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Open City Data and its Significance to Smart City

In the context of a city, there is an important distinction between two key types of data collection intentions such as Organic Data and Purposeful Data.

Organic Data is a byproduct of some transactional process of daily life within cities like communication, online purchases, tax payments, mobility etc.

Purposeful Data is a collection of data through surveys. For eg. census, unemployment rate, household income, political polls etc.

The difference between organic and purposeful data is important as they serve different use cases. Organic data is useful for measuring fast urban dynamics whereas purposeful data is useful to target slow dynamics which are taken as mean change over a month, a year, or even few decades. For eg., daily dynamic traffic patterns will be considered as fast dynamic

Increasingly, dynamic source of information about the urban areas is getting generated by passive technologies supplying a variety of real-time measures.

They typically involve:

  • Various Sensor technologies including CO2, Temperature, Humidity, Noise, and Light. Such sensors can be deployed at various scales ranging from city-wide implementation to block level. Such interconnected monitoring can enable various innovative applications such as a geographically targeted warning to those with respiratory problems, advice to pedestrian to avoid polluted areas.
  • The range of emerging technologies linked with a smartphone. The sensor can be deployed to detect the presence of the smartphone through which footfall can be estimated.
  • Selected Application can provide streaming location data either in the background or as part of the app functionality. Google uses pooled location data to measure the speed of drives along road lengths which used to estimate congestion level on the road which appears on the google map.
  • GPS receivers are installed on moving object within the urban areas like the Buses or Taxis.
  • Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is widely used for real-time surveillance. These devices are used for a variety of purposes ranging from security measures to traffic management applications.

So far we discussed various sensor technologies that generate data about people mobility. However human is also a sensor who generates a wide variety of data on a social media platform. Data generated on these platforms provides an extensive resource on which a wide variety of urban research has been conducted.

Every city generates an enormous amount of data and when this data is consumed for other purposes other than what it was originally generated for, it becomes more valuable. For example, data collected to send electricity bill can be later used by another provider to consult power saving ideas for household purposes.

Using data for other/different purposes is a remarkable way of inspiring urban innovation.

Now, let us talk about how can a city make these kinds of data easily available to anyone or anything which makes a city smarter? How can a city open up its repository of data from different domains?

Open Data is the cornerstone of open governance and transparency and it primarily deals with innovation. The easy availability of rich and useful data gives birth to new ideas and solutions.

There are eight core principles for open data:

  1. Complete: Open Data requires a complete set for the given data set
  2. Primary: This means that the data is from its source and is in its most granular form without being aggregated or modified. Open data should be the raw form or the actual collected form.
  3. Timely: Data should be made available as soon as it is generated.
  4. Accessibility: Open Data should be available through a connected platform. It should be available in multiple formats and should not require any special technology to access it.
  5. Machine processable: Open Data should be easily integrated and processed by other computers and applications.
  6. Nondiscriminatory: Open Data should be available to anyone without any prior requirements for eg. registering for the data.
  7. Nonproprietary: No one should have exclusive control over the data. Data should not be made available in a special format that requires an expensive piece of software.
  8. License-free: Data should be free to use without it being subjected to any trade mark, patent or regulation.

With these eight qualities met, data is said to be open. The same can be used by urban innovators for innovation.

With Rapid Urbanisation, cities need a lot of new ideas and innovations from entrepreneurs. Most of the cities does not have enough resources to address the increasing challenges of rapid urbanisation. To build smarter cities, we need to expand traditional public-private partnership and engage all the talent and capital available. Many governments are opening its repositories of data and making it easily accessible via open data portals. This data may be related to crime, pollution, economics, libraries, finance, infrastructure, and more. What stories and ideas live within this data? What challenges and problems can be solved with this data? Thousands of smart urban solutions are getting created by innovative ideas with open data all over the world.  Many of these solutions are happening because of individuals’ focus on government data to do good social work.

Open Data is a content platform which gives an opportunity for problem solvers to be engaged.

More Engagement will happen if:

  1. The government can arrange events and competition to incentivize good ideas and solutions
  2. We create a marketplace where entrepreneurs can see an economic opportunity with the easily available Open data that provides content. Theentrepreneurs should be able to use this content to build commercial solutions that can be monetized at the marketplace.

Cities can not address all current and future needs by themselves. They need more wider participation to fulfil the citizen expectations. Open city data is the easiest way to engage talent in urban innovation.

As a consequence, this also means that open data must be core to any smart city strategy.


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