Transportation

Smart Columbus Initiative Seeks Open-Source Data-Sharing Infrastructure

Smart Columbus is looking to build a web-based information system that will collect and share data, allowing vehicles, roads and streetlights to communicate.

by Kimball Perry, The Columbus Dispatch / January 31, 2018

(TNS) — The Smart Columbus initiative wants proposals to create and build the backbone of an information system to allow all the elements of a "smart city'' to talk to one another.

"This is really the heartbeat of the Smart Columbus" project, said Brandi Braun, deputy innovation officer for the city of Columbus who is working on the project. "All of our projects require data and will give off data."

Smart Columbus is looking to build a web-based information system that will collect and share all of that data, Braun said. It will include data that allow vehicles, roads and streetlights to communicate.

The data will be open source — available to anyone online to allow entrepreneurs to look at and analyze the information and spark ideas for applications to make transportation more efficient.

Two sets of data expected to be included in the Smart Columbus project, for example, are:

  • Bridge dimensions. The height, length and other measurements of bridges will be made available so truckers can determine if their truck can travel on or under a bridge. All of that is expected to be communicated electronically so a trucker will know if the truck should take an alternate route.
  • Highway rest areas. They will be included so drivers will know how far away they are from the next one. The goal is to keep drivers, especially truck drivers, rested and safe if driving long routes and to prevent dangerous instances of parking on the side of the road or on an interstate ramp to rest.

Other data to be collected will be mapping, transportation times, information on the availability and location of car-sharing services, traffic flow, street closures, weather and parking.

"It's a one-stop shop for commuters," said Jodie Bare, program manager for the Smart Columbus Operating System, which will contain all of that information. "There are messages continually being generated from the cars to the system. ... How to get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient and cost-effective way."

Columbus beat out 77 other U.S. cities in 2016 to win the Smart Cities grant. It includes $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a smart-transportation system in which vehicles and roads communicate to make travel easier and safer. It also came with $10 million from Vulcan Inc. with a goal of reducing greenhouse emissions and auto commutes.

Smart Columbus wouldn't estimate the cost of the information system.

The data isn't limited to transportation. Eventually, it will include data for and from medical services, food pantries and private businesses participating in the program.

All of the Smart Columbus data will be sent to the Department of Transportation, where it also will be available to others.

This information sharing likely will be the basis for other smart city systems that follow.

"One of our goals is to build the (data) system so it will be scaled ... grow it in a way so that it is for more than one city's projects," Braun said. "We don't know what we don't know. This is new territory."

The winning proposal, Bare said, should be an expert in open-source technology, so the information system can be used by other cities in the future.

"At the end of this," Bare said, "We'll have a playbook everybody can use."

Initially, the system will be released to a select few so users can find bugs, suggest improvements and provide feedback. The "first iteration" system, Bare said, should be available to the public this summer.

"We want to create an ecosystem of innovation," Braun said.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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