City of Rotterdam: Digital Experiment Center

Experimenting in the Digital Experience Center

What can we do with new digital technology? That was the main question of the Engineering Department of the City of Rotterdam. They were asking for a BIM (Building Information Modelling) – Laboratory to work with CAD and 3D technology. Their IT department’s main focus was on keeping the general infrastructure working and safe. How to create a Sandbox for experimenting with IT solutions and be able to experiment with real situations from the daily experiences of the engineers and advisors.

The project

From the start the scope of the project was to provide the possibility to experiment and explore to all the colleagues working at the City of Rotterdam. With a broader scope the IT department and also facility management were more willing to invest money, time and effort. This also meant that the label BIM-Lab was replaced by the broader label “Digital Experiment Center”.

The Digital Experiment center was both a physical as a virtual space where business challenges were the basis for experiments. The project worked with facility management and the IT department in the construction of a physical space on the 31st floor of the office building called “De Rotterdam”. This physical space contained a workshop , where experiments could take place, and a presentation room where results could be presented. Both spaces were connected with a server-room that also worked as storage space for equipment. The network had a virtual space as well using cloud services like Microsoft’s Azure/Office365 and AWS.

Besides setting up the facilities to support experimentation, the project was also responsible for creating the organization and practices to allow experiments to happen en to share the results. This involved creating a process where business challenges could be shared and solutions could be offered. A process to select solutions for experimentation and to see if and how they would help solve these business challenges. A key factor is the link to partners in the ecosystem who are willing to sponsor certain solutions and to work with the City in experiments. Because the City of Rotterdam as a public organization has to procure within the European Tender rules we had to create a framework for partners to enable them to contribute.