Public Open Sensor Data: Revolutionizing Smart Cities


New Paper in Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE (Volume: 32,  Issue: 4): “Local governments have decided to take advantage of the presence of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) in their cities to efficiently manage several applications in their daily responsibilities. The enormous amount of information collected by sensor devices allows the automation of several real-time services to improve city management by using intelligent traffic-light patterns during rush hour, reducing water consumption in parks, or efficiently routing garbage collection trucks throughout the city [1]. The sensor information required by these examples is mostly self-consumed by city-designed applications and managers.”

Owning the city: New media and citizen engagement in urban design


Paper by Michiel de Lange and Martijn de Waal in First Monday : “In today’s cities our everyday lives are shaped by digital media technologies such as smart cards, surveillance cameras, quasi–intelligent systems, smartphones, social media, location–based services, wireless networks, and so on. These technologies are inextricably bound up with the city’s material form, social patterns, and mental experiences. As a consequence, the city has become a hybrid of the physical and the digital. This is perhaps most evident in the global north, although in emerging countries, like Indonesia and China mobile phones, wireless networks and CCTV cameras have also become a dominant feature of urban life (Castells, et al., 2004; Qiu, 2007, 2009; de Lange, 2010). What does this mean for urban life and culture? And what are the implications for urban design, a discipline that has hitherto largely been concerned with the city’s built form?
In this contribution we do three things. First we take a closer look at the notion of ‘smart cities’ often invoked in policy and design discourses about the role of new media in the city. In this vision, the city is mainly understood as a series of infrastructures that must be managed as efficiently as possible. However, critics note that these technological imaginaries of a personalized, efficient and friction–free urbanism ignore some of the basic tenets of what it means to live in cities (Crang and Graham, 2007).
Second, we want to fertilize the debates and controversies about smart cities by forwarding the notion of ‘ownership’ as a lens to zoom in on what we believe is the key question largely ignored in smart city visions: how to engage and empower citizens to act on complex collective urban problems? As is explained in more detail below, we use ‘ownership’ not to refer to an exclusive proprietorship but to an inclusive form of engagement, responsibility and stewardship. At stake is the issue how digital technologies shape the ways in which people in cities manage coexistence with strangers who are different and who often have conflicting interests, and at the same time form new collectives or publics around shared issues of concern (see, for instance, Jacobs, 1992; Graham and Marvin, 2001; Latour, 2005). ‘Ownership’ teases out a number of shifts that take place in the urban public domain characterized by tensions between individuals and collectives, between differences and similarities, and between conflict and collaboration.
Third, we discuss a number of ways in which the rise of urban media technologies affects the city’s built form. Much has been said and written about changing spatial patterns and social behaviors in the media city. Yet as the editors of this special issue note, less attention has been paid to the question how urban new media shape the built form. The notion of ownership allows us to figure the connection between technology and the city as more intricate than direct links of causality or correlation. Therefore, ownership in our view provides a starting point for urban design professionals and citizens to reconsider their own role in city making.
Questions about the role of digital media technologies in shaping the social fabric and built form of urban life are all the more urgent in the context of challenges posed by rapid urbanization, a worldwide financial crisis that hits particularly hard on the architectural sector, socio–cultural shifts in the relationship between professional and amateur, the status of expert knowledge, societies that face increasingly complex ‘wicked’ problems, and governments retreating from public services. When grounds are shifting, urban design professionals as well as citizens need to reconsider their own role in city making.”

Making Europe's cities smarter


Press Release: “At a conference today hosted by the European Commission, city leaders, CEOs and civil society leaders discussed the actions outlined in the “Smart Cities Strategic Implementation Plan” and how to put them into practice. The Commission announced that it will launch an ‘Invitation for Smart City and Community Commitments’ in spring 2014 to mobilise work on the action plan’s priorities. The plan is part of Europe’s fifth “Innovation Partnership”.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, in charge of transport, said: “I am very pleased to see transport operators, telecoms companies, vehicle manufacturers, city planners, energy companies and researchers all gathered in one room to discuss the future of our cities. The Smart Cities initiative is a great opportunity to make changes happen for less congestion and better business opportunities in our cities. We need to keep up the momentum and move from plan to action now.”
Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, said: “The future of infrastructure and city planning will be based on integrating ICT systems and using big data to make our cities better places to live and work. We need to base those new systems on open standards for hardware, software, data and services which this European Innovation Partnership will develop.”
Günther H. Oettinger, EU Commissioner for energy, said: “The European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities is about making investments in sustainable development in as many cities as possible. Creating equal partnerships between cities and companies based on synergies between ICT, energy and mobility will lead to projects that make a real difference in our everyday lives.”
The Commission intends to make available approximately EUR 200 million for Smart Cities and communities in the 2014-2015 budgets of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, to accelerate progress and enlarge the scale of roll-out of smart cities solutions. There will also be possibilities to access the European Structural and Investment Funds.
For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/eip/smartcities/”

Smart Citizens


FutureEverything: “This publication aims to shift the debate on the future of cities towards the central place of citizens, and of decentralised, open urban infrastructures. It provides a global perspective on how cities can create the policies, structures and tools to engender a more innovative and participatory society. The publication contains a series of 23 short essays representing some of the key voices developing an emerging discourse around Smart Citizens.  Contributors include:

  • Dan Hill, Smart Citizens pioneer and CEO of communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio Fabrica on why Smart Citizens Make Smart Cities.
  • Anthony Townsend, urban planner, forecaster and author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia on the tensions between place-making and city-making on the role of mobile technologies in changing the way that people interact with their surroundings.
  • Paul Maltby, Director of the Government Innovation Group and of the Open Data and Transparency in the UK Cabinet Office on how government can support a smarter society.
  • Aditya Dev Sood, Founder and CEO of the Center for Knowledge Societies, presents polarised hypothetical futures for India in 2025 that argues for the use of technology to bridge gaps in social inequality.
  • Adam Greenfield, New York City-based writer and urbanist, on Recuperating the Smart City.

Editors: Drew Hemment, Anthony Townsend
Download Here.

Chicago: Increase and improve City data


Initiative 14 of the Chicago Tech Plan:  “The City will continue to increase and improve the quality of City data available internally and externally, and facilitate methods for analyzing that data to help create a smarter and more efficient city.”
Releasing data is a crucial component of creating an open and transparent government. Chicago is currently a leader in open data, capturing and publishing more than 400 machine-readable datasets to date. In 2012, Mayor Emanuel issued an executive order ensuring that the City continues to release new data, and empowering the Chief Data Officer to work with other City departments and agencies to develop new datasets. The City is following an aggressive schedule for releasing new datasets to the public and updating existing sets. It is also working to facilitate ways the City and others can use data to help improve City operations.
Chicago Shovels Plow Tracker
Source: https://web.archive.org/web/2000/https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/mayor/iframe/plow_tracker.html
 


Open Data Success Story: ChicagoWorks
A collaboration between Alderman Ameya Pawar and local graphic design company 2pensmedia, ChicagoWorks is a free app that is changing the way Chicagoans interact with government. Using the app, residents can submit service requests directly to 311
and track the progress of reported issues. So far, more than 3,000 residents have downloaded the app.18


Open Data Success Story: SpotHero and Techstars Chicago
The app SpotHero makes residents’ lives easier by helping them find and reserve parking spots online. Developed in Chicago, the app had its start at Excelerate Labs, a Chicago start-up accelerator, now Techstars Chicago, that provides mentorship, training, and networking opportunities to 10 selected start-ups each year. After graduating from the program, ranked as one of the top 3 accelerators nationally, SpotHero attracted $2.5 million in VC funding. With this funding, the company is hiring new staff working to expand to other cities.19


Open Data Success Story: OpenGov Hack Night
Chicago boasts a community of “civic hackers” who are passionate about using technology to improve the city. An example of this passion in action is the OpenGov Hack Night. Organized by Open City, an organization that builds web apps and other tools using open government data, the Hack Night attracts civic hackers and curious residents eager to explore the intersection of open government data, smart cities, and technology. Every week, the Hack Night provides a collaborative environment for residents to learn about open data, working on cutting-edge projects and networking with passionate civic technologists.20

Choose Your Own Route on Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus


Brian Merchant at Motherboard: “Technology should probably be transforming public transit a lot faster than it is. Yes, apps like Hopstop have made finding stops easier and I’ve started riding the bus in unfamiliar parts of town a bit more often thanks to Google Maps’ route info. But these are relatively small steps, and it’s all limited to making scheduling information more widely available. Where’s the innovation on the other side? Where’s the Uber-like interactivity, the bus that comes to you after a tap on the iPhone?
In Finland, actually. The Kutsuplus is Helsinki’s groundbreaking mass transit hybrid program that lets riders choose their own routes, pay for fares on their phones, and summon their own buses. It’s a pretty interesting concept. With a ten minute lead time, you summon a Kutsuplus bus to a stop using the official app, just as you’d call a livery cab on Uber. Each minibus in the fleet seats at least nine people, and there’s room for baby carriages and bikes.
You can call your own private Kutsuplus, but if you share the ride, you share the costs—it’s about half the price of a cab fare, and a dollar or two more expensive than old school bus transit. You can then pick your own stop, also using the app.
The interesting part is the scheduling, which is entirely automated. If you’re sharing the ride, an algorithm determines the most direct route, and you only get charged as though you were riding solo. You can pay with a Kutsuplus wallet on the app, or, eventually, bill the charge to your phone bill.”

Smart Cities Turn Big Data Into Insight [Infographic]


Mark van Rijmenam in SmartDataCollective: “Cities around the globe are confronted with growing populations, aging infrastructure, reduced budgets, and the challenge of doing more with less. Applying big data technologies within cities can provide valuable insights that can keep a city habitable. The City of Songdo is a great example of a connected city, where all connected devices create a smart city that is optimized for the every-changing conditions in that same city. IBM recently released an infographic showing the vast opportunities of smart cities and the possible effects on the economy.”
Infographic Smarter Cities. Turning Big Data into Insight

Towards an effective framework for building smart cities: Lessons from Seoul and San Francisco


New paper by JH Lee, MG Hancock, MC Hu in Technological Forecasting and Social Change: “This study aims to shed light on the process of building an effective smart city by integrating various practical perspectives with a consideration of smart city characteristics taken from the literature. We developed a framework for conducting case studies examining how smart cities were being implemented in San Francisco and Seoul Metropolitan City. The study’s empirical results suggest that effective, sustainable smart cities emerge as a result of dynamic processes in which public and private sector actors coordinate their activities and resources on an open innovation platform. The different yet complementary linkages formed by these actors must further be aligned with respect to their developmental stage and embedded cultural and social capabilities. Our findings point to eight ‘stylized facts’, based on both quantitative and qualitative empirical results that underlie the facilitation of an effective smart city. In elaborating these facts, the paper offers useful insights to managers seeking to improve the delivery of smart city developmental projects.”
 

Using Participatory Crowdsourcing in South Africa to Create a Safer Living Environment


New Paper by Bhaveer Bhana, Stephen Flowerday, and Aharon Satt in the International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks: “The increase in urbanisation is making the management of city resources a difficult task. Data collected through observations (utilising humans as sensors) of the city surroundings can be used to improve decision making in terms of managing these resources. However, the data collected must be of a certain quality in order to ensure that effective and efficient decisions are made. This study is focused on the improvement of emergency and non-emergency services (city resources) through the use of participatory crowdsourcing (humans as sensors) as a data collection method (collect public safety data), utilising voice technology in the form of an interactive voice response (IVR) system.
The study illustrates how participatory crowdsourcing (specifically humans as sensors) can be used as a Smart City initiative focusing on public safety by illustrating what is required to contribute to the Smart City, and developing a roadmap in the form of a model to assist decision making when selecting an optimal crowdsourcing initiative. Public safety data quality criteria were developed to assess and identify the problems affecting data quality.
This study is guided by design science methodology and applies three driving theories: the Data Information Knowledge Action Result (DIKAR) model, the characteristics of a Smart City, and a credible Data Quality Framework. Four critical success factors were developed to ensure high quality public safety data is collected through participatory crowdsourcing utilising voice technologies.”

A Manifesto for Smart Citizens


Frank Kresin from the Waag Society: “We, citizens of all cities, take the fate of the places we live in into our own hands. We care about the familiar buildings and the parks, the shops, the schools, the roads and the trees, but far more about the quality of the life we live in them. About the casual interactions, uncalled for encounters, the craze and the booze and the love we lost and found. We know that our lives are interconnected, and what we do here will impact the outcomes over there. While we can never predict the eventual effect of our actions, we take full responsibility to make this world a better place.
Therefore, we will refuse to be consumers, client and informants only, and reclaim agency towards the processes, algorithms and systems that shape our world. We need to know how decisions are made, we need to have the information that is at hand; we need to have direct access to the people in power, and be involved in the crafting of laws and procedures that we grapple with everyday.
Fortunately, we are not alone. We are well educated and have appropriated the tools to connect at the touch of a button, organize ourselves, make our voices heard. We have the tools to measure ourselves and our environment, to visualize and analyse the data, to come to conclusions and take action. We have continuous access to the best of learning in the world, to powerful phones and laptops and software, and to home-grown labs that help us make the things that others won’t. Furthermore we were inspired by such diverse examples as the 1% club, Avaaz, Kickstarter, Couchsurfing, Change by Us, and many, many more.
We are ready. But government is not. It was shaped in the 18th century, but increasingly struggles with 21st century problems it cannot solve. It lost touch with its citizens and is less and less equipped to provide the services and security it had pledged to offer. While it tries to build ‘smart cities’ that reinforce or strengthen the status quo – that was responsible for the problems in the first place – it loses sight of the most valuable resource it can tap into: the smart citizen.
Smart Citizens:

  • Will take responsibility for the place they live, work and love in;
  • Value access over ownership, contribution over power;
  • Will ask forgiveness, not permission;
  • Know where they can get the tools, knowledge and support they need;
  • Value empathy, dialogue and trust;
  • Appropriate technology, rather than accept it as is;
  • Will help the people that struggle with smart stuff;
  • Ask questions, then more questions, before they come up with answers;
  • Actively take part in design efforts to come up with better solutions;
  • Work agile, prototype early, test quickly and know when to start over;
  • Will not stop in the face of seemingly huge boundariesbarriers;
  • Unremittingly share their knowledge and their learning, because they know this is where true value comes from.

All over the world, smart citizens take action. We self-organise, form cooperations, share resources and take back full responsibility for the care of our children and elderly. We pop up restaurants, harvest renewable energy, maintain urban gardens, build temporary structures and nurture compassion and trust. We kickstart the products and services we care about, repair and upcycle, or learn how to manufacture things ourselves. We even coined new currencies in response to events that recently shook our comfortable world, but were never solved by the powers that be.
Until now, we have mostly worked next to governments, sometimes against them, but hardly ever with them. As a result, many of the initiatives so far have been one-offs, inspiring but not game changing. We have put lots of energy into small-scale interventions that briefly flared and then returned to business as usual. Just imagine what will happen if our energy, passion and knowledge are teamed up by governments that know how to implement and scale up. Governments that take full responsibility for participating in the open dialogue that is needed to radically rethink the systems that were built decades ago.
One day we will wake up and realise WE ARE OUR GOVERNMENT. Without us, there is nobody there. As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a people to craft a society. We know it can be done; it was done before. And with the help of new technologies it is easier than ever. So let’s actively set out to build truly smart cities, with smart citizens at their helms, and together become the change that we want to see in this world.”