We are doing a lot of investigation into the state of city data here at Streamdata.io in 2018. We are starting with the basics like 911 data for emergencies, 511 data for traffic, transit data, and 311 for non-emergency data. After looking through these areas, it is pretty clear that the world of public municipal data is still quite a mess. With all the talk of smart cities, it seems like we should be working hard on the most obvious aspects of how data works, represented by 911, 511, and 311 data.
As you dive into each of these three data standards for cities you find a mess of APIs, RSS feeds, and websites that publish data in a variety of ways. When it comes to 311 there is an open data standard in use across some municipalities. 511 has a data standard, but it is only used by a handful of cities, and is pretty dormant. 911 has nothing. With all the effort around city data over the last decade, if we can’t get these fundamental aspects of operating a city working properly, how can we ever expect to achieve a “smart city”?
Some might say it is government. Others will point out that corporations are investing in these areas. I’m sure there are a variety of contributing factors, but these political challenges will have to be addressed if we are to ever reach the city of the future. 311, 511, and 911 are just the beginning. There are still restaurant inspection data, building codes, zoning, waste management, human services, and many other common aspects of doing business as a city on a daily basis, which could all benefit from data standards, and real time availability of valuable information.
Many smart city conversations are focusing on the green field projects involving sensors, and billboards, retail, and other new Internet of Things projects. Even with advances in these areas, if we don’t get fundamentals in place, ensuring existing city operations are smooth, eventually this dysfunction will infect the new projects. New projects might seem like the place to start, but there has been a lot of work done around city data portals, making existing data available, leaving a significant amount of opportunity to take this public data to the next level. All we need are energetic entrepreneurs to step up, refine the data that is available, improve upon the available APIs, and look to making data available in a real time fashion for use in other applications.
We are working on 311, 511, and 911 prototypes at the moment, to help show the potential when this data is truly available in real time, streaming using common web standards. However, this work will only go so far. We still need your help to make sure there are simple, standardized, JSON web APIs available around ALL the available city data, so that we can continue to proxy, and stream it using Streamdata.io. If you are looking to get involved at the city level, making data more available and accessible, or are a smart cities fan, feel free to let us know. We have a number of ways we’d like to help get you involved improving public data, because there will be no smart cities without this real time data.