Open Data Will Create Smart Cities

Better cities can be created by giving citizens creative access to information.  A new project is being launched in Europe to create Smart City applications and transfer them from city to city.  The project will be using an open source service developer toolkit to help make it easier for developers to create new and innovative applications that work across the continent.  The project is called CitySDK, City System Development Kit.  The €6.84 million project is funded in part by a grant from the European Commission.

The basic idea is to open city data resources to developers allowing them to create useful applications, much like Washington DC did when it conducted its Apps for Democracy competition.  Unlike Washington DC, CitySDK wants the same app to run in many cities across Europe.  Pilot projects will be launched in three cities starting in early 2013: Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Lisbon. Five other cities are also participating: Barcelona, Istanbul, Lamia (Greece), Manchester, and Rome.  This effort will require cities releasing their data in standard formats.

Europeans see this approach benefitting citizens who use the applications, cities who get apps written for them, and developers who benefit from expanded markets.  The expectation is that the more nimble smaller firms will take advantage of this opportunity, what Europeans call SMEs – small and medium enterprises.  In their documentation, they say CitySDK will provide developers with a “European advantage against the US and Asian competitors.”

Note: CitySDK was identified in a special report on Technology and Geography in the October 27 issue of The Economist.  The over-riding theme of the report is that geography is enhanced by smart phones and connectivity, not diminished.  Smart cities take advantage of technology by helping people navigate, find interesting places, and even report problems that can be fixed quickly.

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