The involvement of citizens is crucial and their awareness of the city life-pulse, and to its evolution, can at the same time change their behaviour thus making the overall city smarter. Data are a crucial bridge between citizens and their city.
If I know that it would be quicker to walk to my destination rather than taking my car, driving and looking for a parking lot, I will likely do so and by doing that I will decrease, even just by "one car" the streets congestion. It is nothing, but many nothings all together can make a difference.
Platforms like EPIC, developed by a cooperative project funded by the European Community, embed in their services the rendering of data and the involvement of citizens, usually through social networks, to provide real time data about the city and most importantly about how they see and experience the city.
Getting citizens to participate is not a downhill effort. They have to understand what is going on first, they need to appreciate that their potential contribution is valuable and finally it should be easy (and not time consuming) to input their two cents.
Rendering of data is therefore crucial, always but even more so, when the user is the lay citizen. Work being done at the MIT Senseable City Lab is an example of how to turn huge amount of data into easy to understand evolving snapshots of a living city, see the two clips.
As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, each one of us is a sensor. Depending on our willingness to share what, implicitly or explicitly, we sense we can provide a huge amount of data that can be processed to derive the pulse of the city. However, we are also processing machines, we process what our senses are picking up and part of that processing is automatically converted into actions; the mimic of our face as we see something we like/dislike is an example....
Picking up this spontaneous results of our processing is feasible (think about safety cameras observing us) but requires the building of trust in the community. A bit less tricky, from the "trust" point of view is to convey explicitly the result of our processing, e.g. by sending a tweet or clicking on an app (like Waze).
I feel that so far the processing capability of each one of us, multiplied by the thousands, hundreds of thousands is far superior to the one we can harvest from a computer, particularly because the result of our processing can be described in emotions, and that is what really would create a smart city, that is smart for us!