Urban Information Modeling Platform

This is a Final Project presentation for the Urban Information Modeling class at the Illinois Institute of Illinois. Both authors were interested in an interactive platform to view and create 3D building models. Originally, it was just meant to be another way for citizens to take part in the modeling of their cities in the United States and eventually across the globe.

As the project evolved, increased user participation and the integration of 2D geographic information became key elements. The capability to break down users into subgroups and allowing them to edit models on top of uploading originals was significant. Attached is the presentation with a complete outline of how the platform would be organized and displayed.

Showcasing St. Louis’ virtual and physical vitality

The suggestively named St. Louis collective “Brain Drain” has come up with an interesting idea to display what they termed the city’s “creative talent.” Seeking to counter the general view of St. Louis as a sleepy city, they’ve designed a system to display, both physically and virtually, the vitality and human capital of the place.

The physical visualization would be comprised of light beacons spread throughout the city, equipped with proximity sensors so that they would grow brighter when people approached them. They would also serve as additional lighting and landmarks for the urban landscape.

In the virtual realm, users would be able to access a on-the-fly heat map of the city’s activities, which would combine the beacon sensors with social media information such as Tweets, Foursquare check-ins, Flickr pictures, etc.

Another branch of the physical system would be creating digital kiosks that could display this information, so people could find activities going on in the city as they are happening.

PS: I was pretty scared about one statistic mentioned in the video: that 1/4 mile is generally the longest distance people are willing to walk before resorting to a car (so that would be the radius of the beacons’ coverage).

IIT hosts Hackathon 2012

IIT will be hosting a Hackathon starting this friday, March 30. In a 24-hour marathon, participants will have to create an app in one of these three categories: HTML 5 Game; Web/Cloud app; and Mobile app. Also, no code can be written before the beginning of the competition.

The apps can be developed for any purpose, and will be judged based on their functionality, usability, interactivity, user experience and market potential. Prizes range up to $500 for the best apps in each category.

Sounds like a good opportunity to give our projects a try, if anyone is feeling like it.

All the details at: http://www.iithackathon.com/

Case Study – Opening Cities’ Data

data.cityofchicago.org and other initiatives

The city of Chicago Data Portal has been live since February 2010. It’s official goal is to promote access to government data and encourage the development of tools that use that data to build ‘creative’ tools.

So far, it has provided 717 items on its website, including:

  • 197 datasets
  • 4 external datasets (CTA)
  • 133 files and documents (GIS; shapefiles; kml)
  • 338 filtered views
  • 19 charts
  • 27 maps
Those are updated at different rates: yearly, quarterly, nightly, real-time (bus and train trackers). They can be exported into the following formats: CSV; JSON; PDF; RDF; RSS; XLS; XLSX; XML. Data can also be harnessed using the Socrata Open Data API (SODA).
The website also features ways of visualizing data, such as maps and charts, that are intended to be user friendly. However, there are some issues with the data and the way it’s organized that hinder the initiative’s goal of reaching wider audiences. First, with so much data and no hierarchy, it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Second, there is little analysis or interpretation such as the last two visualization examples; most of the information is just raw data.
Other cities such as New York and Seattle also have their own data portals. These were all created in the wake of the federal government’s Data.gov portal, launched in May 2009 as part of the Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative. It’s principles are: transparency promotes accountability; participation allows people to contribute ideas; and collaboration encourages cooperation within government and with industry.
These data portals are all based on the Socrata Social Data Platform. This allows for governmental agencies to link data from their networks to Data.gov in real-time; to integrate to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook (‘liking’, sharing or commenting); to map data both on Bing and Google Maps; to create visualization such as charts, graphs and maps; and allows for third-party apps, using Socrata’s API. (check the comments on this newsfor some of Socrata’s intentions and goals while working for the government)
While some apps have been developed using data from the City of Chicago portal, most of them consist mainly of more friendly ways of displaying that data, e.g., Clear Streets, and app that allows you to see when snow was cleared and streets salted, and Chicago Lobbyists, which allows you to see which lobbyists have received more money and from whom.
However, I am more interested in apps that allow for user input to contribute to planning and urban policy issues. One good example is Trail Blaze Chicago, an app for Android that allows bikers to record their daily trips, through their phone’s GPS. Using this information, planners could be better informed of where bike lanes are most needed, and build them accordingly.