Ride-Sharing Services

ride-sharingRide-sharing services, like Uber, and taxi-hailing apps show us how increased connectivity shapes the behaviour of citizens. This has an impact on the mobility patterns of people, vibrancy of the city, on job opportunities, job efficiency and convenience. Two recent quotes on this matter:

“How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles”, From the NY Times: 
…“It became very clear to me that I could use Uber and have the kind of life I wanted,” he said. “I feel like I found a way to take the best parts of my New York lifestyle, and incorporate them in L.A.”
Mr. O’Connell is part of a growing contingent of urbanites who have made Ubering (it’s as much a verb as “Googling”) an indispensable part of their day and especially their night life. Untethered from their vehicles, Angelenos are suddenly free to drink, party and walk places. Even as their business models are evolving, these ride-sharing services, which include Lyft, Sidecar and others, have upended the social habits of the area, and rallied its residents to be more peripatetic. A night out in Los Angeles used to involve negotiating parking, beating traffic and picking a designated driver. Excursions from one end to the other — say, from the oceanfront city of Santa Monica to the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood on the eastern side — had to be planned and timed with military precision, lest they spiral into a three-hour commute. More often than not, they were simply avoided.

“Before Uber was a thing, I would rarely go to Hollywood,” said Drew Heitzler, an artist who lives in Venice, a potentially treacherous drive away. “The prospect of going to Hollywood on a weekend night, if I was invited to a party or an art event, it just wouldn’t happen. I would just stay home.”
Now Mr. Heitzler, 42, uses the ride-sharing app at least weekly, gladly leaving his car behind when he socializes. “In Los Angeles, you have the ubiquitous D.U.I. checkpoints everywhere,” he said. “If you’re going to go to a party, you either don’t drink or you Uber there and Uber back, and problem solved.”….

‘Cab Fair’, From the Economist:
RU LI is typical of many Beijing taxi drivers these days—relaxed, smiling and, at rush hour on a Friday afternoon, politely declining to pick up passengers from the street. He is waiting by a mall in central Beijing for a customer he has connected with using Didi Dache, China’s leading taxi-hailing app. Across the street are two other taxis that have also arranged pick-ups using the same app.
Not long ago taking a taxi in Beijing was unpleasant for customer and driver alike. Passengers hunted desperately for cabs. Drivers, angry at working conditions and low fares, waved them away. The vague threat of a formal strike loomed and, before smartphones, might have happened.
Today the experience is transformed. Taxi-hailing apps have given drivers more control, as the apps match drivers with passengers, who can offer a tip as an incentive. The government stepped in, too: last year Beijing authorities raised the minimum fare by 30% to 13 yuan ($2.10), the first increase in a decade.

Like most drivers Mr Ru, who is 32, also uses the app Kuaidi Dache (which means “Quickly Hail a Taxi”), owned by Alibaba, an internet conglomerate. (Didi Dache, owned by Tencent, another conglomerate, means “Honk, Honk, Hail a Taxi”.) Owing to fierce competition, the rival apps offer subsidies to drivers as well as customers, who pay for the ride through their smartphones. The two apps each have more than 100m registered users and, at the end of March, claimed a combined 11m daily orders for taxis. Unlike apps in the West such as Uber, which use a network of drivers in competition with taxi firms, Chinese apps work in co-operation with them.
Thanks to the apps and to the rise in cab fares, Mr Ru says that, instead of 12-hour workdays and only a few days off each month, he now works ten hours a day, five days a week, for the same money—about 5,000 yuan ($800) a month…

Picture: Emily Berl for the New York Times
Sources: New York Times, the Economist

Smart Citizen

“What are the real levels of air pollution around your home or business? and what about noise pollution? and humidity? Now imagine that you could know them, share instantly and compare with other places in your city, in real time … How could this information help to improve our environment quality?” Smart Citizen wants to answer to these questions and many more, through the development of low-cost sensors. Smart Citizen claims that you can only build a real Smart City with Smart Citizens, and that’s true.
By connecting data, people and knowledge Smart Citizen creates a platform to generate participatory processes of people in cities. A fine grain network of sensors can monitor microclimatic behaviour in cities. This could create possibilities to measure the impact of interventions in the living environment.
Source: http://smartcitizen.me

Digital Matatus

“Digital Matatus shows how to leverage the ubiquitous nature of cellphone technology in developing countries to collect data for essental infrastructure, give it out freely and in the process spur innovation and improved services for citizens. Conceived out of collaboration between Kenyan and American universities and the technology sector in Nairobi, this project captured transit data for Nairobi, developed mobile routing applications and designed a new transit map for the city. The data, maps and apps are free and available to the public, transforming the way people navigate and think about their transportation system.”

Source: www.digitalmatatus.com

Open Data Initiative

Client: Rijkswaterstaat Year: 2013
Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment responsible for the safety and maintenance of the Dutch national infrastructure works on the Open Data Initiative of the current cabinet. SmartCityStudio assists in the analyses of opportunities of the large body of data that exists within the organisation and advises on what steps to take to create innovative applications from datasets with third parties. To achieve this the raw data should first be ‘cleaned up’ and made accessible. SmartCityStudio assists in the conceptual thinking around a paradigm shift – from thinking in hardware to thinking in software – within Rijkswaterstaat. This in order to create opportunities for among others Smart Traffic Management, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Mass Evacuation Software and Water Management.

Open Data

Smart Cities can’t do without Open Data. The Open Data movement is still young but promising. Since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009 the Open Government Initiative of the federal government opened up lots of data to the public for several reasons as clearly stated on the White House website: “In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government”. Cities as Chicago and New York City are best practices in how data could be made accessible for the public. Data like traffic counts, construction permits, public investment, licensing, schools, crime and more are downloadable in a variety of extensions. To catalyze the development of useful applications competitions like BIGAPPS NYC2013 challenges innovative entrepreneurs to add value to the data. BigApps is being organized by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the The NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT). BigApps NYC’s website about the challenge: “New York City believes that staying ahead of the innovation curve is essential to the City’s future, and that connecting with the software development community will foster new technology that improves the quality of life of New York’s residents and visitors.” Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: Chicago, 96th floor of the Hancock Center by Eric Ward