Back the the English town of Milton Keynes. The Smart City initiative put up lots of sensors and cameras to measure and understand the movement of pretty much anything from pedestrian to HGV. Not sure if squirrels were counted. Here's why this is useful, from a citizen's perspective:
- Avoid getting annoyed looking for parking. How often have you been driving through a town centre, desperately looking for a parking spot? A system that can combine real time data with a forecast could direct you like this: If you drive to parking x, you'll have to wait 10 minutes to get in. If you drive to parking y, you can get in immediately, but it's 5 minutes further away from your destination. If you want free parking, drive to street z, which is not too busy, but it's 15 minutes walk from your destination.
- Are you familiar with overcrowded buses? If you knew, again based on a combination of real time data and forecast, that the next two buses will be very full, but the one after looks ok, would you maybe switch on the dishwasher and start the laundry before taking the bus to go shopping? I probably would.
- And the all time favourite traffic jam. Google Maps already does a pretty good job at showing and somewhat predicting them. However, more and better local data, combined with the destination information of buses, HGVs and cars, would significantly improve the ability to avoid traffic jams.
Looking at it from the perspective of the authorities:
- Better and faster distribution of cars to parking lots causes reduction of traffic jams, noise, pollution and frustration. Happier citizens, more attractive town.
- Better planning for public transport. The continuous structured collection of real usage data can lead to much better decisions on schedules and investment.
- Improved planning of construction.
- Data base for traffic management systems, i.e. for HGVs
- and so much more
From a local business perspective
- Great example from a shopping centre. The newly installed traffic flow system showed that when people left one of the large anchor stores, they either went straight home or to the restaurant. The ones that ate at the restaurant continued shopping after eating. However, at certain times a large number went into the restaurant and left it again immediately - it was full. They went home and did not spend any more money in the shopping centre. So the shopping centre doubled the restaurant space to increase overall revenue - for the food, and the additional shopping after eating.
- If café owners know which shops are most busy at which times, they have a better chance of opening a café in a place where they will be successful.
The most important principle to ensure the maximum benefit from the Motion Map is openness. All data is public, so that companies can build products and services based on it. This fosters private innovation on top of the public one. An example mentioned are services for people with special needs. For someone with a walking disability, it is even more important to know whether the bus is full or if a shop can be entered without steps.