Research goals

The term "smart cities" can be defined in different ways, but definitions almost always refer to using "smart" technology to improve various aspects of cities. In this context, GEO-C will use methods and approaches from Geoinformatics and its application areas to investigate open cities, i.e. smart cities that are open to all citizens and facilitate participation on all levels. A complex topic area such as smart and open cities clearly calls for an interdisciplinary and multi-perspective approach. GEO-C brings together key stakeholders from academia, industry, and government in a multi-disciplinary team (including, e.g., experts in spatiotemporal and environmental modelling, statistics, human-computer interaction, visualisation, information systems, mobile and ubiquitous computing, spatial learning, or decision support systems) under a coherent and effective structure.


The main goal of GEO-C is to make substantial scientific progress towards the notion of open cities, i.e. smart cities that are open to all citizens and facilitate participation on all levels. In order to achieve this, we will (i) train the next generation of smart city experts in a multi-disciplinary program, (ii) address key challenges of rapidly changing cities with novel participatory technologies, and (iii) facilitate the implementation of open cities via a an open source toolkit. The research questions of GEO-C will be tackled in three complementary strands. They are derived from the three core areas in research on open governance: participation, collaboration, transparency (cf. figure below). Each strand falls into one of the intersections between the core areas and covers a crucially important aspect for realising open cities: deep participation, analysis and fusion of city data, and city services (cf. table below).

Research strands, main research questions and key outcomes

Research strand Deep participation Analysis and fusion Services
Research questions How to enable all citizens to participate in and benefit from smart cities? How to determine quality of life and key performance indicators of smart cities? How to realise fundamental services in smart cities?
Overarching questions How to enable all stakeholders to contribute to smart cities? How to facilitate transparency and openness of all processes, decisions and data in smart open cities? What insights can be gained from open data on smart cities, and how to best make use of such data?
Key outcomes Methods and approaches to realise smart and open cities, prototypically implemented in an open source toolkit to facilitate uptake; fifteen PhD graduates with necessary skills and expertise to drive realisation of smart and open cities.

The three strands also correspond to the three main research work packages, which strongly interact to account for the interdependency of the topics. The strands are connected via the overarching research questions and the common goal of developing an open city toolkit (cf. figure below). This toolkit is a key element in ensuring the uptake of methods developed in GEO-C. Each of the fifteen individual PhD projects tackles specific research questions in one of the three strands.


  • ESR 01: Public displays as integrators of open cities, supervised by Kray (WWU, Germany)
  • ESR 02: Educating children as citizens of smart open cities, supervised by Schwering (WWU, Germany)
  • ESR 03: Using and adapting open citizen data for different user groups, supervised by Schwering (WWU, Germany)
  • ESR 04: Volunteered geographic information, integration in public participation and geographic information systems, supervised by Painho (UNL, Portugal)
  • ESR 05: Determinants of ICT for online citizen participation in city/urban contexts: implications of 2nd order digital divide, supervised by Oliveira (UNL, Portugal)
  • ESR 06: Participatory sensing framework, supervised by Casteleyn (UJI, Spain)
  • ESR 07: Mobile services for green living, supervised by Gould (UJI, Spain)
  • ESR 08: Sensing quality of life, supervised by Pebesma (WWU, Germany)