data

Chromaroma. The Name Doesn’t Matter – It’s Cool!

I’ve never been a gamer. Even back in the days of early Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, I never got much beyond the 3rd or 4th level of Super Mario Bros. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these fantastical worlds. But with today’s technology, games aren’t just about fantasy anymore. They take place in the world around us, intimately integrated with our lives, and we are the very characters in search of points, credits, and check-ins. And I am starting to come around. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22023369 w=400&h=225]

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

I stumbled upon Chromaroma a couple days ago, a mobile app developed by Mudlark in the UK that turns riding The Tube into a social game. Poking around its website, I realized that all games are really just about incentives, and as any self-respecting economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. Chromaroma incentivizes riding public transport by giving riders points for each ride and sending them on missions to “capture” stations and identify unique locations along The Tube (like the station where Jerry Springer was born).

The game excites me not as much for its current use, but for its potential. Transport for London should seize this opportunity to make a public-private partnership. Mudlark now owns some extremely valuable data for the agency (it reminds me a lot of the data collected by San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s CycleTracks app). They can tell you when people travel, where they travel from, where they travel to, and whether they use a diversity of transit lines or mainly rely on it for commuting purposes. Depending on how widespread the game gets, it could even provide a measure of how overcrowded particular lines get – a metric for prioritizing transit investment.

The private sector has clearly seized on the opportunity technology presented to capture ubiquitous travel data. Let’s hope the public sector rides that wave as well.

-          Terra Curtis

Chromaroma. The Name Doesn’t Matter – It’s Cool!

I’ve never been a gamer. Even back in the days of early Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, I never got much beyond the 3rd or 4th level of Super Mario Bros. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these fantastical worlds. But with today’s technology, games aren’t just about fantasy anymore. They take place in the world around us, intimately integrated with our lives, and we are the very characters in search of points, credits, and check-ins. And I am starting to come around. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22023369 w=400&h=225]

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

I stumbled upon Chromaroma a couple days ago, a mobile app developed by Mudlark in the UK that turns riding The Tube into a social game. Poking around its website, I realized that all games are really just about incentives, and as any self-respecting economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. Chromaroma incentivizes riding public transport by giving riders points for each ride and sending them on missions to “capture” stations and identify unique locations along The Tube (like the station where Jerry Springer was born).

The game excites me not as much for its current use, but for its potential. Transport for London should seize this opportunity to make a public-private partnership. Mudlark now owns some extremely valuable data for the agency (it reminds me a lot of the data collected by San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s CycleTracks app). They can tell you when people travel, where they travel from, where they travel to, and whether they use a diversity of transit lines or mainly rely on it for commuting purposes. Depending on how widespread the game gets, it could even provide a measure of how overcrowded particular lines get – a metric for prioritizing transit investment.

The private sector has clearly seized on the opportunity technology presented to capture ubiquitous travel data. Let’s hope the public sector rides that wave as well.

-          Terra Curtis

Good data: why we want it and what keeps us from having it

Living Labs Global will soon be announcing partner cities for its 2012 Showcase Award – a mechanism through which innovative solutions compete against each other to win the right to pilot in one of several global cities (see the 2011 Award categories).  Each partner city defines the specific challenge they face and specific solutions are then suggested. Without spoiling the announcement, I’ll note that several of our partner cities this round are concerned with better data.  What good does data do?  At the very least, it serves as the basis for good information – a synthesis of data that is meaningful to humans.  Good information can enable good decisions; at the very least, it enables informed decisions.  Good decisions, in this context, are those that are made with full knowledge of the nuances of a specific urban problem (e.g. not just that obesity rates are high, but that obesity rates are high among particular populations X, Y, and Z).  The power of the information is seen in the resulting focus of the solution on each nuance of the problem.

This round, our cities are focused on obesity, physical activity, tourism, food waste, energy, sustainability, housing, heritage, happiness, and health care, among other things.  I see three different barriers to better data among this group of categories:

  1. Access to private data by governments
  2. A lack of ability to monitor and/or synthesize certain data
  3. Loosely-defined concepts of interest (e.g. sustainability, happiness, heritage)

These three barriers (can you think of others?) will play a pivotal role in solutions designed to improve data, information, and decisions for our partner cities.  Keep an eye to our blog and Showcase to see what companies are coming up with.

- Terra Curtis

Bacteria flowing through goo?

No.  Runners running through Manhattan. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/24703033 w=400&h=225]

Nike+ from CSmith on Vimeo.

New York interaction designer Cooper Smith has created an intriguing set of visualizations of Nike+ data.  I’m not quite sure how, but Smith obtained about 1,000 runs’ worth of data for New York City.  He then created several maps to reveal some interesting information.

Most runs take place in Central Park, along the coastline and across the bridges.  A lot of running activity occurs in NYC; people rarely run during overnight hours.  Runs originating in Central Park tend to be longer than those whose destination is Central Park.  People in Central Park tend to run fast.  Running through midtown causes runners a lot of temporary delays.  Runners have to come to a complete stop quite often.

As Jeroen Beekmans at Pop Up City points out, this is valuable information for parks and recreation planners.  Smith was interested in understanding how a runner perceives the urban realm, and planners can use this information to locate areas that are most lacking to target programs or investments.  Not only that, Nike could use this information to build a product suggesting the most populated, fastest, or most uninterrupted for an individual runner.

- Terra Curtis

Transit Data in Developing Countries

Living in PeruTo piggyback on Tuesday’s post about transit data in the rural US, I thought I would mention an article I read on MIT’s CoLab blog recently, Ms. Teresa Diaz, a Datera in Lima.  The CoLab is a center for planning and development within MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning focused on strengthening civic life in low-income communities.  Their blog, the CoLab Radio, is a place where people involved in these efforts can share ideas and projects.  Sebastio Ferreira, one of the contributors, is creating a 52-post, 52-week long photo journal as a way to stay in touch with CoLab after completing 5 years as a fellow with MIT and returning to his home in Lima, Peru. Posts 4 and 4.5 chronicle the story of transit data, dateros and Teresa Diaz.  In Lima, there is no centralized planning agency setting the schedules for public buses.  Instead, self-employed “data guys” or dateros manually track when buses come to a certain stop and how full their buses are.  They then sell this information to bus drivers for 5 or 10 cents who use it to time their departures and speeds so as to maximize the amount of passengers they’ll find at the next stop.

Could this effort be enhanced with the use of mobile phones?  With at least 1 in 2 people having access to a mobile phone in developing countries, it seems there is potential.  SMS-style messages could make the spread of this data more real time.  However, because of the current self-employment structure, this work currently financially supports a segment of the population, which could be lost if the system were to become more formalized.  Thoughts?

- Terra Curtis

 

Lyon Bike Share Data

Not long after I posted the last blog about various sources of bike share data, I came across this article, which highlights this type of data’s use in Lyon, France – one of the first cities to adopt a bike sharing system in 2005.

One interesting kernel they found was that the average speed of bicycles on Wednesdays is faster than that of other days.  Why?  It turns out that women tend to stay home to care for children on Wednesdays in France.  Secondly, during rush hour, bicycle travel speeds were systematically higher than those of automobiles (around 15 km/hr) – an encouraging fact for anyone trying to promote a bike sharing scheme.  One other (perhaps obvious, but still) important finding was that speeds peak around 7:45 and 8:45 in the morning, trending with the start of the workday. Now that bike sharing systems are becoming more and more popular, and their systems ever more technologically advanced, I think we can expect to see more data gathering, more analysis, and quicker responses to needed improvements in the systems.  We’ve highlighted many of the piloted systems in our Showcase, including SoBi, iBike, and BikePark, and have also noted a few on our blog.  Now that data gathering is easy through the ubiquitous use of mobile communications technologies, the challenge will be to slice and dice it in the most useful ways for proactive change in global cities.

-Terra Curtis