City 2.0 : Towards the Platformization of Urban Management ?

Blablacar, Uber, Airbnb, all have one similar characteristic: they are a platform allowing people to interact with one another. We may have witnessed the emergence of new platform-based business models, applications and services in the past decade but the new trend may even have a larger scale. Indeed, a new city model seems to be emerging: the “smart city”, which translates into a platformization of urban management, using big data from people and traffic flows. Smart cities seems to be a new place to deal with urban management differently, to live together and involve citizens more.

City 2.0: challenges

Nowadays cities are increasingly questioning their models. They need to consider how to deal with urban revolution—the number of urbanites will indeed be twice as high in 35 years—, how to deal with environmental, energy, and climatic challenges and also how to leverage the digital revolution. Therefore, smart cities need to have a good understanding of current issues and how technology could improve urban management, and ways to co-create, regulate, and delegate. With technologies like Building Information Modeling or the Internet Of Things come new opportunities. We could imagine smarter security, town planning, infrastructure, transportation, energy, buildings…

So, challenges and rewards that smart cities are facing really impact various aspects of citizen and urban life thanks to a clever, more resilient, more fluid, and more collaborative city.

Smart cities are based on two pillars, data being the first. Data collection and analysis are based on transparency and participative principles. Business applications have to meet citizens’ expectations and interests. Secondly, in order to be smart, cities rely on data projects involving a network of heterogeneous actors such as private/public companies, citizens, universities, researchers and so on. Indeed, this intelligent management is based on the capacity to engage the community at large to work collaboratively.

Smart Cities: the process of urban management platformization

Between the lines of smart city principles lies the importance of data collection, analysis and the transformation of business applications. Therefore, an open data strategy is an essential driving force. It is one of the first steps of the process. By sharing public data, a city allows third parties to use it, to generate new applications, services and studies. In many cases, re-users seek to cross the data with those of other governments or private actors in order to generate value-adding services. Indeed, the data collected can also come from communication companies, smartphone probes, smartcards, taxi probes, facility information, statistics etc.

The second step, is the implementation of a city management platform providing a centralized data set which often exists in different systems and in conflicting or confusing formats. It is the case of Chicago. In the 2000s, the third largest city in the United States bet on technology to improve the efficiency of its urban management. This project was supported by numerous actors: the city of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust, foundations and companies. The municipality installed a network of sensors collecting data and in 2014, the SmartData platform was implemented in order to manage the inflows of data. The platform collects 7 million rows of data per day, its added value springs from its ability to analyze numerous data. Urban issues may now be solved and anticipated, thanks to this platform, which is a new asset for taking managerial decisions. Besides, not only do Chicago residents have access to services in a faster way and obtain more targeted answers, but they are also encouraged to launch private initiatives.

City as a platform: a replicable model ?

This urban management model is replicable, especially the one of Chicago. Indeed, the platform and the different software are available in open source to facilitate the adoption by others cities. However, even if platform-based management could be a source of incredible opportunities, it also raises issues: IT security, the capacity to have committed citizens, to share data and work collaboratively.



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