Review some ideas on how to begin using data to innovate.
- With so many needs and problems to solve, cities are going to need a lot of new ideas and innovators. Even the biggest mega city doesn't have enough staff, money, and smarts of its own to address every challenge ahead. To build smarter cities, we'll need to engage a much bigger cohort of stakeholders. When Procter & Gamble, or P&G, as it's often called, the American consumer products giant with annual sales over 80 billion dollars, wanted to grow its products portfolio, it already had its own sizeable staff of researchers, innovators, and inventors, but realized even their own staff would not be enough to grow the business in certain areas at a desired rate.
The company therefore embraced open innovation, a way to bring in external ideas from anyone outside the company. In other words, one of the world's biggest companies realized that in order to continue to succeed and solve more challenging issues in the future, they would have to co-create with lots of people and organizations outside their business. In order to build smarter cities, governments are going to have to embrace a form of open innovation.
It's going to take expanding traditional public-private partnerships to engage all the talent and capital necessary to confront the smart city challenges ahead. How might they do that? Open data presents a unique and compelling opportunity for problem solvers to be engaged. To recap, many governments are finally making their large and varied repositories of data easily accessible on open data portals.
We're talking about data related to crime, pollution, economics, libraries, finance, infrastructure, and more. Remarkably, today the US federal government has over 190,000 datasets available on its data.gov website. What stories and ideas live within this data? What challenges and problems can be solved with this data? Connecting innovative ideas with open data is creating thousands of new solutions for smarter cities all over the world.
Some of it happens because individuals choose to use government data to do good social work. It happens because some governments create incentives through competitions and events that promise prizes and recognition for good ideas and solutions. It also happens because individuals see an economic opportunity. Using freely available open data gives innovators a platform of content to build commercial solutions that can be sold in the marketplace.
Let me provide some examples. Thousands of people live in apartments in New York City, without direct control over their thermostat. And in cold months, to push down costs, bad landlords will keep temperatures low. This is illegal, but it is hard to prove in court, and the data is onerous to collect. Volunteers have created a solution called Heat Seek that places free thermometers in apartments of concerned tenants.
Through a mesh network, data is then collected for presentation in housing court. In another example, citizen developers built the Alternative Fueling Station Locator using open data from the US Department of Energy. The locator makes it easy for drivers to quickly find fueling stations for fuels such as natural gas, electric drive, biodiesel, and ethanol, near an address or zip code along any route in the United States.
Finally, students from Stanford University founded a company that makes it easy for governments to share financial information with their communities. The company called OpenGov takes existing financial data from a government's enterprise resource system, or ERP, and displays it in a way for community members to easily understand and manipulate. It is now a commercial service used by over 1,000 cities. In this example, the founders were able to make a profit and produce social good.
These three examples help us to understand the global movement that is underway to connect data with people to create ideas and solutions. As we discussed before, the current and future needs of cities cannot be addressed by cities alone. Meeting the expectations of communities will require many more participants. Data is the easiest on-ramp to engaging talent in urban innovation. As a consequence, this also means that data must be core to any smart city strategy.
- The challenges of rapid urban development
- Understanding the basic functions and needs of 21st century cities
- Exploring what makes a smart city smart
- How smart cities are planned and maintained
- The role of big data in driving urban innovation
- Open data and smart cities
- Smart cities and the Internet of Things