Ciudad Inteligente

Smart City and open data = Smarter City

Smart City and open data = Smarter City
Javier de Vega
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26 Sep. 2014

Through Oyster gives up pearl (a research project by a specialist in applied informatics and a physicist) we know that London is, according to the journeys made on the underground by its inhabitants, a city that is more polycentric than unicentric. This means that, contrary to what is commonly accepted, rather than having a single center it has at least 10 "polycenters" linked together by complex movement patterns of Londoners. So it is now possible to better understand the potential impact of the temporary closure of an entrance in the event of an emergency on the entire network.

‘Oyster gives up pearl’ feeds on open data by the London metropolitan transport system, of 11 million bulk records reflecting the daily commutes of 4 million users of the underground. The information was collected through the Oyster Card smart card electronic payment system and, according to officials, anonymity and the right to privacy of all users is guaranteed.

Data from the Oyster Card also feed recreational applications such as Chromaroma, a game that shows the movement of the players through the City of London in the underground (in the future, also by bus, street car and boat). With outstanding visuals, this app makes it possible to get in contact with other participants that the player crosses paths with each day. It also proposes new ways of travel, discover interesting facts on the routes and compete in teams to conquer areas of the city. Although it is true that it is not always easy to synchronize Oyster and Chromaroma data, and it requires the user's consent and a certain amount of configuration.

According to Transport for London, 6,000 software developers have already registered in the open data section to receive its feeds of data on the underground and highways. Data from the Oyster smart cards and similar sources used to power commercial applications such as Citymapper, maps of mobility statistics , in-depth analysis of the educational ecosystem, a census on public bicycles and their most frequent routes jigsaw apps for iPhone and iPad such as London Jigsaw, or an application that uses augmented reality to find rental bicycles. Looking to New York, thanks to the opening of the raw data of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, Chris Wong could create NYC Taxis: A Day In The Life:

What about in Spain?

In Spain quite a number of municipalities offer a smart citizen card to individuals registered as residents. The improved electronic access to municipal services and the rise of the smart aspect in the relationship between city and residents have encouraged its implementation in municipalities such as Ponferrada, Alcobendas,  Gijón (where it is not necessary to be registered as a resident to get one) and Zaragoza.     

The system provides advantages. The municipalities improve their image, promote their services better and can access a wealth of new information. The traceability and feedback on the use of the services can foster better decisions and better public policies. For years filters have been applied as well as segmentation between users (youth, elderly, disabled, unemployed, and so on), and data readers are already part of our lives: ATMs, points of access to facilities, access to public transportation, POS and more.

In the case of Gijón, its card has been awarded in the Smart Governance category ahead of Edinburgh and Helsinki. This council provides several mobile apps, both proprietary and third party, on the city's services. The Gijon open data portal includes data sets relating to usage of the citizen card: how many times they have been used, in what neighborhood, what service (general transport, bicycle, taxi, libraries, and so on), by type of person (individual or company) and age; however, these are aggregate statistics, not bulk open data as is the case of London.

The more than 170,000 smart cards issued by Zaragoza City Council make it possible to make micropayments, and include services such as access to buses, street cars, the BiZi public bike system, payments in accessible taxis, sports centers, centers for elderly persons, libraries, museums, the film library, the theater, municipal Wi-Fi access, payments in public parking lots and for ORA parking zones. Most of the operations are for the bus service, and the most common age range is between 40 and 50 years. The number of payment transactions using the card have been close to 10 million euros since 2010. In the case of Zaragoza open data are not generated by the use of this card. This city council provides a municipal API and also encourages apps to be created.

The challenge is on the table to open data sets from these smart cards that were previously anonymous. Three municipal technicians from Zaragoza, who are in charge of implementing the card and the city’s smart development,  described some of the uses and complexities of dealing with personal data in their Open Your City blog. As explained, it is possible to share data with service providers without violating data protection, ensuring that a user will benefit from a discount on the purchase of a ticket without having to identify themselves or give their information to a third party. Only with very basic information preconfigured on the card. Maybe the optimal way will soon be found for local authorities to open these broad sets of interconnected anonymous, bulk data. The move towards smart cities makes one consider that this will be possible. This would also improve the quality, and the possibilities of reuse for commercial and entrepreneurial projects, of the current open data portals.