Sunday, November 9, 2014

Context and Cities

I just read a book, The Responsive City, by Stephen Goldsmith and Susan Crawford that I highly recommend.  First, it provides great case studies on how apps and analytics could transform city services and the relationship between city government and citizens. But the book is so much more.

In particular many of the case studies relate to what some folks are calling contextual computing(see for example, Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.  To begin their foreword they provide a great Nicholas Negroponte quote, "Computing is not about computers any more.  It is about living."    They define five technologies as forming contextual computing: mobile devices, social media, big data, sensor and location based services.  More on the Age of Context  after I finish it, back to The Responsive City.

More broadly I think The Responsive City  is of general interest to anyone interested in understanding what is involved in introducing technology and building high tech systems. The principles noted are as timeless as those provided in Fred Brooks, Mythical Man Month. Some examples: (1) you not only introduce a system but change the process and empower employees, (2) management support is essential (3) user driven is key - test the apps in actual use (4) be mindful of privacy (5) work within the system but often with a small number of folks outside the system. I could go on but hopefully you get the idea and each is supported by several case studies.  Well worth the read for understanding city hall's side of smart cities and for understanding the general issues with introducing new technologies especially contextual systems.  This goes way beyond the Internet of Things or Cyber-Physical systems and the issues it addresses will greatly contribute to the success of such systems.  Highly recommended!

I have been away for awhile but hope to ramp up my posts as the year closes.  My goal is one per week until the end of the year.  Later!