Chicago is among a growing group of cities from around the world that are gearing their development agendas towards a transformation to a smart city. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve urban sustainability, both economic and environmental, cities have begun to develop solutions for increasing the resource efficiency and usability of a wide array of services and functions within the city, such as the city’s transportation network, building stock, and energy system. One of the most promising areas of research in smart city development is the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things refers to the collection of vast amounts of data from sources throughout an environment, including computers, vehicles, smartphones, and traffic lights as well as social and commercial applications. This collection of data is used to fuel any number of programs or applications which support governments and residents in their efforts to develop their environments into smart cities.

The City of Chicago began an effort at improved transparency in 2010 by opening an open data portal which opened access to an impressive amount of data from the City’s various sources to residents and businesses. Over the four years since launching the program, the City has seen it evolve far beyond a mere transparency initiative, becoming an impressively multi-faceted and widely used component in the City’s development of Internet of Things enabled solutions.

Offering nearly 600 datasets on the portal, some updated as frequently as every 10 minutes, the portal provides a comprehensive source of information for the development of a variety of applications and services which benefit from the data in creating localized solutions tailored to the specific content. Among the solutions developed through this program have been a program tracking the development of rat populations, developed by the City and used to support the work of the city’s exterminators, or predictive policing applications which help police to better direct resources.

Innovative, open-data initiatives such as these are an efficient and low-cost means of including third parties in the development of new smart city solutions.

Visit Chicago’s Open Data Portal and read more about the development of the program at ZD Net and Socrata.

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