Usman Haque is founding partner of Umbrellium, a team of architects, designers, commercial experts, producers and creative technologists, andThingful, a search engine for the Internet of Things. Trained as an architect, he has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and dozens of mass-participation initiatives throughout the world.

At RE.WORK Future Cities Summit, Usman will discuss the paradoxical structures of urban collaboration, and ways that the paradoxes can be harnessed in constructing participative architectural systems, with specific reference to Usman’s interactive environments, urban spectacles, collaboration platforms and other concrete examples.

What’s your vision of a smart city?

I am not interested in a “smart” city — I don’t think that means anything. I am interested in a city where people are directly engaged in meaningful decision making, where they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their neighbourhoods and where technological platforms are designed to support and encourage heterogeneity rather than homogeneity.

Engaging the public seems to be a common characteristic in Umbrellium’s projects, is what the public wants from a smart city? If so, why?

In a world where decisions we make impact not just those that are right in front of us but also those on the other side of the planet it is important for us all to be part of both framing complex urban issues as well as deciding how to deal with them. Engagement is key to any kind of future urban sustainability.

What is Thingful and how can it help create a smart city?

Thingful.net is a search engine for the Internet of Things that aims to balance discovery (of connected objects & sensors) with an entitlement framework, through which owners of those things can control whether, and how, they can be discovered at all. Thingful emphasises the power of data owners (be they individual consumers, community organisations or commercial entities) to control how, where and why their data is accessible to others, in an environment where trusted sharing can take place.

How important is it to explore new technologies at events, such as RE.WORK?

It is almost impossible to cleave a definition of technology away from a definition for society, but I would prefer to place more emphasis on exploring that which is socio-political and cultural rather than merely technological.

Usman Haque will be speaking at RE.WORK Future Cities Summit, London, on 4-5 December. To view the full line-up and register to attend, go to: re-work.co/cities

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