Accenture Nokia, and Microsoft among others. Since June 2017, Council members have supported a number of civic projects including the Smart Triangle project.

·       Athens Open Schools was designed to convert school buildings, after dismissal, on holidays and on weekends, into vibrant community centers. This covered the need for personal development opportunities, as well as providing safe, open public spaces in many neighborhoods. The program offers a variety of free, targeted activities and workshops for all ages. 27,000 Athenians took part in 470 different free educational and recreational activities in 25 Open Schools across Athens.

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25 new public spaces, offering free entertainment and development opportunities for all, were created by Athens Open Schools.

·       Designed for Better Learning & Maker Space, a program created with the expertise of the Technical University of Crete’s Transformable Intelligent Environments Laboratory, it transformed the environment and educational experience in 24 public schools (5% of schools stock in Athens), from preschool to high school. The City of Athens’ Maker Space, the first municipal maker space in Greece, is a laboratory that provides schools with access to the latest technology and equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers, giving students and teachers the opportunity to create their own educational tools. Already 1160 children and 168 teachers have been trained in applied digital technologies that can help transform their educational environment.

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Designed for Better Learning created the first municipal maker space in Greece, training school children and teachers in applied digital technologies.     

·       Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues was developed to bring together the major entities serving refugees. Within just a few months of launching, the new Center included the largest national and international organizations, sharing data and resources to strategically address immediate and future needs of refugees as well as inform policy and spending. 90 international and Greek agencies, with 370 delegates, and 12 Municipalities in Greece, are now coordinating to tackle challenges related to refugee and migrant integration.

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90 local and international agencies come together to coordinate on refugee response, under the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues.

·       Athens World Book Capital 2018 program, a partnership with UNESCO, to make books accessible to the city’s entire population, including migrants and refugees. The program includes meetings with writers, translators and illustrators, concerts, thematic exhibitions, poetry readings and workshops for publishing professionals. Already over 150 events have been realized, including inspirational hubs in the form of round tables, open discussions and creative dialogues and with the presence of distinguished writers.

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Acclaimed author Jeffrey Eugenides discusses with book critics and the public, at an event hosted by Athens World Book Capital 2018.

·       Athens Tourism Partnership & Athens Greeters, a new alliance between the City of Athens, Aegean Airlines and Athens International Airport, with support from The Hellenic Initiative, developed to promote Athens as a modern, welcoming, year-round destination. A multi-media campaign targeting European audiences was complemented by volunteer enthusiasm through a new Athens Greeters corps whose members personally welcomed and shared their knowledge of the city with thousands of visitors. The efforts of the Tourism Partnership were contributing factors to an impressive 10% year-on-year rise in overall Athens visitation numbers in 2017.

Athens Greeters personally welcomed 70,000 visitors in Athens.

The Athens Partnership, championed by Mayor Kaminis, was created with strategic guidance from Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono city consulting service offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies, to be a catalyst for innovative public programs. It was designed to intersect between city government and the private sector, leveraging the strengths of both. Project partners include academia, nonprofit organizations, civil society, and private supporters, including over 20 leading foundations and corporations.

"The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is proud to be a strong ally of the Municipality of Athens' innovative initiatives, which are recognized by this award," said Panos Papoulias, Deputy Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. "Our donation of €10 million to the City of Athens supported ground-breaking projects in collaboration with the Athens Partnership, such as Open Schools, the Revitalization of the Commercial Triangle program, and the city's first Digital Lab. These initiatives are improving and enhancing the quality of life of Athenians and the emergence of a city that promotes innovation and creativity. The iCapital distinction is a great validation of our partnership and it is shining a brighter international light on Athens and Greece for all the right reasons."

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kaminis, the City has worked hard to engage citizens and the private sector to help tackle its toughest challenges,” said Athens Partnership Executive Director Alexandros Kambouroglou. “The Athens Partnership is honored to collaborate with the City and help marshal cross-sector forces to benefit Athenians. We are grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and all of our partners, which are investing in innovative and meaningful initiatives that advance our city. The iCapital recognition is a great testament to the Mayor’s vision, our city’s resilience, and power of collaboration.”

Athens Digital Lab: Supporting young entrepreneurs and embracing new technologies in the City

It’s been a year since the launch of the Athens Digital Lab (ADL) and our teams have been building a portfolio of stories to tell and impressive futuristic gear to display! Tales of smart recycling bins that reward you and systems that can predict the health of all the plants in the city’s parks are now a reality…

The Athens Digital Lab teams, with San Fransisco-based tech coach, Christos Kritikos.

The Athens Digital Lab teams, with San Fransisco-based tech coach, Christos Kritikos.

Let me start with a recap: ADL was created by the Athens Partnership and the Municipality of Athens, with an exclusive grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the support of two major tech companies, Cosmote and Nokia. Six startups were selected out of more than 110 applications, following ADL’s 1st open call in November 2017. The teams’ goal was to develop their ideas for city solutions into real technological applications and to do this they were provided with technical equipment, mentoring and access to real data sets from the City of Athens.

Recystrust has developed a smart recycling bin that is already being tested in City Hall and public schools.

Recystrust has developed a smart recycling bin that is already being tested in City Hall and public schools.

After 6 months of work, guidance and evaluation, four of them are now testing their products in real time in field trials across Athens. One of the teams, Recytrust, has designed and developed a smart recycling bin, which uses sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide real-time data about recycling performance. Individual users’ waste behavior is monitored through personalized swipe cards. These innovative bins have been placed in 20 spots, including City Hall, as well as 10 primary schools, and aim to educate and gamify recycling for Athenians.

Inagros is testing its green spaces management system in the National Garden.

Inagros is testing its green spaces management system in the National Garden.

Another great example is Inagros, which has developed a green management smart system, at the heart of which is a project management platform that is connected with the sensors that are installed in parks, gardens and green areas of the city. Through these sensors, city management officers will be able to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health. Fifteen sensor nodes have already been placed and tested in the National Garden of Athens.

In order to exploit the transformative opportunities from collecting and analyzing a massive amount of information by IoT devices, Thing of Me designed and developed a big data marketplace. Their pilot testing started and new types of data are constantly being uploaded.

The fourth ADL team, Smart City Spaces, has developed a crowd-based platform and an application that lets the Municipal Police monitor public space use. Through open WiFi networks, by using data from smartphones that connect to these networks, public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic can be monitored throughout the city. This data can be used by the City for policy-making decisions, to identify popular areas and to monitor public safety. Also, Smart City Spaces has developed a “digital” ID for all businesses, enabling the city to monitor cafes and bars that use public space.

As the teams’ work progresses, the Athens Digital Lab is increasingly able to attract the best of the Greek startup ecosystem - entrepreneurs, business experts and researchers to share ideas and expertise. In early September, ADL welcomed Christos Kritikos, a San-Francisco-based tech entrepreneur - product-project manager and dreamer, startup coach at Emerging Humanity who has run numerous tech projects for several multinational companies, for a two-hour workshop on product management, exclusively for ADL teams. Christos also acted as a mentor, advising them on how to further develop their products.

Athens Partnership Executive Director, Alexandros Kambouroglou and ADL project manager, Antonis Papadopoulos present a workshop on how public-private partnerships can be the key to unleashing smart city potential, at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair.

Athens Partnership Executive Director, Alexandros Kambouroglou and ADL project manager, Antonis Papadopoulos present a workshop on how public-private partnerships can be the key to unleashing smart city potential, at the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair.

What is more, in mid-September, ADL joined the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair as part of the “Digital Greece” pavilion in mid-September, along with other Greek startups and leading innovation hubs of the ecosystem. It was a great opportunity to present ADL’s vision on what really makes a city ‘’smart’’. Alexandros Kambouroglou - Executive Director of the Athens Partnership and Antonis Papadopoulos - Project Manager of ADL, ran a workshop on how Athens is moving towards a Smart City and the pivotal role of the Athens Partnership in the digital transformation of Athens.

So, what happens next at ADL? Next month we will announce our 2nd Open Call and an event will be held at Serafio to present the results of the 4 current product/service pilots. We will march into our second year with new teams working on smart city solutions in 5 different areas, new partnerships (to be announced soon!) and a roll out of exciting events on entrepreneurship, tech and more by Greek/US/European leaders of the field.

Don’t miss a thing... Stay tuned and follow Athens Digital Lab and Athens Partnership on social media!

Young entrepreneurs present ideas to change Athens

The Athens Digital Lab (ADL) recently unveiled its work, including pilot tech apps designed to tackle urban challenges. ADL was created by the Athens Partnership with the Municipality of Athens and a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Tech companies Cosmote and Nokia also play an internal support role. This year four teams of entrepreneurs were selected (from more than 110 proposals received), following an open call for “digital ideas to change the city”. The teams have been provided financial support, technical resources and access to data to develop their products.

Young entrepreneurs present their innovative Internet of Things solutions to the tech community.

Young entrepreneurs present their innovative Internet of Things solutions to the tech community.

“The unique strength of the Athens Digital Lab lies in the pooling of resources between the public and private sector,” said Alexandros Kambouroglou, Executive Director of the Athens Partnership. “This unique initiative is allowing the City of Athens to embrace experimentation and innovation, and opening up more opportunities for the tech industry. And the invaluable support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation provided the ability to create an ecosystem of experimentation”.

The Athens Digital Lab is coordinated for the City of Athens by the Athens Partnership, based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, with the partnership of Cosmote and Nokia.

The Athens Digital Lab is coordinated for the City of Athens by the Athens Partnership, based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, with the partnership of Cosmote and Nokia.

The Athens Digital Lab is part of Mayor Georgios Kaminis’ 2018 Digital Roadmap, a strategic plan to enhance public services through digital technologies, improve technological infrastructure, and promote digital access for Athens residents. ADL also supports youth entrepreneurship in Greece and encourages Greek technology to be exported internationally.

The teams and tech pilots presented were:

RecyTrust - Smart recycling bins and behavioral change platform.

Less than 19 percent of waste in Greece is recycled. RecyTrust is determined to change this by designing smart recycling bins and changing wasteful trash management behaviors. The RecyTrust recycling bins use IoT technology to provide real time data about the capacity of the bins and their recycling performance. These bins “gamify” waste management, by rewarding people points each time they use the bins and recycle correctly.

Recytrust present their app at the Athens Digital Lab open house.

Recytrust present their app at the Athens Digital Lab open house.

Inagros - A smart green management system.

The City of Athens manages a large number of parks and green public spaces that are enjoyed by its residents. However, with limited resources, it is difficult for the City to know which green spaces are in need of care and maintenance. Inagros developed a node of sensors, "Inagros Urban" that the City will use to monitor and control water and fertilizer levels, and predict plant health across the city's parks.

The National Garden in central Athens is one of the public parks that can benefit from improved management through the “Inagros Urban” platform.

The National Garden in central Athens is one of the public parks that can benefit from improved management through the “Inagros Urban” platform.

Smart City Spaces - A public space management tool.

Athens is known for its café culture, which often spills out onto its streets. But the use of public space by restaurants and bars is a challenge for the city to monitor. Smart City Spaces therefore designed a web dashboard that monitors public spaces and pedestrian foot traffic throughout the city. Smart City Spaces creates digital "beacons”, which act as digital ID’s for stores and contain their licensing information.

Thing of Me - A marketplace for data.

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and technology provides new and transformative opportunities to collect and analyze data. The Thing of Me platform establishes a marketplace to exchange this data.

Young tech teams present their pilot to executives from Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy who advise the City of Athens.

Young tech teams present their pilot to executives from Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy who advise the City of Athens.