I've been following the evolution of open data initiatives at the municipal level for about a year now, and was really hoping that New York was going to set the bar for future efforts across the country. It doesn't. In fact it's hard to understand why some notable local tech superstars like investors Fred Wilson and John Borthwick would sign on to such a lame effort.
Here in New York City, there is an incredibly popular burger stand in Madison Square Park called The Shake Shack. It's one of the touchpoints for Silicon Alley, and a great meet-up spot. The problem is that its usually insanely crowded, with an hour-long line stretching well across the park.
Not to be defeated, Silicon Alley geeks created the Shake Shack Twitter Bot, which serves as a sort of chat room for people to report wait times at the Shake Shack. It's a few dozen lines of code that leverages Web 2.0 technology to make the city smarter, more efficient, and more fun.
About two years ago, after teaching a course at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program on "Digitally Mediated Urban Space", I wrote an article for the architectural design journal Praxis that sought to do do two things: 1) make sense of the wide array of digital technologies that are being deployed in urban space, and 2) present a couple of places that I thought exemplified good and bad "design" of digital public spaces.
Recently, my research on context-aware computing - computing based on sensors and artificial intelligence - has led me to revisit this piece. Around the same time, I got a call from Lucas Graves, a friend who writes for Wired, and was doing a piece on technologies that are "perpetually around the corner". Lucas was mainly interested in things like videophones, but it coincided with a turn in my research to the applications side of context-awareness: smart cities, smart places, smart homes, and smart objects. As an urban planner, I immediately gravitated to thinking about smart cities and smart places, but wondered in the back of my mind - is this something that is really happening, or just another one of those technologies that are perpetually around the corner?