Cities are facing considerable population growth, increasing pressures and economic burdens. To remain competitive and achieve sustainable growth, cities must find ways to boost their efficiency and reduce costs while ensuring good quality of life for all citizens.
In this scenario, cities are gradually shifting towards innovation, following the steps of the private sector.
This transformation of a city into a smart-city however, calls for both a cultural and a dimensional change, a new scenario that goes beyond cities, regions and nations. It requires that cities broaden their perspective, think globally and search for innovative solutions at a European level and beyond.
The Open Cities and Commons for Europe projects seek to provide new solutions to these problems public administrations face. Coordinated by ESADE Business School, the ultimate goal of these European projects is to enable open innovation mechanisms in the public sector in seven European cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Helsinki, Paris and Rome.
Open Cities enables participating cities throughout Europe to publish their data as Open Data. The project promotes the creation of web and mobile civic applications to enable better services, lower costs and improved transparency.
To obtain these results, the Open Cities Consortium has developed two Open Data Platforms (one for static and one for dynamic data) and has organized two Worldwide App Challenges.
Here are some interesting project developments:
The platform supports the entire Open Data lifecycle process, which includes identifying, publishing, discovering, enriching, and consuming data.
The Open Cities data catalogue is a federated repository of existing city open data catalogues that served as the foundation for the pan-European Open Data App Challenge. The platform provides a consolidated view on all of the open data available from the city portals of Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Helsinki and Paris.
The Open Cities data catalogue's main benefit is that it minimizes developers and consumers' efforts by providing easy access to searching, finding and browsing data.
The data catalogue also directs app developers and users to cities' local open data portals.
The Open Cities Open Data Platform has been used as the basis for the Open Data Portal in Germany (govdata.de). The model has been already successfully “replicated” and implemented on-site in the city of Amsterdam (amsterdamopendata.nl) and in the province of Flevoland (currently not online).
OD platform On-Site implementation – Open Data Amsterdam (Pilot Version)
OD platform On-Site implementation – Open Data Flevoland
Developed by Pompeu Fabra University, the Open Sensor Network Platform (OSNP) offers a central point to publish and store data generated by sensors and dynamic services which update their info on an almost instantly basis.
The platform offers a large catalogue of heterogeneous services related, for instance, to urban transports, tourism and demographics.
The first results of the Open Cities project were announced at the Open Cities App Challenge during the 2012 Smart City Expo World Congress. The application BlindSquare, invented by Finnish developer Ilkka Pirttimaa, was the winner out of more than 100 applications submitted from all over the world.
Open Cities Competition awards best tech ideas for citizens
BlindSquare is an audio-based augmented-reality application for blind people which obtains information about the user's surroundings from FourSquare.
The system helps blind people to get around town more easily by informing them of their whereabouts and nearby public services, businesses and places of interest.
BlindSquare is now available in the market in 16 European languages.
The Open Cities App Challenge 2012 also gave special mention to Nice City Pass (Spain), an app that improves mobility in cities by helping citizens to make better decisions and providing them with real-time information on transportation and parking systems, including available parking spots, public transportation, bike rentals and traffic status.
Bike City Guide (Austria) was also given a prize for best use of open data for its innovative navigation system designed for cyclists in urban areas.
Both apps are already in the market and available in 5 and 6 languages, respectively.
The Consortium has recently launched a new Open Cities App Challenge, inviting developers from all over the world to submit their innovative ideas. The Open Data Tourism Hack at Home competition focuses on encouraging the creation of mobile apps to help cities to better manage the challenges and benefits of tourism.
This new Open Cities challenge, dedicated to Open Data and Sensor Networks, will allow Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki, Rome and Bologna to benefit from the talents of app creators and find solutions for managing tourism in cities.
Developers will have the opportunity to turn their ideas into working apps through the Hack at Home platform, which allows participants to present their ideas, form teams with like-minded designers, developers and coders and get advice from expert mentors to build apps for the participating cities.
A selection of the best apps from this second Open Cities Challenge will be announced during the Smart City Expo held in November 2013 in Barcelona.
Check out the Finalists Apps.
Commons for Europe aims to identify the needs of public administrations and citizens, promote the creation of new applications that can provide innovative services and share the results openly among multiple European cities.
The project aims to jointly create mobile and web applications that will enable improved services, reduced costs and greater transparency. To achieve these goals, the team led by ESADE Business School works with seven European cities and their public institutions to identify the types of new services that could benefit citizens and meet their needs through innovation.
The Consortium has already set up a team of technical experts in new technologies to develop web and mobile applications that can offer this type of services.
To achieve its objectives, the project intends to create an organisation called Code for Europe – similar to Code for America – in order to channel the efforts and imagination of promising young developers, who are being backed by renowned mentors and receiving first-class training at institutions such as ESADE, Fraunhofer Fokus and Nesta.
The applications will be designed to operate in any of the seven cities involved in the programme, but they will also be made available to any other European city that expresses interest in them.
The second major aim of the project is to promote knowledge and deployment of user-driven broadband networks (Bottom-up Broadband BUB), both in metropolitan and rural environments. Guifi.net, the key organisation in this area, along with Universitat Pompeu Fabra, lead the path to the creation of a pan-European network (BUB for Europe) aimed at sharing experiences and support initiatives related. This part of the project will explore new technologies, such as Super-WiFi, bandwidth-sharing in fibre networks and sensor integration.
Promoting collaboration among cities across Europe is crucial to prevent “reinventing the wheel” and to be able to implement multiple solutions for common problems.
To accomplish these goals, Commons for Europe has developed Europe Commons, a new marketplace for civic innovation that features apps and digital services aimed at improving the lives of communities.
The Commons for Europe project encourages the re-use of high-impact digital innovations in new settings across Europe.
Consortium members are now inviting developers to add their apps to this community-edited resource, which will show what applications have been deployed and where, and it will eventually become a directory of apps with specific details of their impact.
The Europe Commons platform is going to be adopted by Latin and Central America through the World Bank's sponsoring, which is supporting Commons for Europe to promote ideas that arise from the project in developing countries.