Challenges in urban planning and transportation are key elements in the sustainability strategies of cities across the globe. The complexity and scope of these aspects of urban environments makes them rewarding areas for development, offering great potential for reducing emissions, but also poses considerable challenges given the number of actors involved in them. Addressing these issues therefore depends on the contributions of a host of public and private sector actors from a number of industries. Open Data platforms are a key element in ensuring that the vast amounts of data accumulated by cities is shared among these parties.

A recently published study conducted by the European Data Portal assessed the various Open Data efforts in leading European cities, addressing the efforts in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Pairs, Stockholm, and Vienna. The study found that the most promising activity within these cities is directed to the transportation sector, ranging from public trip planning services to map navigation and parking services. Helsinki, Finland was noted as an up and coming Open Data city, supporting cooperation and open development through innovation units like Forum Virium and competitions for private sector developers.

Leading efforts like Finland’s 6Aika initiative, creating a network of six Finnish cities which supports and encourages sharing data and experiences among the cities to establish best practices and advance development. Such efforts depend on the standardization of city data, such as the ISO 37120 standard established in May 2014 which measures social, economic, and environmental performance across 100 indicators. As Open Data platforms spread and become more established, cooperation between these cities in shared networks will only serve to further accelerate the rate of technology and service development. While the nationally collated data sets were largely comparable, the cities assessed range in their level of national data aggregation, increasing standardization among the cities will be a key focus in developing Open Data networks.

In addition to supporting multi-party initiatives and development projects and sharing experiences between cities, Open Data platforms are also a crucial step in bringing cities’ residents into the development processes, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the issues so that they can take part in planning the solutions. These forerunner cities have experimented with a variety of means for increasing transparency and facilitating residents’ participation through services such as Twitter or specifically tailored online platforms.

The next phase in utilizing open data is combining these troves of data with the data sourced from the rising number of sensor-equipped systems and technologies proliferating today’s urban environments. The study notes that Berlin, Barcelona, and London are early pioneers in the use of smart technology and innovative services in fueling increased efficiency.

Read the full assessment here.

Follow the 6Aika program’s progress here.

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Reframing City Districts (ReCiDi)

A research project conducted by the Universities of Turku and Tampere which aims to form a new conceptual framework which will help shape the collective identity and common vision necessary to realize the future low-carbon and sustainability targets.

Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI)

An action learning and research project conducted by Aalto University and the University of Tampere which aimed to form a better understanding of the architectural requirements for successful innovation projects.