High resolution real-time weather forecasting

With over 50% of the world population living in cities and a projected two-thirds of the population living in cities in 2030 (UN-Habitat), accurate weather forecasting becomes an important tool to respond timely and mitigate risks in cities. Extensive conurbations like the Pearl River Delta, Tianjin-Beijing, Yangtze River Delta, New York-Boston and (mega) cities like Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Manila, Los Angeles, Lagos, London, Hanoi, Bangalore have important features in common: dense populations, impervious built surfaces, significant emissions of pollutants, heat and waste, etc.(WMO). Large urban areas have differentiated weather patterns distributed across the city or metropolitan area. High resolution real-time weather forecasting becomes ever more important in order to forecast impacts, to communicate timely to urban populations at risk and to take right decisions in deploying emergency services in cities. It can also provide the evidence for adaptation measures among others the location of flood retention areas or the implementation of smart sewage systems that can be controlled as needed. High resolution weather forecasting can also provide diversified data on energy consumption and production of different neighbourhoods in the city and the way smart grids should respond to distributed peaks. In an urbanised world the weather forecast can no longer be seen as an external factor as the urban atmospheric conditions are impacted by emissions, pollution, heat island effects, urban form and other environmental factors. High resolution weather forecasting is increasingly focusing on air quality in addition to temperature, humidity and precipitation which is a signal that urban meteorology, climate and environmental research could evolve in more integrated city services (Urban Climate, Baklanov, Grimond). High resolution real-time weather forecasting for urban areas is a field that requires not only the technical instruments, data collection and interpretation, but also sophisticated comparative analysis between urban datasets available in cities, accurate algorithms, policies and governance models for risk mitigation.
Picture: Antony Pratap CC2.0

Matchmaking database

Blackburn village is an informal settlement in Durban. To support match making between growing job opportunities and the inhabitants of the settlement iTHUBA centre has been established. Through gathering data such as income and education levels and gathering data on foreseen job opportunities in the area matchmaking can take place. Many inhabitants do not have the right skills for jobs in retail, hospitality, security and construction, hence a tailored skills development programme is developed to bridge that gap and to prepare job seekers for the interviews with employers. A large urban development in the vicinity that includes housing, offices and retail will drive the regional job market. The unique approach of the iTHUBA is that it links job demand and supply within a specific geographic area.This contributes to reduction of transportation needs which in poor households in South African cities easily add up to 40% of the monthly family expenditure. The programme also offers a nursery for mothers with little kids so they are able to attend trainings and anticipate upcoming job opportunities.
Source: iTHUBA
Picture: Tongaat Hulatt

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

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

Start-Up Incubators

According to Emily Badger from the AtlanticCities.com: Co-working spaces are often treated today as a novelty, as a thoroughly modern solution to the changing needs of a workforce now more loyal to their laptops than any long-term employers. But the idea is actually as old as the public library.

One of the world’s first and most famous libraries, in Alexandria, Egypt, was frequently home some 2,000 years ago to the self-starters and self-employed of that era. “When you look back in history, they had philosophers and mathematicians and all sorts of folks who would get together and solve the problems of their time,” says Tracy Lea, the venture manager with Arizona State University’s economic development and community engagement arm. “We kind of look at it as the first template for the university. They had lecture halls, gathering spaces. They had co-working spaces.”

This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.

Why not, Lea suggests, put these two ideas together? Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network.

Participating libraries will host dedicated co-working spaces for the program, as well as both formal classes and informal mentoring from the university’s start-up resources. The librarians themselves will be trained by the university to help deliver some of the material. The network will offer everything, in short, but seed money. “As we develop this pilot and start to scale it out,” Lea adds, “we would like to be able to direct people on how to find those resources.”

Libraries also provide a perfect venue to expand the concept of start-up accelerators beyond the renovated warehouses and stylish offices of “innovation districts.” They offer a more familiar entry-point for potential entrepreneurs less likely to walk into a traditional start-up incubator (or an ASU office, for that matter). Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge; now they could do the same in a start-up economy. “We refer to it as democratizing entrepreneurship,” Lea says, “so everyone really can be involved.” Source: theAtlanticCities.com Picture: New York Public Library Reading Room

Responsive Bike

The Copenhagen Wheel, developed by the SENSEable city LAB from MIT: “Smart, responsive and elegant, the Copenhagen Wheel is a new emblem 
for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also
function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture
 the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need
a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion,
and road conditions in real-time.

Sense and Sustainability: 
Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes
a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and
lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.
 As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and
information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide,
 NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data
through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes,
to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. 
You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of
 environmental information from which we can all benefit.”
Source: senseable.mit.edu/copenhagenwheel/
Photo above: by Max Tomasinelli www.maxtomasinelli.com
Picture below: screenshot SENSEable city.