In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
Accelerating Economic Opportunity With Open Urban Data
Opening up economic opportunities to those who’ve been left out could be accelerated by the emergence of open urban data platforms. This is my own hope, and it’s one that I share with many others. Enabling access to public sector information presents us with a chance to expand transparency, and perhaps even to widen public participation and engagement across various levels in our cities. However, the direction this takes us is, largely, still to be discovered.
Connected urban information systems are already having some impacts: lowering costs, improving government performance, enhancing the social utility of service-provisioning. Some important steps are now being taken by leading-edge cities to link up information generated by urban services, infrastructure, public transport, and other utilities.
There are some real and difficult challenges facing cities as they move towards greater degrees of open data. Here are some of the questions which I’m asking, and to which I’m hoping to find (or create) answers:
- How best to engage government officials, private sector organizations, international development agencies, academics and non-government organizations? Is it time for collaborative process — rooted in critical thinking — about how best to design and develop 21st century data-driven sustainable cities?
- How can urban data be sourced beyond public institutions? What policy decisions are required, and what mechanisms exist to enable heterogeneous data flows?
- What platforms are emerging which can enable better decision-making by both government executives and non-government leaders?
- Where can lower-income cities get involved, and is this a luxury for established institutional frameworks only to grapple with? Is this a luxury item?
- The drive toward open data is emerging within both small and large urban communities. Are they seeing the concrete benefits which have been promised?
- What are the key obstacles to success? What practical next steps would allow users of open data?
Early indicators tell us that connected urban information systems are yielding some real benefits. Technically, it’s now possible to join up information that flows from a wide variety of on urban systems. And we can now allow each of these systems to talk to each other in order to improve efficiency and optimize performance.
Now that we have these amazing technical capabilities, what concrete steps are needed to achieve our objectives for a greater opening on economic opportunity? What steps would cities need to take to make those tools more widely available to citizens at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum? What programs are shown to be most cost-effective for lower-income urban residents? What makes sense at each of the different stages of economic development?
These questions need to be explored from different angles by leading thinkers on urban systems, by city executives, by international institutions like the World Bank, by tech companies. Furthermore, these questions could and should be explored from multiple perspectives — and that’s exactly the plan during Meeting of the Minds 2014 when it convenes in Detroit from Sept 30-October 2 of this year.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
Urban Planning Today: Perception vs. Reality When the planning profession was still nascent in the 1950’s, well defined social needs and the desire to improve poor living conditions were the dominant basis for policy and regulation. By the time the 1970’s and 80’s...