Urbanflow

There are a handful of relatively new initiatives happening to better interconnect the wide variety of systems that make up cities. IBM’s Smarter Cities (as part of their Smarter Planet), and LivingPlanIT and their “Urban Operating System” are just two. They’re working to harness the complexity and range of data that make up a city — and making it all usable in seamless and integrated ways. But to the lay-person, they seem pretty abstract. Probably because of their potentially massive scale.

So it was interesting to see Urbanflow Helsiniki — an “operating system for everyday life.” Urbanflow is more user-centered, and gives usage scenarios of how regular citizens can take advantage of the government and private data which such a system would aggregate. It’s a human face on the deeper technology infrastructure, and, as such, an important voice in the conversation of what such systems should be.

Interestingly, they point out that it’s often visitors who are the first users of such services. So their scenarios start with visitors using maps to find items of interest, get routing information, and resent hyper-local resources. But the system then expands to residents by presenting information about their communities — raising awareness, and giving them a means to contribute their knowledge to the community and its organizations.

Urbanflow focuses on public kiosks, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t also be mobile-based. It’s an interesting alternative to the countless separate apps I have on my phone for local content. It is in contrast to a trend towards micro-apps, and there are dangers to connecting everything together. But thinking of this from the user’s perspective is a good first step.

(Link via @jdevoo.)

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