What if... Cities?

Many of us live or work in modern cities and interact with them on many levels. Everything in that city whether a service, an environment, a person or simply a specific sound all play their part in forming the user experience of that specific place.

We all have things we love and indeed hate about the cities we interact with the most. But what if we took learnings from brands and applied them to a city? A city with no red tape and bureaucracy to restrict change and slow down progressive ideas.


What if all citizens of City X were treated like members of an exclusive club that they would be proud to be part of? They would be given a City X membership card. One smart card that is your key to the city. The card would grant access to all the city’s services by consolidating them into one card. It could be an ‘Oyster’ style card for all public transport, as well as a Library Card, a museum and gallery pass, a swimming card, a parking pass, a National Insurance Card, an NHS Card and a Donor Card. We could vote simple by tapping our card in a polling station.It could replace your driving licence and even your passport. It would be smart, it would be secure, it would be yours.


What if the City X Card was also a loyalty card. What if you got citizen points for interacting with the city. What if the card used Near Field Communication (NFC) to collect citizen points when you visited key services like recycling centres or used museums. What if you got points visiting galleries or supporting key initiatives. What if this data was used by the city to reward good citizens with tailored rewards based on their habitual interactions.


What if everyone had their own City X Analytics Page that would help you understand how you use City X and see your key interaction points. What if it gave you a Citizen Rating based on your contribution through interaction. Would this encourage greater interaction and create a stronger community within the city?


What if City X took this data and used it to analyse how citizens use the city and how to improve its user experience? Who uses what and at what times? Who doesn’t interact and why? How can we involve them and incentivise them and become a more inclusive city? Could we create a healthier city by rewarding inactive users with fitness related incentives? Could we reduce congestion by understanding commuter behaviour more? Instead of increasing parking prices and adding congestion charges, could we change behaviour with incentives and convince hardened car users to cycle to work? Sounds unlikely I know, but brands often find the carrot works better than the stick.


What if City X was an online community for its citizens that was not just a notice board, but an interactive forum for users to affect change within their city? It would have the facility to ‘Live Chat’ councillors or MPs. It could feature polls to gauge public feeling, pass new legislations or vote in local elections. The citizens could vote on whether to grant planning permission for key architectural projects, meaning we only get the buildings we collectively want, or need. It could show ‘top citizens’ or ‘key influencers’ based on interaction rather than social status or wealth. It could show top performing services based on interactions. We could show how our city performed against other cities? Would this increase knowledge and improve access and transparency of knowledge make City X a better, more joined up experience with happier citizens


Many people may see this as a ‘Big Brother’ approach and raise concerns about privacy and data access. These are valid concerns but all these systems and technologies are voluntarily used every day by millions of people to interact with brands and their products. We readily give-up our data to brands like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks, but shy away from giving our own government access to help them understand us more and improve our lives. Do we simply trust brands more than we trust the people we democratically elect to keep us safe?

What if City X was your city, would you be a happier citizen?

Written by Darren Scott
Creative Partner – Truth Creative