community application development

Citymart teams with Barcelona City Council to break the public procurement mould

Citymart and Barcelona City Council have partnered to launch a trailblazing public procurement initiative. BCN|Open Challenge turns urban challenges into opportunities by opening them up to local and international innovators, with the aim of promoting economic growth while transforming public services to improve the lives of Barcelona’s citizens.

For the first time, companies – especially SMEs & start-ups – are directly linked into the public procurement process. Barcelona City Council has further committed to acquire and support the winning solutions with a comprehensive development package to ensure their fruitful implementation.

Barcelona City Council in partnership with Citymart launches BCN|Open Challenge, an international call for innovative businesses and entrepreneurs to propose pioneering solutions to six challenges carefully designed to address key issues that affect the citizens of Barcelona in their daily lives.

Companies have until 16 June 2014 to present solutions to the six challenges. Finalists will be announced in late July, while the winning proposals for each challenge will be contracted by the end of the year.

Rather than prescriptively defining the solutions they are looking for, Barcelona publishes six urban and social challenges they are facing and asks for new solutions. Companies with new technologies and innovative approaches stand to gain from this simultaneously inclusive and disruptive model.

Backed by a 1M EUR innovation fund, BCN|Open Challenge will welcome the winning companies with a comprehensive business development package including dedicated landing space as well as financial and human resource training.

Using public procurement as a vehicle to stimulate development and attract new talent, BCN|Open Challenge offers a model that will catalyze innovation and accelerate business growth and job creation in the city. In line with the Barcelona Growth initiative, which designs the economic strategy of the city, this programme enables Barcelona City Council to strengthen its position as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The six challenges are:

1. Reducing bicycle thefts in the city 2. Empowering support systems to reduce social isolation 3. Monitoring pedestrian flows in the city 4. Tools for digitisation of museum and archive collections 5. Automatic detection and alerts of damaged road surfaces 6. Empowering local retail through technology

BCN|Open Challenge

“Citymart is proud to partner with Barcelona to pave the way towards a more open, entrepreneurial and innovative city government” remarks Citymart CEO Sascha Haselmayer. “This is a unique and bold step to improve the lives of citizens, and an unprecedented commitment to support the global innovation community.”

The Deputy Mayor for Economy, Business and Employment, Sonia Recasens, highlighted this pioneering initiative as one that will “accelerate efficiency and transparency in public procurement so that it becomes a powerful tool to strengthen the Barcelona brand, attract investment to the city and establish synergies with local companies.”

BCN|Open Challenge sets a new standard for accountability and transparency within Barcelona’s regulatory and procurement decisions. Through this programme, Haselmayer says, “Barcelona is positioning itself as a leading global city for innovation and entrepreneurship by opening up and inviting entrepreneurs to transform the city.”

For Recasens, the benefits for the city of Barcelona are similarly apparent: “The proposals arising from this international call will enable us to build a more innovative, competitive and global Barcelona at the hand of local and international companies. It will also encourage foreign investment projects that will undoubtedly strengthen the role of the city as an economic and knowledge hub.”

Together, Citymart and the Barcelona City Council are proving that even in times of austerity and budget cuts, it is indeed possible to shift the public procurement landscape to enable business-led innovation to transform the lives of citizens in a more direct and transparent way.

To learn more about BCN|Open Challenge, visit bcnopenchallenge.org.

About Citymart Citymart supports cities in transforming their communities by strengthening their innovation capacity and sharing inspiring solutions & methods to address urban and social challenges. The company provides tools and methods adopted by 52 cities to-date – such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Boston, Fukuoka, Cape Town and Mexico City – to leverage entrepreneurship and markets early-on in the public procurement and regulation processes. As a result, cities invest less public resources to greater societal effect, and create more sustainable, resilient and responsive communities.

Over the last 5 years SMEs from around the world have won 98% of the Calls published on Citymart.com. By opening procurement and finding new approaches, cities stand to save between 5-10% of operating budgets, according to a study by McKinsey Global Research. More competition reduces costs, creates local jobs and increases entrepreneurship. The role of Citymart is to bring such city-innovator partnerships into being.

For more information, visit citymart.com, follow us @CitymartTeam or on facebook.com/Citymartcom

About Barcelona Growth Barcelona Growth is an initiative led by the City Council of Barcelona that brings together public and private representatives from various fields to guarantee the conditions for economic growth. It was born after the City Council called the main economic agents of the city together and invited them to work jointly on researching specific measures to restart the local economy. Barcelona Growth is at the centre of a package of policies and measures aimed at promoting the economic development of the city of Barcelona over the next few years. With this programme, the City Council aims to be practical, work in a network, alongside the actors and in a fast way, taking into account the situation, with the clear aim of achieving growth and acting as a motor for the country.

To find about more about Barcelona Growth, visit http://w42.bcn.cat/barcelonabusiness/en/.

Eight Global Cities Launch Technology Award to Help 40 Million Citizens

Eight global cities from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America join us in a challenge to find innovative solutions to major societal problems by opening competition among international solution-, technology- and service providers. The eight winners of the Living Labs Global Showcase Award will be invited to pilot their solutions in these cities, proving the effectiveness of new solutions and offering a first step for innovative providers to enter new markets. http://www.livinglabs-global.com/flash/awards2011.swf

The participating cities, representing 40 million citizens from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia call for solutions that can solve some of their most pressing challenges:

  • Automation of Urban Services
  • Intelligent Urban Lighting Solutions for Social Interaction & Orientation
  • Venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs
  • Sustainable Initiative on Intellectual Property Protection
  • Creating the Next Generation of Government
  • Solutions for digitally enabled accessible ecoCities
  • Intelligent Transport Solutions
  • Smart solutions for 10,000 Smart Houses, 16 Green Communities, 1 Eco-City

Oracle Corporation and Asia’s Farglory have been named as corporate partners for the 2011 Living Labs Global Award. Submissions follow the format of the Living Labs Global Showcase and can be submitted for free until the 28th of February 2011. A shortlist of the top 40 Showcases will be presented by the international juries on March 21st 2011. Winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony on May 12th 2011 at the Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.

Behind each Category lies the commitment of a city to pilot the winning showcase, with full institutional support to evaluate the impact the solution can have on reaching the community’s objectives.

The Vector Project Visioning Workshop.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsDLzqWGrQk&w=425&h=350] At our Summit on Service Innovation last week in Copenhagen we ran 9 parallel Visioning Workshops, such as the one facilitated by Neil Clavin and Maya Wiseman on their Vector Project Showcase. The above video was edited by Viktorija Prak, a very talented student supporting Neil and Maya in the workshop, in which business leaders, strategists, researchers and cities invented new urban technologies to redefine the role of bikes in our cities.

Mental Health Mobile Applications

Mobile phone applications are being developed at a rapidly to help supplement and or bolster treatment options for mental health patients. Though the idea is not novel, I thought the continued buzz about different options out there and the ever-diversifying marketplace of applications warranted our attention. In May, NPR aired a noteworthy piece on this trend, providing interested listeners with an informed survey on the methodologies and products available to patients. In part, the piece was prompted by a number of nationally sponsored studies which explore how the computing power of mobile phones can help patients monitor moods, follow treatment recommendations and manage stress. According to researchers, the mobile applications can provide new insight into a patient's emotional variability and promote patient participation in therapy sessions. In particular, the applications are being used to target certain conditions, such as depression and schizophrenia. Some researchers hope eventually to expand use of the technology to treat anxiety, phobias, eating disorders and other mental health issues.

To learn more about this push for mental health mobile apps, listen to the full story here.

Cell Phones Help Bring Basic Sanitation to Africa

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJ3PBeOZ5Q&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1] It is predicted that by 2015, 2.7 billion people will lack access to sanitation---this is an especially disheartening figure if you consider that, today, more people have access to mobile phones than toilets. Optimistically, however, a number of innovators around the world are attempting to use this new found access to technology to address the growing sanitation crisis. One such organization, Nuru International, is using google platforms and nokia phones to increase sanitation and access in Kuria, Kenya.

By registering a Kenyan web domain name and creating and using google apps and GPRS-enabled handsets, Nuru International has created easy and reliable channels for information flow between the organization's staff members and the farmers with whom they are working. The phones are used for data-collection to document sanitation sites within the city. Moreover, team members use the camera phone to take photos, creating a comprehensive visual backlog to each sites activities and evolution.

Watch the video above to learn how this cheap technology is helping Nuru improve upon its own best practices.

Toxin Sensing Mobile Phones

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have just finished the first phase of an initiative to develop a mobile sensor capable of detecting toxic chemicals in our environment. With a small startup called Rhevision Inc., the chief researcher on the project, Michael Sailor, has devised the sensor, a porous flake of silicon which changes color when it interacts with specific chemicals. By manipulating the shape of the pores, the researchers can tune individual spots on the silicon flake to respond to specific chemical traits.

According to Sailor, the sensor "works a lot like a nose. We have a set of sensory cells that detect specific chemical properties. It’s the pattern of activation across the array of sensors that the brain recognizes as a particular smell. In the same way, the pattern of color changes across the surface of the chip will reveal the identity of the chemical.” At this point in the development phase, the sensors can be used to identify methyl salicylate and a handful of other chemical agents used in chemical weapons. However, it's Sailor's hope that the sensors could be used to distinguish between hundreds of different compounds.

Using a fine-scale detail in the optical array, the team uses a new kind of supermacro lens that works more like an animal’s eye than a camera lens, allowing a them to achieve much more detailed readings.

“The beauty of this technology is that the number of sensors contained in one of our arrays is determined by the pixel resolution of the cell phone camera. With the megapixel resolution found in cell phone cameras today, we can easily probe a million different spots on our silicon sensor simultaneously. So we don’t need to wire up a million individual sensors,” Sailor said. “We only need one. This greatly simplifies the manufacturing process because it allows us to piggyback on all the technology development that has gone into making cell phone cameras lighter, smaller, and cheaper.”

Eventually the research team will push to develop a new network of toxin-sensing mobile phones with their innovative sensors. Much in the way the quake quake-catcher network works, individual mobile phone users equipped with these sensors would form a coordinated network of sensors; and, in the event of a chemical leak or toxic exposure, scientists could use the coordinated network to map toxic exposure as it unfolded.

Toxin Sensing Mobile Phones

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have just finished the first phase of an initiative to develop a mobile sensor capable of detecting toxic chemicals in our environment. With a small startup called Rhevision Inc., the chief researcher on the project, Michael Sailor, has devised the sensor, a porous flake of silicon which changes color when it interacts with specific chemicals. By manipulating the shape of the pores, the researchers can tune individual spots on the silicon flake to respond to specific chemical traits.

According to Sailor, the sensor "works a lot like a nose. We have a set of sensory cells that detect specific chemical properties. It’s the pattern of activation across the array of sensors that the brain recognizes as a particular smell. In the same way, the pattern of color changes across the surface of the chip will reveal the identity of the chemical.” At this point in the development phase, the sensors can be used to identify methyl salicylate and a handful of other chemical agents used in chemical weapons. However, it's Sailor's hope that the sensors could be used to distinguish between hundreds of different compounds.

Using a fine-scale detail in the optical array, the team uses a new kind of supermacro lens that works more like an animal’s eye than a camera lens, allowing a them to achieve much more detailed readings.

“The beauty of this technology is that the number of sensors contained in one of our arrays is determined by the pixel resolution of the cell phone camera. With the megapixel resolution found in cell phone cameras today, we can easily probe a million different spots on our silicon sensor simultaneously. So we don’t need to wire up a million individual sensors,” Sailor said. “We only need one. This greatly simplifies the manufacturing process because it allows us to piggyback on all the technology development that has gone into making cell phone cameras lighter, smaller, and cheaper.”

Eventually the research team will push to develop a new network of toxin-sensing mobile phones with their innovative sensors. Much in the way the quake quake-catcher network works, individual mobile phone users equipped with these sensors would form a coordinated network of sensors; and, in the event of a chemical leak or toxic exposure, scientists could use the coordinated network to map toxic exposure as it unfolded.

All City Art

Semaphore Mobile recently developed a new application, All City Art, essentially a handheld mobile guide to global street art. Addictive and accessible, the application is ripe for graffiti enthusiasts and the average voyeur alike. Easily tag and upload street art spots you find and discover new ones you haven't seen yet. And, connect the dots. With splashes of urban visuals spanning the globe, the application encourages users to make connections and learn about artists via their biographies. Check out Banksy's early work in England and his transatlantic antics in New York. Or, trace Swoon's evolution on the lower east side.

The fact that my nephew first clued me into this application may account for part of its attraction----it makes art accessible and brings global voices into focus, pulling together trends, new ideas and international movements and styles.

All City Art

Semaphore Mobile recently developed a new application, All City Art, essentially a handheld mobile guide to global street art. Addictive and accessible, the application is ripe for graffiti enthusiasts and the average voyeur alike. Easily tag and upload street art spots you find and discover new ones you haven't seen yet. And, connect the dots. With splashes of urban visuals spanning the globe, the application encourages users to make connections and learn about artists via their biographies. Check out Banksy's early work in England and his transatlantic antics in New York. Or, trace Swoon's evolution on the lower east side.

The fact that my nephew first clued me into this application may account for part of its attraction----it makes art accessible and brings global voices into focus, pulling together trends, new ideas and international movements and styles.

Mobile App Developers in Africa

This week John Sutter has an interesting piece on CNN.com which teases out mobile app developers formidable contributions to solving some of Africans biggest problems. Sutter focuses on the problem of opaque markets in information while discussing the common experience facing the average farmer in Africa---farmers rarely reap the benefit of high market prices as they are hedged out by a profiteering middleman. Without access to information about market prices, farmers often find themselves without the tools or the gumption to demand more money for their offering. For mobile developers, however, the fix was easy---just create a simple, straightforward application for exchanging market information via the mobile phone. At the end of April, farmers in Kenya will benefit from just such an innovation. Through, a text message-based system that lets farmers send questions to a computer, a machine will match up farmers' queries with a database of information about local dairy markets -- and then spit answers back in 140 characters or less. Thus, ensuring that farmers get their fair share.

What's brilliant and novel about such applications is that they are simple, accessible and affordable. Most are funcitonal on the average phone and can be downloaded for less than $25 --which is pretty Exciting.

SimpleGeo

This week, the New York Times technology blog, Bits, highlighted the technology startup SimpleGeo. SimpleGeo is a small firm which is capitalizing on the scarcity of access to local location data. In recognizing that many mobile games, mobile services and mobile applications are inherently limited by their access to location data, the founders of SimpleGeo decided to create a one stop shop for geographic information; as Jenna Wortham of the New York Times puts it, "The idea is simple: Create a wide sampling of geographic datasets and technologies that developers can access free or, for heavier users, at a range of prices." Or, as the founders concede, they are trying to build an "itunes for geodata." For the time being, the company offers two distinct services with two distinct business models. The first, the SimpleGeo Marketplace. gives developers access to a variety of geographic datasets and accompanying technologies for a monthly subscription fee. The second offering, the SimpleGeo storage place, allows developers to purchase piece-meal data sets on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Although SimpleGeo already exists in a beta-site, its founders will unveil the up to speed product on Wednesday at this year's O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, Calif.

New Socialight Platform, New Socialight Business Model

Socialight, the New York based location-based social networking site, launched a new offering for potential users this past week. The Socialight Community Platform lets people, companies, and organizations easily launch apps around location-based content and community. What’s particularly special about this new innovation at Socialight is that it allows customers to access a web tool through which they can manage their communities, design and launch their own applications(complete with maps, pictures, audio, and video) for mobile, web, interactive signage and in-car usage. I visisted Socialight founder, Dan Melinger, last summer while conducting research in NYC and though I was impressed with the original Socialight platform (check out the showcase here), it was obvious that Melinger’s vision for a community-based location based social network was just one of many visions for location-based social networking; all of whom were competing for the same users. If anything, it seemed that the divergent and numerous platforms were having a cannibalizing effect upon their users; that is, if no site can claim to have its finger on the pulse of its residents, then why use any at all? After all, when using a social networking website to learn about my community, I want to get insights and opinions that are valuable not irrelevant. [when I asked Melinger about user numbers, he declined to comment].

It’s for this reason exactly, that Socialight’s newest service is so exciting. Within days of launching the service, they have over100 companies, organizations and indviduals from media, advertsigin firm, universities, political organizations and chambers of commerce on the new Socialight platform. Clearly, they’ve hit upon an untapped demand.

Peeking Urban Art with Adidas, Berlin

In the last year Adidas emerged as an unassuming protagonist for mobile-driven marketing.  By building applications and experiences that create new value for users, Adidas manages to promote its street wear and give it real street cred where credit's due. Whereas other companies and actors in the private sector are eager to talk about mobile marketing as the 'new wave' [sidenote: At a Mid-Atlantic Mobile Monday meeting in Philly last May, I heard this refrain uttered upward of 300 times], very few are really talking about creating new value, new experiences for users.

Adidas debuted its Urban Art Guide application in Berlin iphone application in early spring of 2009, curating and giving voice to the the city's street as a catalogue would chronicle paintings in an art gallery.  As art enthusiasts roam the cavernous city, the Art Guide delivers location-specific articles on a work by work basis.

While enhancing an existing connection essential to the vitality and authenticity of their brand,  Adidas gives city dwellers get a modified view of the art that veils their city and simultaneously earns a renewed place in the palm of their hand or the sole of their foot. They see it as a simple extension of the Adidas lifestyle:

adidas doesn't only play a central role in HipHop since its beginnings like Run DMC's smash hit "My adidas" shows. The brand itself has been inspired by this subculture early on. In 1985 the adicolor prompts its owners to see the shoe like a subway wagon and design it wildstyle, with bubble letters or throw ups. Customizing along the lines of Graffiti.   On the occasion of the adicolor relaunch in 2006 in Berlin adidas Originals did not only put up white poster boards for free painting. They also initiated the adicolor Studio where Urban Artists like Fafi, Toy2R, Todd McFarlane or Artoo could work and exhibit and design their own sneakers. With the Urban Art Guide adidas Originals continues its long tradition and supports one of the most agile and influential youth cultures worldwide.

Propelled by the success of the Berlin edition, Adidas plans to launch a second guide sometime next year.  It is the process of polling the public on the favored location of this guide.  Hamburg is currently leading the polls with a lion's share, tailed by Munich, Frankfurt, Zurich and Vienna.

From 'Hack the System' to 'Apps for Democracy'

Talk to anybody involved in public policy within municipal governments today and they are likely to talk in laudatory terms (perhaps tinged with envy) about Washington D.C.’s  arguably brilliant Apps for Democracy Contest (APPS08).  What exactly is the APPS08 initiative? Peter Corbett, the iStrategy Labs founder and CEO and the architect behind this initiative, gives us a quick overview of the program itself in the Apps for Democracy Living Labs Global Showcase:

The City of Washington, DC needed a better way to make DC. Government’s revolutionary Data Catalogue (http://data.octo.dc.gov) useful for the citizens, visitors, businesses and government agencies of Washington, DC. The Data Catalogue contains all manner of open public data featuring real-time crime feeds, school test scores, and poverty indicators, and is the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

We knew that the old way of spending millions of taxpayer dollars with big, slow contractors was a broken model in need of fixing. Our answer was to hold an innovation contest where we put the data in the hands of our talented citizens, and gave them cash prizes and recognition for their efforts in developing technology for their neighbours and city government. We therefore created Apps for Democracy.

This contest cost Washington, DC $50,000 and returned 47 iPhone, Facebook and web applications with an estimated value in excess of $2,300,000 to the city. This figure was provided by DC’s Office of Chief Technology Officer as a sum of the individual costs to develop the apps, plus the internal human resources that it would have cost the city to procure and manage the project. That’s a 4000%+ ROI.

For a more detailed overview, visit the APPS08 showcase on the Living Labs Global Showcase portal and stay tuned for the Apps for Democracy Community Edition Showcase;  the public is still waiting on the results from the second edition of the competition which focused on user-driven development and community services, specifically non-emergency service interfacing.   

Having read about the program extensively and having spoken with Mr. Corbett directly, it’s obvious that everything about the APPS08 initiative was exceptional and hardly the norm in policy development.  Even as cities attempt to mimic the effort, I wonder whether they’ll quite succeed.

Corbett tells me that the project developed from an unassuming meeting with D.C.’s former CTO and the current federal CIO, Vivek Kundra.  Because Corbett’s reputation ‘as a guy who knows how to do weird things with technology’ preceded him, Vivek challenged him to do something with D.C.’s rich data reservoirs.  And thus, the APPS08 project was born (note: he originally suggested naming the project Hack the System. Smartly, Kundra thought Apps for Democracy more appropriate.) After an exceedingly fast 30 days of program development, the project was launched----this is a precedent that copy-cat policy initiatives have yet to top.

And indeed, Corbett seems to have unleashed a renaissance-like shift in policy development towards democratized data and open value creation processes.  This July, NYC announced their ‘Big Apple Apps Competition.’  In Chicago, I heard whispers of a similarly inspired program.

Just chatting with Corbett, you get the sense that he’s pretty likeable—straightforward and productively impatient—and he is honestly trying to figure out a good way to ‘drive innovation down into the least served communities.’ Yet, Corbett and his ideas machine have brought on a few detractors.  Corbett tells me that the private sector is a bit dismayed by the initiative and they don’t know how to ‘exact their input in this because they can’t see beyond selling their stuff to the community.’  One critic went so far as to confide to Corbett that the program feels ‘anti-business and populist.’ Reflecting upon this last claim, Corbett asserts ‘I know it’s pro-citizen, and that’s all I Know.’ 

Citizens have got to be a little optimistic when policymakers all over the world are taking cues from this change-agent.

Readers Note:  Earlier last month, the public policy academic, Phillip Mueller, wrote a probing piece on his blog titled ‘The Logic of Open Value Creation.'  In it, Mueller, mulls over the role open value creation mechanisms can play in opening up government processes, thinning the separation between government bodies, policy and their constituents.  It’s certainly worth reading.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the follow-up post due sometime later this month.  Want to learn more about iStrategy Lab or the Apps for Democracy initiative? Check out http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/citizen-engagement-through-apps-for-democracy-community-edition/.