In London I met with Volker Buscher at Arup. It’s a great company that’s owned by employees and covers a huge range of expertise about the built environment. For want of a better title Volker is one of the smart city people in the organisation and has a massive range of experience with cities around the world.
He emphasised that the need for the soft infrastructure of the Sensing City was as important as the technology. After all there’s no point in having the sensors without the ability to analyse the data and turn it into useful information.
One of the more interesting precedents for this was San Francisco, where former CTO Chris Vein had a team of 200 people that released 150 datasets to the public, private individuals and organizations. This then allowed them to build dozens of applications on top of them, including ones that let people see crime trends, plot routes on public transportation, and find places to recycle household items. Chris reported directly to the Mayor – although I think this is a governance model that is not so applicable to New Zealand. Nevertheless it’s an interesting and relevant case study. Chris Vein now works for the White House.
Volker also emphasised the value of having a Digital Masterplan that would become the guide for how the technology would be deployed and used in a Sensing City. He’s developed these for a couple of other cities and taken up to six months in the process.