Smart City Challenge

OpenDataSoft applauds the U.S. Department of Transportation for its Smart City Challenge initiative, and sends its congratulations to the seven Finalists! The overwhelming response from cities, citizens and businesses alike shows a deep faith that innovative uses of technology can be of tremendous benefit in helping to make transportation safer, cleaner, more efficient and more convenient.

As a provider of an API-centered Open Data portal for cities and their ecosystem partners in transportation, energy and utilities, we have been working for several years with cities of all sizes to bring intelligent and innovative smart city solutions to life, and the results have shown that this faith is well-placed.

Smart City Challenge & the Transportation Open Data

We have also learned, however, that a truly smart city is an open city. When cities and their partners share data from smart and connected transportation systems with one another, and with citizens, civic tech organizations and businesses, that data can serve as a real catalyst for economic and civic innovation.

The USDOT recognizes this, and admirably incorporated a discussion of transportation Open Data in the initiative’s question and answer information. From a city’s perspective, USDOT notes that: “Open Data and data sharing practices allow cities to make data easily available to entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, and others who can use those data to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs.” And from the user’s perspective, they add that “travel choices are simplified through Open Data and communications technology that provides personalized information – including traveler information, travel options, and integrated mobile payment – directly to the user.”

Smart City ChallengeThis latter perspective also plays a role in the dialogue between IDC’s Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, Research Director, global Smart Cities Strategies, and Max Claps, Associate VP, Public Sector EMEA, that was published as the blog post “To Ensure Smart Movement, We Need a Broader Conversation than Intelligent Transportation Systems.”

In that discussion, Claps and Clarke argue that technology-focused solutions to transportation problems are tremendously helpful, but that it’s important to consider all the ways – whether driven by technology, policy, regulation, education or other means – to get fewer vehicles on the roads, and “more people using mass transit, electric vehicles, bikes and their own two legs” for transportation.

In that holistic context, they suggest, intelligent transportation systems are useful not only as operational tools with specific functionalities, but as “generators of data that can be used to make more informed urban planning and policy decisions through transparent political participation. With Open Data, this information can also be used at the individual level to help citizens understand what is good for oneself and for one’s community.”

We agree heartily with this conclusion and the USDOT position on transportation Open Data’s value to economic and civic innovation, and we would like to do our part in helping cities realize the benefits of Open Data to smarter transportation. Therefore, we are offering a free license to the OpenDataSoft Open Data platform to each of the seven Phase 1 Finalists (Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA).

Regardless of any current Open Data technologies they may use, we have seen the valuable role our turnkey Open Data platform can play in project brainstorming and proof-of-concept tests, and we are confident the platform will be useful to cities in successfully incorporating Open Data into their Phase 2 project plans.Smart City Challenge

The portal version we are offering to the Finalists is the same free, full-featured platform we offer to all Code for America Brigades to support the collaborative work these civic tech volunteers are engaged in with cities. Details on this platform can be found here.

Again, bravo to the 77 cities who entered the Smart City Challenge, and to the seven finalists! The imagination, vision and commitment demonstrated by participants to date shows that regardless of who wins, the future of transportation is looking brighter already.


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