Cities Summits

Enabling New Lifestyles in Cities - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

During the Parallel Session, Enabling New Lifestyles, participants gathered to talk about the changing face of public health issues in cities today, and what new solutions are emerging. The panelists drew on their experience working with STD screening, technology for aging in place, and accelerating community health outcomes. In all cases, technology is playing a critical role in public health concerns and solutions, alike. During the session, a few key characteristics of such technologies emerged:

LLGA2013 15.5.213 Parallel Session D

 (1) Provide in-the-moment interventions

  Participants saw plenty of ways in which mobile technology, advanced sensors, digital displays, and other digital tools have   provided a new opportunity for on-the-spot interventions.

For example, Alexander Börve, an orthopaedic surgeon and creator of iPhone app iDoc24, discussed the proliferation of “hookup” apps that help connect users for casual sex purposes. In high-density urban centers, individuals can publish and browse profiles through a variety of mobile apps — Tinder, Grindr, BangWithFriends, among others — to connect with instant dates, outside of traditional spaces, such as bars and clubs. The shift has interrupted many public health programs ability to provide safe-sex education and intervention, he noted, by removing a specific location where information and access can be provided at the point of contact between potential partners.

Instead of viewing such apps as a problem, however, the group saw opportunities to leverage the popularity and pervasiveness of these apps for encouraging positive behaviors such as STD and HIV testing, providing information about safe sex, and perhaps—in the case of infections such as chlamydia, for which public health officials try to notify partners of infected individuals—improving anonymous data collection and outreach.

Esther Dyson, of EDVenture and HICCUP, discussed the promise of a coordinated public health campaign, that could attempt to provide dozens of interventions into the average community member’s day. Among other ideas, technology tools could be used to provide on-the-spot feedback to program participants and community members about various behaviors — encouraging walking and biking, discouraging elevator use, etc. — through mobile apps, informational displays, and more.

(2) Leverage on-the-ground, non-digital relationships

Technology tools can provide a certain amount of access to community members, helping provide information at just the right moment. But that information needs to be actionable, too.

Participants discussed the need for technology tools to tap into existing networks of physical-world providers and infrastructure—health clinics, transit systems, bike lanes, emergency care, food service providers, property managers, and schools—to ensure that when information is given, it’s connected to programs with funding, resources, and expert knowledge that can provide an intervention that promotes or protect’s the user’s health.

Laura Mitchell, of GrandCare Systems, spoke about the way in which her company’s technology links senior’s personalized care needs, determined by doctors and overseen by medical professionals, with off-the-shelf technology to help seniors age in place. The technology is a critical piece of the puzzle. It helps alert family and providers when something unusual or unexpected happens. But those family and providers are needed to help put real-world plans into action when something is wrong.

(3) Use technology to reduce cost of care

Across the board, many participants were optimistic about the opportunity of technology to provide an inexpensive baseline of care for more people, helping reduce baseline costs and reserving more costly, expert-necessary care of those who actually need it.

For example, Dyson, whose HICCUP campaign doesn’t provide funding to partners, suggested that coordination of existing funding and programs could be tied together. How might that work?

Börve, whose STD Triage app allows users to have a photograph of their genitalia evaluated by experts for possible infections, noted that 69 percent of their users do not have an STD. Despite the high number of infections — 20 million new std infections in the U.S. each year— there is also a large amount of overscreening. At one university health clinic, only 40 of 1,500 students who were screened tested positive. There is a cost for paying for screening services, and the benefits of screening extend beyond just the individual who is treated for a positive result. By using low-cost interventions, like the screening app, clinics and public health officials can focus spending on patients with known cases and on preventive measures.

Similar advantages also exist for elder care, where regular, remote monitoring can help flag potential issues before they become untreatable, and reduce unnecessary doctor visits for routine checkups and screenings.

(4) Address the digital divide

As technology becomes an increasingly important tool for cities to help manage and address public health, it will also be important to ensure that all residents have access to those tools.

Participants discussed some strategies for ensuring fair access for to these new tools, from public WiFi, to text-message based alerts, to encouraging pay-as-you-go  packages for Internet access from mainstream providers (which would allow low-use customers, such as seniors and many other potential customers, to access inexpensive important services without subsidizing heavy-bandwidth users).

Several of the participants also discussed the importance of working on age-appropriate interfaces, designed to make technology accessible to users with limited sight or familiarity with technology, when such services are aimed at seniors.

Celeste LeCompte is an independent researcher and journalist, focused on innovation and the environment, based in San Francisco and Guangzhou, China.

Urban Systems & Services - A debate at LLGA | Cities Summit

The Urban Systems & Services Parallel Session was moderated by Barbara Hale, the Assistant General Manager of SFPUC. Barbara focused the session on how cities are becoming massive interconnected systems and how to use technology as a tool to improve the quality of life of citizens. Parallel Session C

Speaker 1: Modupe Ajibola, CEO, OTG Playa

First up to speak was Modupe Ajibola of OTG Playa whose presentation centered on the role of technology in Africa and how it is slowly moving from a luxury to necessity. For example, there are already over 140 million cell phones in Nigeria making it one of the world’s largest mobile telecom markets. These devices had a multiplier effect creating many new jobs and services that were not available before. The problem is that many in the educated workforce are content in taking these newly created middle class jobs when they should be working in the white collar sector. For example, many of the electrical engineers end up working in call centers because it creates a life much better than they had growing up. While the progress is noble, it should be taken a bit further. These engineers should be working in R&D creating products for Africans by Africans. People in Africa want iPhones and iPads, but they don't want to pay a premium price. They end up buying Chinese knockoffs that break a few months later. Perhaps Africa could copy the U.S. and move to the subsidy model for mobile phones? By encouraging these engineers to start developing products and services for Africa and the rest of the world, the needs and wants of the people can be addressed while keeping the money inside the continent.

Speaker 2: Gianni Minetti, President & CEO, Paradox Engineering

Gianni Minetti followed by focusing on the open standards needed to network all the infrastructure for our cities. The shift from rural to urban is only accelerating, and he presented several facts to back this up. For one, 1.3 million people are moving to cities every week. This means that there are now 21 cities with over 10 million people. Paradox Engineering wants to put lighting, pollution monitoring, and power all together in one open system. While this may seem like something obvious to do, the problem is that many cities have separate systems for each infrastructure component. Not only is it expensive to build redundant infrastructure, it creates a spectrum crunch. By building an urban multi-utility network, we can make technology a tool, not a hurdle. By using open standards we can future proof the networks ensuring ROI protection for cities.

Speaker 3: Bill Oates, Chief Information Officer, Boston

Bill Oates spoke about how the city of Boston was using technology to solve its problems. The smartphone application, Citizen's Connect, has proven immensely popular, which isn't all that surprising considering 35% of the city's population is between 20 and 34. With the application, citizens can report potholes, streetlight outages, graffiti, and other problems. After seeing how much citizens loved using the app, city workers got their own version allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch workers and catalog repairs. Version 4.0 of the app, slated to be released by the end of the year, will allow citizens to be notified when the problem they reported is fixed. Embracing the recent trend of gamification, the new version of the app will allow citizens to thank the workers who fixed their problem. The app has allowed citizens of Boston to interact with government in ways previously not possible. Taking the application a step further, the city of Boston unveiled Street Bump, which uses a smartphone's accelerometer to passively detect potholes. Interestingly enough only 10% of the bumps reported were potholes; the other 90% were the 307,000 utility castings in the city. Using technology is essential for cities that wish to thrive in the 21st century. Bill Oats highlighted the point that if you stay at the status quo, you're falling behind. Historically, government has been very risk averse, but technology doesn't have to be risky. Those that avoid it completely will be left in the dust.

Speaker 4: Philip Playfair, CEO, Lowfoot

Last to present, Philip Playfair explained how his company pays people to use less energy when consumption (and thus prices) is peaking. The main purpose is to encourage consumers to shift power consumption from peak to off peak. His company has contracted with 6 companies with over 5,000 smart meters. In a way, the software can act as a virtual peaker plant. When demand exceeds supply, energy usage can automatically be reduced. The consumers are compensated for this inconvenience via monthly payments. Additionally, the software measures carbon savings to show consumers how shifting their energy usage benefits the environment. In order to increase engagement Lowfoot has added gamification aspects to the product. For example, users get badges for saving energy and can brag to their friends over Twitter or Facebook. While solutions like Lowfoot can marginally reduce power consumption, the main problem is that energy is too cheap to motivate people’s decision making. In order for huge shifts in consumer behavior, energy prices need to go up.

Conclusion

Whether it’s using mobile applications to encourage engagement or unifying infrastructure communication systems, technology is changing how cities operate. While governments have been traditionally viewed as slow and cumbersome, in order to keep up with the ever evolving world, cities need to speed up deployments of innovative solutions. The problem is that government procurement has been very slow and risk averse. In order to help solve this problem, cities need to adapt new processes to accept technology with open (but vigilant) arms.

Reported by Chris Mojaher

Code for America partners with San Francisco

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30575113 w=400&h=225]

CfA Culture from Code for America on Vimeo.

This is a public-private partnership you’ll want to pay attention to. We introduced you to Code for America back in April. They’re a non-profit that selects several entrepreneurs to work on civic projects in their partner cities. 2011 was their first year, during which they partnered with Boston, Seattle, and Philadelphia. The results were numerous and intriguing (check out their annual report here).

For 2012, they’ve announced a few new ventures. They’re partnering with several more cities this year in addition to launching Code for America Accelerator, a start-up incubator focused on creating the next generation of government vendors. This spring, they’ll be holding several hackathons to identify the best entrepreneurs for the job. Once the team is identified, they’ll work with city partners to choose which departments are most in need of new tools, for improving things like permitting applications or records requests. See the San Francisco Chronicle article for more details.

Code for America has the potential to do for city governments what Silicon Valley has done for the tech industry. Imagine what our world would be like if the fastest, most pleasurable service experiences we had were those interactions with city governments!

-- Terra Curtis 

Technology is Not the Answer

smart citiesThere’s been a theme running throughout the last few posts on this blog: technology is not the answer to urban problems, not even in cities designed completely around it. At Living Labs Global’s Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, world leaders agreed that “smart cities” are more than just technological robots. Rather, a well-planned and designed city in which policies, public-private partnerships, and technologies work together in concert is the smartest city. The magazine Scientific American ran an issue entitled “Better, Greener, Smarter Cities” in September 2011. I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until recently. I noticed some similar themes in their pages. The “In Brief” notes to the article The Social Nexus focus ironically on inhabitants’ acquisition and use of electronic devices to better connect citizens with government. But the meat of the article itself promotes the idea that it was not the technology itself, but rather smart, organized citizens who leveraged technology as a tool to bring about change in places like Egypt and Tunisia. Overall, the author suggests that technology will enable a new perspective on cities, which is from the bottom up, which resonates strongly in the current Occupy Movement political frame.

In another article, Edward Glaeser writes that cities are growing and the increasing proximity of the world’s people fuels economic prosperity and health. He also uses the recent example of how Facebook was used in Egypt. But again, the technology is highlighted as a mere tool; nothing would have happened had citizens not also taken their message offline to the streets of Tahrir Square to demand change.

I write this article to remind my colleagues and readers, but especially to remind myself, that in most cases technology is not the answer. Communications technologies in particular are tools to be leveraged; it is not technologies themselves but human minds, policies, and partnerships that will create the world’s smartest cities.

-          Terra Curtis

Developing Countries Developing Solutions

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30485000 w=400&h=225]

Introducing mo from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.

At least three of our partner cities in this round of the Living Labs Global Awards are seeking solutions related to transportation. Lavasa, México City, and Guadalajara, each within a developing country, want to find ways to boost alternative transportation and keep infrastructure maintenance ahead of deterioration.

According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), by 2030 almost three quarters of the world’s population with reside in cities, with most of that urbanization taking place in developing countries. In order to maintain health and achieve sustainability in the long term, these cities must stay ahead of the game in developing the transportation infrastructure, policies, incentives, and solutions that encourage limited use of fossil fuels. Several recent concepts are relevant to the challenges faced by these cities. BitCity, a conference on Transportation, data, and technology in cities was held November 4th in New York City. The conference, which will be ongoing, is meant to highlight innovation and expose the barriers currently preventing cities from implementing that innovation. Recorded sessions can be viewed online here.

A second transportation-related tid-bit to come across the radar screen is Mo (short for mobility), which uses smartphone technology with a “bike tag” to link travel data and different modal systems. The idea is to provide users with more choices about how to get around and incentives for making responsible travel decisions. (See the video above.)

Two other mobile apps stood out in a recent scan – Avego’s instant carpool app, Shout and Reroute.it, a mobile web app (works on any smartphone) that compares the cost, travel time, calories burned, and CO2 emitted for several different modes of transportation (e.g. walk, bike, transit, car, or taxi).

Shout is a free mobile app that helps you arrange carpool rides with friends, family, and coworkers in real time. Current “Shout Hotspots” – locations where a critical mass of users has been reached – include Orlando, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; Bergen, Norway; and Kinsale, Ireland.

Reroute.it was developed by fellows in the Code for America program this summer. It is meant to provide users with full information, and in theory they will use that information to make sustainable, responsible transportation choices. Because it relies on several open data sources, its full features are not available in all locations yet, but it will work everywhere. Seattle and San Francisco are fully featured, with Philadelphia soon to follow.

While some of these solutions may not be appropriate for developing countries’ cities currently, these locations are rapidly adopting mobile technology and present models for how to stay ahead of the curve.

-          Terra Curtis

Data-driven Design

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=107931 Occupy Design, a new website to connect designers and protestors in the Occupy Movement, was born as a result of three hackathons in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC.  On October 14th, San Francisco-based designer and activist Jake Levitas organized the three events in order to bring data to the people and power to the movement.

Based on the philosophy that “It’s a lot harder to argue with statistics than it is with talking points,” Occupy Design hosts several images to both standardize and make more succinct the messaging of the protestors.  Some of the designs even help with the simple logistics of such a movement – need a bathroom, a place to sleep, a trash can?  Standardized signs will show you the way.  Protestors can go to the website, download the imagery, print it, and carry it to gatherings on the street.  Designers can go to the website, check out the list of requests, and create images for the people in the streets.  It’s a simple use of technology to organize, standardize, legitimize, and make more efficient a popular movement.

The mostly black-and-white images paint a starkly black-and-white picture of the state of the American union: the top 1% of earners have more wealth than the bottom 95% combined and something must be done to re-equalize the nation.  What’s not yet black and white is exactly how this could or should be achieved – a set of objectives that, once formulated, could benefit from Occupy Design’s message framing expertise as well.  Now, which tech solutions will enable millions to draft a set of concise objectives?

- Terra Curtis

 

Why are US Cities Slow to Adopt Innovation?

As noted in our last post, American cities are lagging behind others (like Eindhoven, Stockholm, and Barcelona) in the adoption of innovative service technologies.  Funding is one large barrier, and perhaps the most important.  However, other barriers exist that, if addressed, could increase the feasibility of funding for what are often thought of as risky investments. Evaluation and Evidence

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  Really cutting edge technologies will have no evidence to back themselves up when they are first launched.  Early adopters cannot be risk averse, must trust their intuition, or both.  This is challenging for city governments.

Additionally, even when evidence is available, for early technologies the evidence often comes from foreign countries or different cultural contexts.  Cities need to be able to apply what has worked elsewhere to the local context in a convincing way.  In order to mitigate this barrier for other potential adopters, and for a city’s own financial health, an evaluation program needs to be incorporated into the technology adoption process to prove or disprove the innovation’s smart and sustainable claims.

Lastly, without evidence, it is difficult to prove a relative advantage of the technology – will it improve the status quo?  This is a complex question; the technology may be good for some and bad for others raising equity concerns, which, if realized, are bad for society, and even if not, are difficult doubts to overcome at the outset of an innovative proposal.

Physical and Environmental Variables

Our existing physical environment can produce barriers to innovation adoption as well.   This article from Slate highlights the challenge of adopting service-providing robots in the complex, random dynamic urban environments of modern cities.

Dero Bike Rack Company produced the ZAP!, a solar-powered device that counts passing bicycles as part of an employer-based bicycle riding encouragement program.  While their device shows a lot of promise for decreasing vehicle miles traveled on a localized level, the city of Minneapolis has faced challenges in implementing it.  While the city desires to invest in the technology city-wide, they have found a challenge in the divided nature of our urban space – private property owners don’t want to install the device on their building unless it will have a direct benefit for their tenants.  Again, this is difficult to prove for a new technology.

Communication Channels

Communication channels are the bloodstream of innovation diffusion.  The current governmental budget crunch has led to less money for travel, less conference attendance, and less spreading of ideas.  This highlights the importance of the internet as a means of information spreading (e.g. webinars, forums, blogs, even interest-based listservs).

Citizens themselves are becoming more comfortable with mobile and web technologies.  This level of comfort needs to be communicated to decision makers and leveraged as evidence of the potential success of new communications technologies and social media.

Persuasive Local Champions

If communication channels are the bloodstream, then local champions are the heart of innovation diffusion.  Someone needs to identify the barriers and develop strategies to break them down.  This person needs to be tireless and to empower others to advocate as well.

Going back the case of Dero Bike Racks, because the company is located in Minneapolis, it has seen all ZAP adoption within that city.   There is a sense of trust due to this proximity, which has created a local champion within the government.  This case highlights the opportunity for technology companies to partner with the cities in which they are located to pilot, test, and evaluate their innovations.

The Summit in November will undoubtedly address many of these challenges.  If these barriers can be mitigated, innovative service technologies will be viewed as less risky, less costly, and more advantageous, increasing the ability for cities for find funding for cost-saving investments.

-          Terra Curtis

 

Why are US Cities Slow to Adopt Innovation?

As noted in our last post, American cities are lagging behind others (like Eindhoven, Stockholm, and Barcelona) in the adoption of innovative service technologies.  Funding is one large barrier, and perhaps the most important.  However, other barriers exist that, if addressed, could increase the feasibility of funding for what are often thought of as risky investments. Evaluation and Evidence

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  Really cutting edge technologies will have no evidence to back themselves up when they are first launched.  Early adopters cannot be risk averse, must trust their intuition, or both.  This is challenging for city governments.

Additionally, even when evidence is available, for early technologies the evidence often comes from foreign countries or different cultural contexts.  Cities need to be able to apply what has worked elsewhere to the local context in a convincing way.  In order to mitigate this barrier for other potential adopters, and for a city’s own financial health, an evaluation program needs to be incorporated into the technology adoption process to prove or disprove the innovation’s smart and sustainable claims.

Lastly, without evidence, it is difficult to prove a relative advantage of the technology – will it improve the status quo?  This is a complex question; the technology may be good for some and bad for others raising equity concerns, which, if realized, are bad for society, and even if not, are difficult doubts to overcome at the outset of an innovative proposal.

Physical and Environmental Variables

Our existing physical environment can produce barriers to innovation adoption as well.   This article from Slate highlights the challenge of adopting service-providing robots in the complex, random dynamic urban environments of modern cities.

Dero Bike Rack Company produced the ZAP!, a solar-powered device that counts passing bicycles as part of an employer-based bicycle riding encouragement program.  While their device shows a lot of promise for decreasing vehicle miles traveled on a localized level, the city of Minneapolis has faced challenges in implementing it.  While the city desires to invest in the technology city-wide, they have found a challenge in the divided nature of our urban space – private property owners don’t want to install the device on their building unless it will have a direct benefit for their tenants.  Again, this is difficult to prove for a new technology.

Communication Channels

Communication channels are the bloodstream of innovation diffusion.  The current governmental budget crunch has led to less money for travel, less conference attendance, and less spreading of ideas.  This highlights the importance of the internet as a means of information spreading (e.g. webinars, forums, blogs, even interest-based listservs).

Citizens themselves are becoming more comfortable with mobile and web technologies.  This level of comfort needs to be communicated to decision makers and leveraged as evidence of the potential success of new communications technologies and social media.

Persuasive Local Champions

If communication channels are the bloodstream, then local champions are the heart of innovation diffusion.  Someone needs to identify the barriers and develop strategies to break them down.  This person needs to be tireless and to empower others to advocate as well.

Going back the case of Dero Bike Racks, because the company is located in Minneapolis, it has seen all ZAP adoption within that city.   There is a sense of trust due to this proximity, which has created a local champion within the government.  This case highlights the opportunity for technology companies to partner with the cities in which they are located to pilot, test, and evaluate their innovations.

The Summit in November will undoubtedly address many of these challenges.  If these barriers can be mitigated, innovative service technologies will be viewed as less risky, less costly, and more advantageous, increasing the ability for cities for find funding for cost-saving investments.

-          Terra Curtis

 

Upcoming Summit on Service Innovation in Cities

amiando header 3 R7 2011-7-26Living Labs’ staff recently attended Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.  We wrote about five main takeaways:

  1. Politicians are talking the talk but not walking the walk – requests for technologies’ sustainability services are not backed up with funding opportunities
  2. Cities need to embrace the idea of piloting, evaluation, learning, and buying (we have seen this strategy succeed in the private sector, particularly among technology companies, and in select cities)
  3. Cities can more effectively advocate for innovative solutions if a coalition of citizens understand the benefits of change
  4. Technology offers the opportunity not only to cut costs but also to add value
  5. Cities need to adopt the philosophy that service cuts are not the only way to deal with recessionary budget issues

One of the ways in which Living Labs Global is promoting these ideas is through our Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, to be held November 23 – 24, 2011.  At the Summit, cities, companies, and experts will come together to address the need for the diffusion of innovations into cities along three main themes: smart urban lighting; e-health and smart living; and wellbeing and the role of business innovation, new financing, and social entrepreneurship.

Make sure to keep an eye on our blog in the meantime as we will be dedicating several posts to these themes.

-Terra Curtis

 

Upcoming Summit on Service Innovation in Cities

amiando header 3 R7 2011-7-26Living Labs’ staff recently attended Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.  We wrote about five main takeaways:

  1. Politicians are talking the talk but not walking the walk – requests for technologies’ sustainability services are not backed up with funding opportunities
  2. Cities need to embrace the idea of piloting, evaluation, learning, and buying (we have seen this strategy succeed in the private sector, particularly among technology companies, and in select cities)
  3. Cities can more effectively advocate for innovative solutions if a coalition of citizens understand the benefits of change
  4. Technology offers the opportunity not only to cut costs but also to add value
  5. Cities need to adopt the philosophy that service cuts are not the only way to deal with recessionary budget issues

One of the ways in which Living Labs Global is promoting these ideas is through our Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, to be held November 23 – 24, 2011.  At the Summit, cities, companies, and experts will come together to address the need for the diffusion of innovations into cities along three main themes: smart urban lighting; e-health and smart living; and wellbeing and the role of business innovation, new financing, and social entrepreneurship.

Make sure to keep an eye on our blog in the meantime as we will be dedicating several posts to these themes.

-Terra Curtis

 

Best Practices in Social Media

Lyndsey Scofield, an urban planning graduate student in New York City, tipped me off to a recent virtual workshop held by the National Academies of Science’s Transportation Research Board.  This workshop, entitled “Keeping up with Communication Technology: An Online Workshop on the Practical Use of Social Media,” gathered together 22 transportation professionals who shared their professional uses of things like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. In my experience, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) would not be the first group to come to mind when thinking about these more nuanced uses of social media tools.  Nonetheless, they put together an engaging array of presentations and resources on the topic as it relates to the transportation industry.  At least three of the presenters had been involved in MIT’s PlanningTech@DUSP conference this past January, a student-led half-day conference on urban planning and technology, so it is encouraging to see the insights of a few newer, younger urban planners trickling up into the collective consciousness of the TRB.

Ironically, I found one of the most interesting resources provided by the workshop to be “The Extreme Presentation,” a guide for developing engaging, persuasive, relevant, and action-inducing presentations.  If there’s one thing I have learned in grad school, it is that you either know how to leverage the value of PowerPoint or you don’t.  Most people don’t, and no matter how engaging the topic may be (e.g. a proposed new light rail through your neighborhood), poor use of a good tool will lead to a disengaged audience and a failed presentation.

The link between PowerPoint presentations and social media comes in their potential to create an impact.  The Extreme Presentation provides 10 steps, organized within 4 themes that produce this impact: politics and metrics, logic, rhetoric, and graphics.  Social media outlets involve each of these themes as well.  Outreach through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc, will be more effective if it includes a proper identification of audience, evidence-backed information presented in a way that is both relevant and visually stimulating to readers or listeners.  I know I could learn a lot from this strategy, and I’m happy that an institution as far-reaching as TRB embraces the concept as well.

- ­Terra Curtis

 

State of Cities' Ideas

MindMixer, who we have covered on this blog before, is a community engagement tool that markets itself as a “virtual town hall service.”  It is meant to extend the reach of governments’ public engagement campaigns by making it easier for citizens to provide input, insights, and feedback.  They’ve deployed their solution in cities as diverse as Burbank, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and Flagstaff, Arizona on topics such as transportation, budget, and master plans. A few months ago, the company pulled together all the ideas submitted by citizens in every city using their solution.  They divided the ideas into 10 categories:

(1)    Mobility

(2)    Services

(3)    Sustainability

(4)    Health

(5)    Infrastructure

(6)    Government 2.0

(7)    Safety

(8)    Housing

(9)    Parks

(10)Urban Design

Within each category, they highlighted the number of citizen ideas that relate to that category.  For example, the Mobility category most commonly included ideas on bicycles, mass transit, pedestrians, parking, and car access (in that order). State_of_Cities_Ideas

By far, Urban Design and Mobility were the two most common categories of ideas that citizens were concerned with.  Housing, Sustainability, and Government 2.0 were in the second tier.  The remaining categories (Safety, Parks, Infrastructure, Health, and Services) all received relatively little attention.

This may be surprising given news media’s frequent exaggerating of safety issues, health, and the U.S.’s crumbling infrastructure.  However, the responses seem to reflect the population that is  most likely using a solution like this – those who have access to a computer, who trust participating in an online forum, who are confident in articulating their ideas.  It seems likely that this population is younger, perhaps more likely to live in the urban center areas of these cities with access to transit and shorter bicycling and walking distances, and who perhaps have more sensibility about urban design issues due to their daily environment.

Given these results, it appears that the challenges of expanding this solution to a more diverse population still exist.  Nonetheless, it’s a great infographic that not only conveys what people are talking about but also that people are willing and able to engage in this type of public participation process.

- Terra Curtis

 

Tech Solution for Community Engagement

I will be attending the annual meeting of the American Planning Association (APA) next week in Boston.  In my preparations for the conference, I discovered MindMixer, and online community engagement tool meant to encourage more participation in local urban planning. MindMixer is one of a handful of community engagement tools I’ve heard about in the last year or so.  It attempts to overcome the traditional barriers to idea generation and prioritization in matters affecting the community.  For years, the “rational planning” model has been employed in cities all over the world to try to gather input, prioritize concerns, and choose the most suitable combination of opinions for the basis of decisions regarding community growth and change.  Because the process involves subjectively developing “weights” to prioritize concerns, some have criticized the process for being deceivingly correct or just.

It’s unclear to me exactly how MindMixer deals with these concerns, or if it does at all.  However, it does promise to engage a wider base, which is probably always better than nothing.  The challenge for tech solutions in community engagement is similar to that faced by researchers performing telephone-based surveys – each engagement/feedback tool is biased toward a particular section of the population.  Telephone interviews miss the whole section of the population who either have no phone (tend to be low income) or who only have a mobile phone (tend to be younger).  In the case of MindMixer, I worry that while it will help engage some members of the community who don’t have time to make it to community meetings, but will not reach the elusive lower-income, sometimes immigrant, often highly-transit dependent population.

All in all, I’m a fan of these solutions, and will keep an eye out for how they approach this challenge, and how municipalities augment its functionality, in the future.

­-Terra Curtis

 

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

National Building Museum: Intelligent Cities Initiative

[vimeo 15596951 w=400 h=225]

Intelligent Cities from National Building Museum on Vimeo.

Intelligent Cities, an initiative of the National Building Museum, supported by its parters TIME and IBM and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, explores the intersection of information technology and urban design to understand where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there.” I came across this initiative through a classmate who uses our department’s listserv, perhaps more than any other, to spread information about urban planning and tangential topics.  The project will gather information from the public and study city-related data and information to establish three basic conclusions: ‘how have we done things in the past?’; ‘what are we doing now?’; and, ‘how can new technology help us make better decisions in the future?’

Their basic mantra is that each of us, individually, makes cities intelligent.  This philosophy is highlighted through a series of polls available through the project’s website, which essentially test citizens’ knowledge of their community.  I took the most recent poll, dealing with water systems, and must admit that had I not recently toured my town’s water treatment plant with some classmates, I would have known very little about this aspect of my community.

It will be interesting to follow this project over time.  Not only will visitors to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC benefit from the information they gather.  If the initiative is a success, it will truly leverage social media and information technology to spread information about social media and information technology to others – what a concept.

-Terra Curtis

 

Transportation Camp

Transportation Camp is an “unconference” – all sessions during the gathering are proposed and led by attendees.  These people come from a plethora of backgrounds; representatives from Grist, from New York’s MTA, from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Transportation, Streetfilms, and academia.  This past week, Transportation Camp East was held in New York; next week, Transportation Camp West happens in San Francisco.  It is organized by OpenPlans with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Information Law and Policy, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, 3GMobility, redhat, Urban Mapping, and many others. The chatter this event has created is remarkable.  Not only did discussion begin well in advance of the gathering, but also it has continued – a good measure of success.  You can follow the discussion on their website, but also through the Twitter hashtag #transpo.  Talks included “Can we do a road pricing system for really cheap with existing tech?” to “Tools for small and medium agencies.”

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/20936443 w=400&h=225]

Transportation Meets Technology in New York from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The video above explains most of the detail of the event itself; it is meant to stimulate discussion on technology and transport, on innovation, on government 2.0, and on open data and transparency.  Twitter has facilitated not only organizing for the event itself, but also “offline” organizing.  People interested in these topics are holding tweetups; one group in particular, @CityCampSPb, organized a minicamp in Russia.  The result of the event is organized attention toward these issues, and with such a variety of attendees, action within government and private companies is likely to follow.

-Terra Curtis

 

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.

Park(ing) Day

Sustainable Flatbush Park(ing) Day 2010If you search Google News for ‘parking day’ today, you’ll see 20,000 results that all refer to an event created by REBAR of San Francisco that has now spread worldwide.  REBAR is an art design and activism firm that, in 2005, created PARK(ing) Day – they “converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco this is underserved by public open space.” Today, the event has enthusiasts in cities all over the world – from Guatemala City to Caracas to Rio de Janiero, Cape Town, and Tehran.  What started as a simple expression of the need for urban open space has molded into something much bigger and deeper. Originally, parks would look much like any other park – grass, lawn chairs, and picnics.  But now, we’re seeing other social justice issues using PARK(ing) Day as a soapbox as well.  Recent year’s events have included a statement on bike vs. car space, an offering of free seeds, functional public art, non-profit services, and puppet shows.  It has become a physical manifestation of crowd-sourced notions of neighborhood need.

-Terra Curtis

What's new in Mobile Health?

I've rounded up a number of interesting mobile health gadgets that have emerged on the market over the last 6 months. Here are a collection of self-explanatory videos which give us a pretty good glimpse at how these gadgets work and how they can be used. Check them out below: MedApps A mobile outpatient monitoring solution that proactively alerts doctors and nurses to potential health problems. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txSnlKzbn18&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

LookTel An application that helps the visually impaired recognize objects.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFPsF8GBfqE&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

PillPhone A mobile application that helps consumers better manage their medication. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAIhxha8FOw&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]