Smart Cities NY: A Mix of Civics, Big Data, Security - InformationWeek

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Smart Cities NY: A Mix of Civics, Big Data, Security

City officials meet technology innovators to pursue solutions that may improve life in urban centers as smart cities.
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Big Data — Big Cities — Big Questions

Adrienne Schmoeker and Liora Schecter Image: Joao-Pierre S. Ruth
Adrienne Schmoeker and Liora Schecter

Image: Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

With each day, cities add to the ever-growing mountain of data they collect, derived from the actions of citizens, businesses, and municipal operations. There may be ways to use these data sets, such as open data that is freely available, but this raises questions about how and why it should be accessed. Story Bellows, partner with Cityfi, moderated a panel on the topic that brought together Adrienne Schmoeker, deputy chief analytics officer for the City of New York; Ger Baron, CTO for the City of Amsterdam; and Liora Shechter, CIO for the City of Tel Aviv.

Schmoeker said there is a multitude of users of open data, including city staffers, startups, nonprofit staff, data journalists, and researchers. “There is a natural tension around open data programs,” she said. “Do you publish the data that you have even if it’s not super usable, but maybe then it’s more trustworthy? Or do you clean the data?”

In Tel Aviv, personalized data, rather than raw open data, is made available to startups that need the information, Shechter says, to provide services and develop products for the community.

There is a desire, she said, to embrace open architecture to continue to nurture the city’s startup community. “Get the permission to get the data about a specific person and allow startups to really invent and create,” Shechter said. “We believe that will bring the best value to the residents.”

Ger Baron Image: Joao-Pierre S. Ruth
Ger Baron

Image: Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Previous assumptions that open data would generate vast value has not translated directly into actual revenue, said Baron. At the same time, he said government should make data available out of principle and transparency. There are companies, Baron said, that have been interested in combining their data with his city’s data to create real value. Citizens still retain decision-making control over if or how their data is shared in order to receive certain services, he said. “You select who has access to your data. You can decline.”

This still left an issue of trust regarding how private sector companies or government entities use data collected from the public, said Schmoeker. “We’re in a phase now where a lot of those questions are being asked.”



Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city's tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as ... View Full Bio

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