/ Event Coverage / Philadelphia Sees Cities as Labs of Innovation with GIS as an Enabler

Philadelphia Sees Cities as Labs of Innovation with GIS as an Enabler

Matt Ball on July 7, 2013 - in Event Coverage, Featured, Smart Cities

Adel Ebeid, CIO at the City of Philadelphia, spoke to the Esri International User Conference at the Senior Executive Seminar. In addition to being accountable to the traditional information technology underpinnings, he’s also focused on innovation. While eighty percent of his effort involves managing this complexity, he also views cities as labs of innovation to improve management and services.

Philadelphia is 144 square miles, with 1.6 million inhabitants and growing. It’s the fifth largest city in the U.S. It’s also a city of firsts, with first stock exchange, first zoo, first computer, first public water supply project.
Mayor Nutter is working to brand the city as innovation friendly with the support of an innovation ecosystem. An open data executive order has ushered in an era of transparency, with an exchange platform and outreach to citizens. Among these is Urban Mechanics, an on-the-ground program to use technology to improve the public engagement process. Innovation Academy is another new institution that creates an environment to advance ideas within different city departments, with the idea that innovation is not a centralized process.

The Philadelphia technology strategy involves mobile, web, social, cloud and open/big/GIS data to drive their delivery strategy. Enterprise GIS continues to map the built environment, and they have ventured into 3D with redevelopment goals using Esri’s CityEngine. The indoor mapping not only helps with forward-looking plans, but also opens up a new world for emergency response.

The OpenDataPhilly platform started in the city’s hands, and is now run by a non-profit to encourage other organizations to use the data, but also deposit their own data.
Consolidated Philadelphia map store helps move the capacity to other organizations, and Philadelphia is moving much of their data to the cloud with ArcGIS Online.

Many of the macro view disruptive trends are geospatial in nature. Among the many trends are:

  • wearable devices that provide new ways of knowing, perceiving and interacting with the built environment
  • advances in artificial intelligence are augmenting and aiding in knowledge work
  • embedded sensors extend our senses and connect to work
  • consumption-based economics will enable more of a pay-as-you-go
  • advanced robotics and materials will improve human interaction
  • autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will enable a revolution in ground transportation
  • the n-D printing will democratize design and production for on-demand consumption

The nature of work will change dramatically, and the City of Philadelphia is interested in these patterns. Economic development is the engine of any city, and there’s a focus on these new technologies to see what’s coming.

Philadelphia sees an evolution of 311 centers to turn into citizen engagement platforms that incorporate social media and other inputs along with a detailed 3D city model. They see GIS moving past mapping to help cities gamify, re-imagine, disrupt and intervene in tedious and complex public policy. GIS is helping government become a platform to conduct, facilitate, broker and achieve public initiatives. GIS communities are becoming more ubiquitous with tighter integration with varied lines of business.

In Philadelphia, they believe that GIS will continue to drive innovation. With improved accuracy and velocity of data, they are making better place-based decisions. There’s a need for better visualization to make it more intuitive for the common knowledge worker. With cloud services, they are seeing the ability to cut costs without cutting talent. With more open data, GIS helps change the paradigm in government. GIS helps engage citizens to move problem solving as a shared responsibility between government and the community around it.

Matt Ball

About Matt Ball

Matt Ball is founder and editorial director of V1 Media, publisher of Informed Infrastructure, Earth Imaging Journal, Sensors & Systems, Asian Surveying & Mapping and the video news site GeoSpatial Stream.

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