The Power of Open City Data

I had the pleasure of being in the great city of London, England, recently to attend the Power of City Data conference. This event felt like a double win for me, because it was co-hosted by the Siemens Crystal and by the World Council on City Data.

The Siemens Crystal is our company’s innovative centre for sustainable urban development, opened in London in 2012. It’s a busy exhibition, conference and education facility, and has attracted a quarter of a million visitors in only four years.

And as to the co-host, I am proud to be a member of the World Council on City Data, a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more liveable cities.

The conference attracted hundreds of delegates from around the world, leaders from the private and public sectors, academia and government. It was inspiring to learn more from these international leaders about their work and their unfolding vision for sustainability.

The focus of the conference was on the importance of city data and how standardized data can help build prosperous, resilient and investment-ready cities. It also considered the question of what technologies are required now and in the future from companies like Siemens, and others, to make this vision possible.

One of the key speakers at the conference was Dr. Patricia McCarney, Director of the Global Cities Institute, and also President and CEO of the World Council on City Data. Patricia is an inspiring individual, a much-respected collaborator and a friend.

She contends that cities have everything to gain by sharing open city data. Patricia points out that all cities are interested in improving prosperity for their citizens, livability, environmental quality and safety.

What cities have not done effectively until now, she said, is share information that will help other cities to learn from best practices.

Patricia says that when we get data allowing cities to make apples-to-apples comparisons, everyone can find ways to improve their sustainability.

WCCD was a prime mover in creating ISO 37120 certification, an international standard for city services and quality-of-life indicators – the information that cities need to make decisions that will improve quality of life and sustainability.

Our cities around the world must become smart cities and shared data on best practices is crucial if this is to take place. The entire range of data about our cities – from energy efficiency to safety – becomes a more effective resource when anyone can access it.

Cities must work together, sharing data, learning best practices, even sharing failures so we can all learn from them. And companies – including my own – must be enthusiastic collaborators with the urban centres who are our partners, our clients – and the very communities we call home.

Our cities have to be smart, or they will see their infrastructure utterly fail to meet the needs of their citizens. This is true on the macro level – city-wide – and on the micro level, building by building. Smart cities will develop smart buildings – that’s one reason the Siemens Crystal was the ideal locale for our conference.

WCCD started with 20 cities. By March 2017, we hope to have 100 cities certified. Patricia McCarney is optimistic. She says that cities “are very keen on open data.”

Speakers at the conference pointed out that, for cities to prosper, they must have information – about urban challenges and potential solutions – and the best sources of information are other cities that are facing – or have conquered – the same problems.

I’m a great believer in breaking down silos. Open data accomplishes this, creating communication between cities and among the citizens of cities. Building a culture of open data is the doorway to a culture of innovation.