Introducing a Smart City Component in a Robotic Competition: A Field Report

Bardaro, Gianluca; Daga, Enrico; Carvalho, Jason; Chiatti, Agnese and Motta, Enrico (2022). Introducing a Smart City Component in a Robotic Competition: A Field Report. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 9, article no. 728628.



In recent years, two fields have become more prominent in our everyday life: smart cities and service robots. In a smart city, information is collected from distributed sensors around the city into centralised data hubs and used to improve the efficiency of the city systems and provide better services to citizens. Exploiting major advances in Computer Vision and Machine Learning, service robots have evolved from performing simple tasks to playing the role of hotel concierges, museum guides, waiters in cafes and restaurants, home assistants, automated delivery drones, and more. As digital agents, robots can be prime members of the smart city vision. On the one hand, smart city data can be accessed by robots to gain information that is relevant to the task in hand. On the other hand, robots can act as mobile sensors and actuators on behalf of the smart city, thus contributing to the data acquisition process. However, the connection between service robots and smart cities is surprisingly under-explored. In an effort to stimulate advances on the integration between robots and smart cities, we turned to robot competitions and hosted the first Smart Cities Robotics Challenge (SciRoc). The contest included activities specifically designed to require cooperation between robots and the MK Data Hub, a Smart City data infrastructure. In this article, we report on the competition held in Milton Keynes (UK) in September 2019, focusing in particular on the role played by the MK Data Hub in simulating a Smart City Data Infrastructure for service robots. Additionally, we discuss the feedback we received from the various people involved in the SciRoc Challenge, including participants, members of the public and organisers, and summarise the lessons learnt from this experience.

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