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US Ignite Partners with Telecom Group to Bolster Smart Cities

US Ignite and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions have released the "Smart Cities Data Catalog Specification" to aid in smoother data-sharing efforts among the public sector, third parties and others.

Data Science
The unfettered exchange of data is often seen as a requisite for the modern smart city, and so US Ignite and a telecommunications group have partnered to establish a blueprint to aid this process across cities, third parties and others to put data toward bigger and broader uses.

“There’ll be a need for cities to exchange data with other cities, with state and federal government agencies, even beyond the open-data that’s available to citizens and businesses and application developers and so on,” said Mike Nawrocki, vice president for technology and solutions at the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), explaining the data exchange needs of smart cities; and the formation of the Smart Cities Data Catalog Specification.

The partnership between US Ignite, a nonprofit funded by the National Science Foundation, and ATIS began about two years ago to, look at the issue around data exchanges and data sharing, as it pertains to smart cities, said Nawrocki.

“Cities have been deploying various forms of data-collection infrastructure to meet their applicational needs. And cities have been building out their data-management capabilities to better manage data across their operational departments,” Nawrocki explained.

The idea of the data catalog specification looks to the future, said Nawrocki. “It’s a much more complex environment that’s evolving, where you have cities that want to work with different data partners. So that’s really what was behind this work.”

“Much of this was also focused on moving data to open-data platforms. So they have data sets that’s coming from sensors or data that’s been stored as city assets,” he added. “It’s been a process to move data to meet their individual city unique needs.”

The specification document lays out methods and roadmaps for enabling not just data sharing among various entities, but also the management and security of the data.

“The data catalog would not just capture the data, but would also capture, 'what is the level of sharing of the data with respect to the privacy,'” said Praveen Ashok, technical program manager at US Ignite.

Cities and regions are more understanding of the importance of data-sharing and making this process easier.

The St. Louis Regional Data Exchange (RDX) launched this week as an open-data portal for the St. Louis metro region, bringing together data sets related to transportation, health, housing and other public data sets. That tool is sponsored by the St. Louis Regional Data Alliance.

The exchange does not in any way eliminate public data portals developed and managed by cities, but acts more as a single place for numerous data sets to be gathered and shared.

“It serves as sort of a card catalog, a search tool,” said Paul Sorenson, director of the St. Louis Regional Data Alliance. “It’s a multiplier. It makes it easier for folks to find existing data portals.”

“Everything before was scattered all over the floor, and it was hard to find. We put it all in a box,” he added.  

Collecting data and putting in one place makes it easier to view and analyze among other government agencies, third parties or others.

“Most of the major challenges, in our region, and in many regions, cross geographies or cross sectors, and our data typically doesn’t,” said Sorenson. “So what we want to do is limit the time people spend trying to find data or wrestle it into some sort of usable form and start proactively trying to connect those dots around critical issues in our region.”

The data exchange follows on the heels of similar efforts like the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center in Pittsburgh and the Alamo Regional Data Alliance in San Antonio, Texas.


Smart Cities
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.