Featured Ideas

  • Encouraging “Civic Start-Ups”

    Not so long ago, the notion of social entrepreneurship was new, and people were marveling over the possibility of businesses whose purpose was to do good — and were skeptical about their real profitability potential. We now know that skepticism was misplaced.  The new symbol of profit following purpose is the Civic Start-Up. These are companies that come into existence through a desire to solve some kind of civic, municipal, public service or other problem.  In some ways there is nothing new about the notion — after all, private waste management and civil engineering grew out of just such opportunity.  But the civic start-up differs in its genesis.  In its rawest form, the entrepreneur has created or happened upon a technological solution that improves quality of life, and which does NOT require the city’s (or other government’s) participation for its deployment.  For example, new smart phone apps that help drivers find parking spaces using algorithms (rather than sensors) is just such a solution.  The Parking in Motion app is accessible by any smart phone user, or by a customer of various in-car navigation systems;  The data comes in part from parking operators, in part from city parking operators, and largely from mathematics.  Other civic start-ups range from those that locate wi-fi, to those that help to choose political candidates that will share your values.    There are tons of these kinds of businesses blossoming every working week, with varying levels of success.  But it is in the interest of cities and other government entities to create a foundation for their proliferation.  The  article linked here has some tips to do just that.  [And in case it wasn’t apparent, we at Solutions4Cities like to think of ourselves as a civic start-up too.]

  • 5 Ways that Smart Cities Will Change How We Live in 2012

    From security to parking, conservation to building management — smart cities are here now and expanding into more and more areas of our lives.  In this very year many of us will see changes that directly alter how we go about our daily lives.  For an interesting synopsis of a few of the ways that technology will alter urban life over the next few years, take a look at Dave Bartlett’s perspective.  Click here for full article.

  • COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Conference Addresses DST for Cities

    The ongoing migration of people into cities from rural and suburban areas, coupled to the advent of technology to address major needs, has led to whole new areas of applied science.  As technology, including sensors, are used to deal with the needs of dense populations, such as water, electricity, health, traffic and more, a new domain has emerged, Decision Sciences Technology (DST).  At the COST conference, presenters discussed and shared the ways that DST can be used by urban planners and city leaders to address pressing challenges. 

    Some examples of those applications include:

    • help optimise vehicle routing in waste collection;
    • support the provision of services information to citizens (e.g. through info-mobility terminals);
    • exploit the prevalence of social networking, polling and focus group data to provide information about the preferences, habits, opinions and behaviours of users of public services;
    • synthesise information for precise decision making based on Geographical Information Systems;
    • overall, help providers of public services understand the increasing diversity of the needs of citizens, diversify their offerings, and do so in the best possible way, thus offering smart services.

    Coincidentally, these are the main areas that Solutions 4 Cities addresses through its clients and consulting services. For more on that, please visit our Services 4 Business section.

    To learn more about the COST conference and the content of its presentations, please click here.

  • 2012 Transit Projects

    Although the federal government is mired in budget crises, there are nonetheless a significant number of transit projects beginning or continuing as we enter 2012.  The Obama administration has been strong in its support for an increase in urban transit, especially Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), but also most other types including light rail, street cars, high speed rail and more.  To look at the complete list of ongoing transit projects — and to determine if your own city or State is in the mix, visit this link and read the full article.

  • Infrastructure Banks: The Funding Solution?

    Infrastructure Banks: The Funding Solution?

    In this informative Atlantic Cities article, Yonah Freemark presents the basic structure of infrastructure banks (I-banks), how they have succeeded and where they have either failed or fulfilled far less than their seeming potential.  The basic idea is that I-banks are to be government agencies funded through private investment.  The funds can be loaned for projects such as transit, road-building, bridge repair and so forth.  Many of the existing I-banks have been under-utilized, with far fewer applications than their capital would allow.  Now there has been a strong push at the Federal level to guarantee funding for much larger projects at the State and local level, to improve US infrastructure without commensurately increasing deficits. Read the full article and view references here.

  • Smart Cities Harness Technology

    In this video Interview,  Anthony Townsend, Research Director of The Institute for the Future, addresses the ways that cities have used technology to better cope with the needs of their citizens and the challenges that they face.  From the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where weather sensors provide early warning for evacuation of steep hillsides, to smart apps built by citizen hackers to assist in finding the nearest Chinese restaurant. Townsend discusses the “top-down” versus grassroots approaches to city-building and envisions a future in which industry and individual work together, with government as the “connector” allowing each to complement the overall enterprise. Watch below or watch on Youtube by clicking here.

  • Year-End Trend Report–Making Cites Smarter

    SmartPlanet reports on the 4 major trends that government and cities in particular are using to improve service delivery and strategic planning.  While we have been talkjing about specific examples of these all year, it is worthwhile to take a 20,000 foot view and note these macro-trends in one place.  They include the use of data for planning and decision-making, crowd-sourcing and more. As an aside, Solutions4Cities is proud to represent best-in-class technologies in most of these categories! Read the short report here.

  • Hot Trends in Government Service

    Hot Trends in Government Service (Dec. 24,2011)

    As part of their series of article about government  services, OhMyGov presents 7 top trends.  Many of these can also be found in other locations, but this is a terrific overview.  Amongst the hot trends mentioned is President Obama’s push to digitize all government records.  This has the potential to revolutionize Freedom of Information access by making records instantly available without the archiving and retrieval issues  that currently delay such requests.  Another similar story is the digitizing of public school data in Washington D.C. — a development that will allow for far more accurate tracking of performance.  After all, if your measurement is delayed, unresponsive or obsolete, then what exactly are you managing with that data?  So, up-to-date, accurate and accessible data is a significant ongoing tend.  Read the whole story by clicking here.

  • Cities Are Getting Smarter — But They Aren’t There Yet

    The access to data using information technology has the capacity to accelerate the sustainability of cities across the world.  While many cities (e.g., London, Abu Dhabi, New York City and more) are already undertaking ambitious projects to increase their level of environmental and green responsibility, William Pentland (contributor to Forbes) suggests that they are merely scratching the surface.  For an impressive list (with links) of resources and technologies that should be seized upon, read Pentland’s entire comment by clicking here.

  • US Cities Pledge to Use Renewable Energy for Next 5 Years

    US Cities Pledge to Use Renewable Energy for Next 5 Years

    In the absence of regulatory pressure to do so, US cities are voluntarily agreeing to go green by using renewable energy source.  ““Voluntary purchases of renewable energy contribute significantly to our nation’s renewable energy infrastructure and deployment of new renewable generation,” says Jay Carlis, REMA President.  The pledge is made as part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, and several other entities, with funding from corporations and municipalities.  To learn more and see which cities made the pledge, click here.

  • Economic Security By The Numbers, By The City

    Wonder where your city ranks in terms of the most relevant indicators of economic security?  You can find out, and even parse the data according to the criteria you choose. Interested in unemployment stats? Housing prices?  How about job types and average salaries?  You can even search by relative mortgage delinquency.  This tool is a really useful addition to your arsenal of measurement resources.  For city leaders who are committed to measuring the scorecard of their community’s economic health, an indispensable aid! Click here to search your city’s rank!

  • Laundry List For Launching Digital Government

    Laundry List For Launching Digital Government

    If you’re a government leader or civil servant looking to begin transforming your administration or locality into a more modern and open one, this article is a great starting point.  Consider some of the ideas:

    The role of technology
    […] The Government should embrace the recommendations and proposals from the Government 2.0 Task Force and ensure that the tools and platforms of Web 2.0 and social networking become an increasingly common part of the work style and workplaces of the public sector, lifting the quality of collaboration and accelerating the rate of learning for innovation.

    This is but one of an 11 item list.  Read it in full here.

  • The City as Organism

    New “smart” capability turns a city into a living phenomenon that can be controlled from a single dashboard.  The intelligence extends from utilities to traffic flow and includes everything in between.  “…engineers are transforming cities from passive conduits for water into dynamic systems that store and manage it like the tissues of desert animals. By using the Internet to connect real-world sensors and control mechanisms to cloud-based control systems that can pull in streams from any other data source, including weather reports, these efforts enable conservation and money-saving measures that would have been impossible without this virtual nervous system.”  Read the whole story here.

  • Truck Farm: The Movie and The Movement

    How can you bring urban youth the experience of rural farming without land or transportation for the kids?  You can drive it to them on a tiny little farm in the bed of a pick-up truck.  The movie, a Wicked Delicate production, documents an experiment in mobile agriculture.  Now others are launching small, community farms in their own trucks across the country.  Now, it’s a fleet of 25 trucks bringing the ease of growing and eating fresh food to cities around the country.  Look for public screenings of the film — or better yet, start planting (and driving). For the full story, information on individuals who are truck-farming, film screenings and more, click here.

  • The Art Basel Effect: Can Your City Harness the Same Magic as Miami?

    As a classically seasonal city, the time after Thanksgiving in Miami has typically been the opposite of a boom time.  In fact, the Miami economy used to hit the “black” in the Spring, as snowbirds flew south from colder climes and brought with them their dollars or Euros.

    But since 2002 that has changed with the advent of the international art festival known as “Art Basel”.  According to a recent article in the Miami Herald, “Compared to results seen in 2002, the year of Art Basel’s debut, revenue from the average Miami-Dade hotel room grew 51 percent for the first 11 months of 2010, according to Smith Travel Research. For December, that increase surged to 79 percent.”

    Is there something in this economic story that could help your city?  Your business? Click here to read the full story.

  • Cooling Cities with White Roofs

    Anyone who has ever spent the month of July in a city — (or in The City — New York)– knows just how hot it can get.  The technical term for the heat that sits on cities is the “urban heat island effect” — and it’s real.  No

    w, researchers believe that painting roofs white can make an even bigger difference to relieving the swelter than tree-planting, a well-known solution.

    According to Atlantic Cities, a “million tree campaigns have been launched in cities like New York and Los Angeles, and hot hot Phoenix recently approved a Tree and Shade Master Plan [pdf] to increase the city’s tree canopy to cover 25 percent of the city over the next two decades. And while trees can help bring down temperatures (in addition to a variety of other beneficial impacts), new research suggests that it might make more sense to invest in white paint than white ash.

    In a study just published online in the journal Building and Environment, researchers out of Yale University show that the cooling effect of tree cover and other vegetated areas is far outpaced by the cooling achieved through reflective roofing. By analyzing satellite imagery of the city of Chicago from around 1995 and 2009, the researchers found that parts of the city that had increased their reflectivity show greater reductions in temperature than areas that increased their vegetation.”  reasd the whole article and find key references by clicking here.

  • Did you Ever Imagine Biking Could Save Billions for Your City

    A new study finds that by only biking the short trips under 2 miles — and only when the weather is good — biking instead of driving can make a huge difference to a city’s economy and quality of life.  As described in the terrific article (linked below) on Good.is,   “Environmental Health Perspectives published findings from a study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin on the economic and health benefits of switching from a car to a bike for trips shorter than five miles long in 11 metropolitan areas around the upper Midwest. Combining data on air pollution, medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents, and physical fitness, the researchers found that if inhabitants of the sample region switched to bikes for half of their short trips, they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality and $3.8 billion in savings from smaller health care costs associated with better fitness and fewer mortalities from a decreased rate of car accidents.”

    Read it all for yourself by clicking here.

  • 4 High-Tech Projects Making Cities More Energy Efficient

    Look at what Chattanooga, San Jose, Reno and Miami have done to make a huge difference in their energy consumption.  Each city has undertaken a high tech  project to save energy and add sustainability.  And of course, every project requires new talent, jobs (albeit, some are not permanent) and some resources.  But these projects eventually pay for themselves in energy savings, and boost the standing of the city itself! Click here to read the full article.

  • Hong Kong Makes Money on Its Mass Transit! How???

    It is conventional wisdom that transit NEVER makes money.   In fact, it doesn’t even break even.  The net gain may be profitable for the city or region, but those gains come from development along the transit route — NOT from the fares themselves.  Well Hong Kong is the exception that proves the rule and offers a paradigm that many cities could adopt. Read the whole story by clicking here.

  • Can Google Apps Improve Student Performance? Oregon Wants to Know

    Most education experts agree that the digital world has much to offer education. In Oregon they have worked out a deal with Google, providing Google’s full menu of applications to students.  There are, needless to say, lots of things to consider about this deal.  But privacy issues aside, will students learn more?  And how will those results be measured to determine if they do perform better or not?  Click here for full story.

  • Cities at Work to Launch in 2012

    Starting in 2012, Solutions4Cities will launch a new feature called Cities at Work. This will be a periodic publication including interviews with Mayors and other community leaders about specific solutions, strategies, conditions and ideas that are making some or many aspects of a city great.  Our focus will be on highlighting best practices, innovative approaches to pervasive problems, community groundswells and other unexpected ways that challenges have been effectively addressed.  Look for the segment in mid to late January.  Along with articles, mp3s and occasional videos of interviews will be available for download or on-line viewing and listening. If you would like to be informed when the first issue is posted, please use the contact page and subject line Cities at Work Update.

  • Welcome to Solutions4Cities

    With budgets under the ax and reduced staffing levels, there simply isn’t the time or money to do comprehensive research on new technologies that might solve the most pressing challenges for your city.

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