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Open Mobility Foundation Develops Data Standards for Curbs

The Curb Data Specification was developed among dozens of leaders from tech, transit, transportation, delivery and other areas to establish a set of common specifications to guide deployment and operation of digital curb management systems.

A FedEx delivery truck parked on the curb with boxes being unloaded in Manhattan.
A FedEx delivery truck in Manhattan.
The fast-moving world of on-demand deliveries, ride-hailing and — of course — parking is placing constant pressures on cities to better manage street curbs.

Which is why the Open Mobility Foundation developed its Curb Data Specification to help to standardize the practice of digital curb management, making it easier for cities to turn to technology providers to help transition curbs into the more dynamically used spaces the current moment is calling for.

“The call for this work came from cities who want to use data standards to advance curb management,” said Angela Giacchetti, interim executive director of the Open Mobility Foundation. “While curb management has long been a function of cities, pandemic challenges put even more stress on already scarce urban curb space.

“That, combined with advancements in technology that are reshaping our transportation systems, created a real sense of urgency around helping cities and companies come together to find solutions to common curb management pain points,” she added in an email.

The Curb Data Specification is the outcome of the Curb Management Working Group, formed in 2020 and made up of more than 160 leaders from the tech, transit, delivery and city staff levels at OMF to develop a “free and open standard.”

“This really enables the flourishing of the entire curb ecosystem. Because ultimately, a standard like this is all about interoperability,” said Harris Lummis, chief technology officer and co-founder of digital curb technology company Automotus and a member of the Curb Management Working Group. Los Angeles-based Automotus is the technology provider behind a partnership with the city of Omaha, Neb., to deploy up to 100 “smart loading zones,” which will include cameras gathering data related to who’s using the curb, length of parking duration, type of vehicle and other data.

“A big barrier to any kind of curb management pilot project, a lot of times … is making sure the data can be properly shared with who needs to see it. So this shared exchange format definitely removes one of the barriers to implementation,” said Lummis.

When it comes to data sharing and smoothing the path to digital curb management solutions, city officials seem to welcome developments like the curb data specifications.

“I think any time that we can create continuity amongst the many players in this area, that we will benefit from the efficiencies in the curb management scenario,” said Kenneth D. Smith, parking and mobility manager for Omaha.

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic, which heightened the use of services like on-demand delivery stemming from e-commerce, have hastened the need for new approaches to curb management, say industry and OMF officials.

Working with a set of standard specifications gives cities more flexibility to test out different technology providers, said Lummis.

“Because we now have this shared format, a city doesn’t need to feel locked in to using a single sensor provider,” he explained. “They can use multiple providers that use different methodologies for collecting data. And that can even incorporate self-reported data from providers like a UPS or an Uber or something.”

Explaining some of the practical aspects of CDS, Giacchetti said, companies using the curb get “a real-time understanding of where the nearest available curb spaces are and what rules apply to them."

“Ultimately, CDS sets the stage for cities to adapt the curb to support the innovations in mobility, delivery, and commerce that cutting-edge companies are driving,” she added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.