UNSense puts residents in control of smart city data

21 January 2020
  • UNSense



Helmond foundation aims to create “smartest neighbourhood in the world”

UNSense, the arch-tech company founded by UNStudio, will bring together tech and building constoria to develop a smart neighbourhood of 100 houses in Helmond, Netherlands. The scheme was commissioned by the Brainport Smart District Foundation, which is made up of partners including the municipality authorities and Eindhoven University of Technology. The Foundation hopes to develop a smart neighbourhood through the creation of an urban data platform hosting services relating to housing, energy, mobility and health. With data privacy proving to be a hot topic around the world, the scheme includes a new business model that puts users and residents in control of their data.

The "100 Homes Project" is part of the UNStudio master plan for the expansion of the Brandevoort neighbourhood, creating 1,500 permanent and 500 temporary homes, greenery and 12 hectares of business park. The designers aim to create the "smartest neighbourhood in the world", working towards self-sufficiency through joint energy generation and local food production. Following the foundation’s positive response to an initial feasibility study, UNStudio has brought together further partners and collaborators, including the construction company VolkerWessels. Under the direction of UNSense, three consortia will be formed over the coming months for construction, urban data management and services development. 

The project also aims to test an alternative and fairer economic model in which the residents themselves benefit from the exchange of their data. The current dominant business model is based around consumers and small companies providing their data for free to technology companies in exchange for services. The backbone of the new neighbourhood is formed around a new Urban Data Platform which will use the principle of Equal Exchange, meaning that data ownership is controlled by the end user. By focusing on 'user consent', the residents decide which data they want to protect and which they want to share - and with which parties. An Ethics Council will be set up for scheme, consisting of scientists and independent experts from the public and private sector. 

Brainport Smart District is expected to be constructed over the next decade, with completion scheduled for 2029.

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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