A smart city is not only a city full of screens and self-driving cars. It is a city that employs data to better allocate resources, cover needs, and make places more accessible for everyone. Public toilets are the best example of how using data helps to design people-centered smart cities.
The European Commission defines a smart city as a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business. In the same notion, TSPA has developed two city-wide concepts for Berlin and Düsseldorf that provide a demand-oriented supply of public toilets. To do so, we identified priority locations based on geodata and a distance ratio allocating the city resources in the best possible way.
The approach is integrative for the objectives of the idea, not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. We accompanied city policies with the involvement of interest groups and parts of the city’s administration. To provide a detailed strategy we used a wide range of data provided by public and private authorities, analysed basic human behaviour patterns, and compared with other cities to develop a sustainable concept. We considered data such as existing facilities within a certain range, people densities, tourism patterns, and many others. Only the combination of these tools and variables can help to elaborate a holistic strategy. As a result, the number of publicly accessible toilets will be increased to 200 locations in Düsseldorf and 257 in Berlin.
Public Toilets might be overlooked as part of the backbone of a city’s infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that it is of great importance for its inhabitants and visitors. Big data analysis and cross-sector comparison are tools that improve the provision of such a basic service.
The provision of public toilets is a realistic way of thinking about how cities can be smart because it contributes significantly to the quality and accessibility of a city’s public space. It influences how we move around in the city and whether restrictions arise for some groups of people. Making the cities more interactive and responsive, safer public spaces, and meeting the needs of an aging population.
We are aware that there are a lot of things to improve when it comes to public toilets. How to achieve gender equality in its provision? How to keep it functional and accessible for everyone? How can these be safe without displacing vulnerable populations of public space?
We might not have all the answers, for one it is clear that intelligently chosen locations can at least help to tackle the issue of unequal spatial distribution or unmet capacity. The data-driven planning here steps as the main pillar.