The High-Tech Urban Experience, Now Standardized

The seven largest metros in the nation are teaming up to unify the technologies that are revolutionizing life in the city, Steve Towns reports.

May 2, 2012, 8:00 AM PDT

By Ryan Lue

Now more than ever, cities recognize the potential that technology has to transform the experience of daily life. From geographic analyses of crime to smartphone apps that show you where to park, these technologies are evolving at a rapid clip – thanks in large part to governments making data available to the public and letting them run with it.

But as with any new innovation, bleeding-edge developers splinter off into different directions, setting the stage for a sort of VHS-vs.-Betamax divide. But an alliance of the nation's seven largest cities, branded the G7, have been meeting since 2009 to make sense of the revolution. Now, they're preparing a formal project to bring their technological worlds into alignment.

"The unified database means applications developed for one G7 city should work for all," Towns writes. "The group also intends to hold multi-city hackathons that will target common problems and produce shared results" for all cities involved: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Jon Walton, Chief Information Officer of the City of San Francisco, notes the potential of making these tools widely available, and leaving the legwork to enterprising developers: "One of the things that surprised some of us was the number of applications that people rush to build once you make this data public. That's a real boon to the city because I don't have to spend taxpayer dollars to create them."

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