Open Data is crucial to realise Smart Cities initiatives in Europe
Open Data in Smart Cities
On 8 November the European Data Portal (EDP) hosted the Webinar "Open Data in Smart Cities" to discuss initiatives across Europe. Open Data is crucial to realising Smart Cities. Open Data allows people to harness the data's full potential and create solution that address issues such as getting information on an event or finding a parking space. This is one of the reasons why the EDP is actively supporting EU Member States and communities to publish their data and promotes the re-use of data to increase impact.
Data in Smart Cities, and the concept of a Smart City itself, can be perceived differently because of the breadth of the terms and how many sectors it covers. Moreover, these concepts can be interpreted differently depending on a person's background and knowledge on the subject, making it difficult to discuss. For example, data. Though there is a consensus that data is a pre-requisite for a Smart City, there are ongoing discussions on how to make data available and how government bodies, businesses, academia and citizens can exploit the value of the data.
The Webinar had three keynote speakers to elaborate on this subject:
- Tanja Lahti, Project Manager at City of Helsinki focusing on regional data services.
- Tuukka Haastrup, Software Engineering Manager at Helsinki Region Transport (HSL).
- Benedikt Kotmel, the Head of the Data Platform at Operátor ICT in Prague.
The keynote speakers discussed specific examples of Open Data in Smart City initiatives in Helsinki and Prague and elaborated on topics such as community engagement, business and government collaboration, Mobility as a Service and the types of data needed for a Smart City.
Urban Open Data in Helsinki
Helsinki aims to become the most functional city in the world by utilising urban Open Data in their 2017 - 2021 strategy. Key drivers to accomplish this strategy are utilising open urban data and active community engagement between the City of Helsinki and communities in Helsinki. Currently, there is a strong mandate to continue with urban data work and to have a more collaborative communication model that increases efficiency for consumers to find services and to assist in the decision-making process of citizens and government bodies.
There is an abundance of data in cities, ranging from day care and education, air quality, public transport to parking. A key player in providing and utilising these datasets are municipalities. In the City of Helsinki, the municipality has approximately 900 different API systems that accumulate vast amounts of data that is then processed, analysed and translated into services for their citizens.
For example, in the City of Helsinki Tanja Lahti and her team created the Helsinki Region Infoshare, an Open Data service that helps people find urban data in Helsinki and in the neighbouring cities Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. This service provides Open Data catalogues with informative articles on data use and events in Finland and support on how to exploit, share and re-use Open Data. Several stakeholders in Helsinki are utilising this database to organise and promote public events in Helsinki and to deliver information as urban data to provide value for the region.
Moreover, the City of Helsinki is regularly providing a platform for open dialogue between the municipality and community in Helsinki once a month called 'Helsinki Loves Developers'. This initiative started so people can actively discuss and market urban data to stimulate interest in the topic and generate impact. Every meeting has a different focus with topics ranging from culture and leisure data and how to promote the flow of data in Helsinki.
The City of Helsinki is continuously updating their database and dataset to provide current, if not real time, Open Data and are continuously exploiting data to innovate and create impact in the city.
Open Mobility as a Service in Helsinki
The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) publishes their data as Open Data through platforms such as digitransit, Reittiopas and their HSL mobile application. These platforms use HSL's Open Data, open API's and open source codes to create a journey planner for customers and to provide them with information on the best available route.
Currently, HSL promoting Open Mobility as a Service, otherwise known as OpenMaaS. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a concept that aims to provide suitable alternative modes of transport and reduce the need for cars by improving seamless public transport infrastructure and integrating bike and car sharing services, such as taxi-car sharing. OpenMaaS is an open interface that includes journey planner services from platforms such as Reittiopas and HSL's mobile application with the aim of lowering the barrier to new businesses. For example, a customer can buy a ticket from HSL's mobile application and sell them through OpenMaaS API.
HSL is continuing to explore other methods to increase the awareness, use and re-use of Open Data in Helsinki by developing new technical features, ticket types and payment options.
Integrating Open Data to realise Smart Prague
Operátor ICT is focusing on integrating Open Data into different public sector services in Prague and to promote Open Data re-use to make the city smarter by increasing awareness on its potential impact on society and industry.
One example of how Open Data is used to make Prague smarter is the platform Cisco Kinetic for Cities. This service assists users in building a 'smart city framework' by improving operational effectiveness and in reducing risks by giving a unified view on different aspects such as the environment, pollution, parking spaces, street lights, Wi-Fi locations and USB charging. On this service, users can, for example, see each individual light post in the city, know if the light is on or off and how long that lamp has been operating.
Operátor ICT works with the data provided by the platform Cisco Kinetic for Cities and published the datasets on their data platform Golemio. This website shares datasets that can solve a person that is living or visiting Prague's problem, such as locations for parking spaces and information about public transportation. The website also serves as a platform for experts to find datasets that they can analyse and process to gain additional insights or create websites, applications or prediction models for the city.
Prague is now focusing on Smart City standardisation and promotes the re-usability of data to find more smart solutions.
As stated, Open Data is crucial to realising Smart Cities because it can provide insights and address problems that people are facing in their daily lives.
However, there are several barriers. First, a strong mandate or support and interest from city councils, industries and communities is needed to support progress. There needs to be an increase in awareness about the value of Open Data, how it works and how it can be implemented to impact cities and society. Moreover, collaboration and on-going dialogue between different institutions and actors is pivotal to aid innovation as well as to create and sustain impact.
Thank you to our participants and guest speakers Tanja Lahti, Tuukka Haastrup and Benedikt Kotmel for joining the EDP's "Open Data in Smart Cities" Webinar! Discussions in the Webinar and in its uptake show there is high interest in this subject, therefore there will further research on Open Data and Smart Cities.