Harnessing the power of open data for the growth of smart cities

New studies on applications of modern technology suggest that excellence in technology combined with human effort will help create better places to live (smart cities) and this is centred on the effective use of open data.

Open data is data that can be accessed, used and shared by anyone. The data could be from governments, organizations, companies, research institutes and big data analytics vendors.

Data and data management are crucial and this is where smart cities and the Internet of Things can be merged for inflow of information.

Take for example an IoT (Internet of Things) enabled car; the car has sophisticated sensors and chips/components such as GPS, pollution monitors, traffic build up monitors-each transmitting valuable data.

If this data is shared/provided to the city, it would help to develop enhanced traffic management and pollution control systems. As against open data, private data comes with its own drawbacks and threats. One threat lies in sharing of   this private data. Therefore a balance needs to be struck between privacy and open data.

How do we ensure privacy/security of the individual while using data provided by the individual/consumer devices-such as information given by the car in question. There needs to be some standard agreements between the cities and individuals so that the city can use the data while the individual’s privacy and security are maintained.

Leeds, an industrial and commercial city in England is using monitors for aging people so that they can stay at home instead of transferring them to hospitals or care centres. The health service in Leeds is able to monitor people in their own homes through remote sensors. In this way many more aged people can be looked after with the same resources. This is a smart city with smart solutions of connected mobile health. This is yet another example of the use of open data.

In Scotland, Glasgow city has created an innovative city data hub. It has unlocked numerable data sources and opened up access to this data. This has been done by encouraging organizations all over Glasgow to provide non-sensitive and non-personal data through the internet. This open access to data has empowered the public, voluntary organizations, private sectors, and academicians alike.  They have fused Open Data and technology to make their streets safer, to generate and save energy and to make people active and improve their health making Glasgow a better place to live and work.

Open data is a global movement and it provides new economic opportunities. Many organizations like the European Union Open Data Portal, the British Government’s-Opening up Government and the Global Open Data Index have made large amounts of data about education, health, employment and industry available.

The availability of open data helps organizations and governments in addressing societal problems.

The number of businesses built on open data is growing at a phenomenal rate. Groups, companies, and individuals are using open data to create valuable products and services that transform the ways we live.

Transport for London was one of the first public bodies to use Open Data to create new applications.

More than 5000 developers used this data. The applications included timetables, routes and fares, arrival and departure predictions. The collaboration between the London Transport and the developers led to the making of popular apps- Citymapper and Colourblind Tube Map.

Citymapper is one such well-known open data success story. This popular public transport app has made life easy for the people in the city. People can use this app to find the shortest, quickest route to commute from place A to B. Let’s say you are in the bus; it will even tell you when to get off the bus. This is extremely useful for the local commuter and more so for a newcomer in the city. It also keeps you updated on the weather.

Citymapper was created due to the availability of open data. It sources data from Google, Apple, Transport of London, OpenStreetMaps, Cyclestreets and other sources.

India has witnessed some initiatives to open and share data such as the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy 2012 (NDSAP) and the Open Data Portal of the government of India.

Large amounts of this data has been put in formats that can be used for many purposes. This initiative of the government is called Open Government Data (OGD).

This in turn has increased transparency in the government systems and thereby led to greater accountability and public engagement which is very crucial in the growth of smart cities.

This open data platform helps to create new value chains and business models and thus lead to further economic growth.

(NDSAP) is designed to share non-sensitive data by various Ministries, Departments, Organizations, Subordinate offices, Agencies of Government of India as well as states to enable access to Government of India owned data for the purpose of national planning, development and awareness.

The benefits of this data sharing policy are as follows:

-Access to government data will enable extensive use of public resource for the benefit of the community.

-Data sharing would mean cutting down on cost of collecting same data by separate bodies which means saving time and money.

-Adopting common standards for the collection and transfer of data to integrate individual data.

-Ready access to existing valuable data helps for many decision making tasks pertaining to the environment, development planning, managing assets, national security, and improving living conditions.

Mandi Trades, the app launched by Farmmobi Technologies is designed for the needs of the Indian farmer. Farmers in India have very little freedom in choosing markets and buyers for their produce. In most states farm produce has to be routed through the state-owned mandis, retail markets where the middlemen squeeze the farmers to increase margins.

When farmers register on Mandi Trades, the app collects information of the produce, location details and stores it on a database.

For the buyer it provides a view of available produce and geographical proximity to the farmer. The buyer can directly call the farmer since his phone number is readily available on the app.

The app also includes other notable features such as current prices of commodities, demand for products, weather changes and prices of rare items.

This shows that technology and open data combined can be used to make cities smarter and sustainable. However, security is a major challenge due to cyber-attacks and data breaches and therefore such data must be held securely and properly anonymised.

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