Is there a killer- app that makes a city smart?
Director Global Strategy IT in Cities
Posted on: 28 January 2019
Being ‘smart’ requires cities to use technology to deliver services in a way that is flexible, efficient and data-driven. Inevitably, different cities have different priorities. For those who already have efficient and effective utility grids, the most important priorities could be safety, economic opportunity and environmental management. For other cities, ensuring ready access to water, power or communication networks will be the priority. Or it could be supporting tourism and the cultural aspects of daily life. Yet in all cases, smart cities need to gather and integrate data from sensors and other sources into actionable information that is accessible by citizens.
In the digital age, communication with citizens must be easy, fast, convenient and accessible across multiple channels. A smart city app needs to encourage citizens to participate and provide easy ways to respond anonymously, or not, depending on context. The app can access data from the city’s Urban Data Management system and citizens can choose the topics they are interested in.
When it comes to the device, a smartphone or webpage is the most obvious option (especially for personalized messages). There are also fast-growing numbers of digital displays on buses, trains and in public buildings that could be used to share more generic, relevant information with citizens. Pushing information in this way both raises citizens’ awareness and nudges them to consider alternative choices.
A social business model?
So, who pays for the design, development and maintenance of this killer app? While the city needs to take overall responsibility, payment and maintenance could be more distributed through the economy of data and a multi-sided market. Content and data on specific topics in the app could be from multiple providers.
Security and privacy are essential, so the city needs to define and govern who can access what data and how citizens give their active consent to using the app. In any case, data on the Urban Data Management system would be read-only; no data would be pulled or pushed through the app and responses made through the app would need to be channelled to the relevant department, user group, service provider, based on the topic.
How to get started
The first step to creating a killer-app is to develop a single data platform. In the City of Eindhoven, for example, Urban Data Management started with creating a FIWARE-based data platform and defining the necessary data policies so that data from different sources on different topics is combined in one platform. The city then decided to share its results with other interested cities and created the Smart City Starter Kit, winning Eindhoven and its partners the Most Inspirational Digital Business Ecosystem in 2018. Eindhoven’s success has inspired other cities to deploy the Smart City Starter Kit, with students involved in defining and designing communications to attract citizens to join the challenge.
While there is no one single killer app for smart cities, involving citizens in the future of their city requires cities to find ways to share data with their citizens and between different providers. While citizens are under no obligation to act, incentivizing them and sharing information about their options is a way of empowering them to create their own smart city. After all, cities that invest in building these relationships and platforms will be the ones who can operate in the most connected, and therefore future-proof, way.
Read about our vision for the Data-Driven City and how to harness data for the benefit of everyone in cities in our new opinion paper, MyCity: a Data-Driven City.
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