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Use Case: BetaNYC 3/5

From: Steven Adler <adler1@us.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2014 10:51:34 -0500
To: "Public DWBP WG" <public-dwbp-wg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OF8EE0B3A9.EEEB3D25-ON85257C93.0056EBFE-85257C93.00571E49@us.ibm.com>
Last night, I attended another BetaNYC Hackathon in Brooklyn, where I met 
another group of passionate citizens developing, and learning to develop, 
fascinating apps for Smarter Cities.  This week we were about 15 people in 
the room, and we started with a lightning round of "what are you working 
on" descriptions from project leads.  There were only three people in the 
room who had participated in the hackathon the week prior, and this is 
pretty normal.  BetaNYC has 1600 developers registered in their network 
and every week coders rotate in and out of meetups and projects in an 
endless and unplanned cycle that continuously inspires creativity and 
motivation by showcasing new projects.

The first project we heard about came from a local nonprofit called 
Tomorrow Lab, who have designed hardware that measures how many bikes 
travel on streets they measure.  It uses simple hardware and open source 
software that connects two sensors with a pneumatic tube that measures 
impressions for weight and axel distance that differentiates between bikes 
and cars.  Its called WayCount.  The text below is from their website.  In 
the room we discussed how WayCount data could be combined with NYPD crash 
reports to more accurately identify the spots in NYC where bike accidents 
per bike numbers occur and identify ways to remediate.

WayCount is a platform for crowd-sourcing massive amounts of near 
real-time automobile and bicycle traffic data from a nodal network of 
inexpensive hardware devices.   For the first time ever, you can gather 
accurate volume, rate, and speed measurements of automobiles and bicycles, 
then easily upload and map the information to a central online database. 
The WayCount device works like other traffic counters, but has two key 
differences: lower cost and open data. At 1/5th price of the least 
expensive comparible product, WayCount is affordable. The WayCount Data 
Uploader allows you to seamlessly upload and map your latest traffic count 
data, making it instantly available to anyone online. 
Collectively, the WayCount user community has the potential to build a 
rich repository of traffic count data for bike paths, city alley ways, 
neighborhood streets, and busy boulevards from around the world. With a 
better understanding of automobile and bicycle ridership patterns, we can 
inform the design of better cities and towns. 
The WayCount platform is an important addition to the process of measuring 
the impact of transportation design, and creating livable streets by 
adding bicycle lanes, public spaces, and developing smart transportation 
management systems. By creating open-data, we can increase governmental 
transparency, and provide constituencies with the essential data they need 
to advocate for rational and necessary improvements to the design, 
maintenance, and policy of transportation systems. 
The hardware and software of the WayCount device and website were designed 
and engineered by Tomorrow Lab. 
WayCount devices are currently for sale on the website, WayCount.com 

We also discussed some ideas to provide policy makers with better sources 
of Open Data to guide policy discussions, and then broke up into four 
groups focusing on different projects.  One group discussed how to save 
the New York Library on 42nd Street from the imminent transformation of 
its main reading room and function as a lending library.  Another group 
scraped web pages for NYPD crash data for an app comparing accident rates 
across the 5 boroughs.  Some people just spent time talking about who they 
are and what they want to work on, what they want to learn, and how to get 
more involved.

I spent an hour with a young programmer who had worked on the NYC Property 
Tax Map I shared with you last week.  He showed me a Chrome Plugin he is 
working on that provides data about leading politicians whenever their 
names are mentioned on a webpage.  It is called Data Explorer for US 
Politics and it provides some nifty data on things like campaign 
contributions compared to committee assignments. 

I asked him where he got his data and he showed me DBpedia, which "is a 
crowd-sourced community effort to extract structured information from 
Wikipedia and make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows 
you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia, and to link 
the different data sets on the Web to Wikipedia data. We hope that this 
work will make it easier for the huge amount of information in Wikipedia 
to be used in some new interesting ways. Furthermore, it might inspire 
new mechanisms for navigating, linking, and improving the encyclopedia 
itself. "

Then I asked him how he knows that DBpedia data is accurate and reliable 
and he just looked at me.  "It's on the internet..."  Yeah, and so where 
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  But they were only on the internet 
and never in Iraq.  And herein lies a huge problem about Open Data on the 
Web; there is no corroboration of fact, no metadata describing where it 
came from, how it was derived, calculated, presented.  No one attests to 
its veracity, yet we all use it on faith which just ain't good enough.

This is why we have the W3C Data on the Web Best Practices Working Group - 
to create new vocabulary and metadata standards that attach citations and 
lineage, attestations and data quality metrics to Open Data so that 
everyone can understand where it came from, how much to trust it, and even 
how to improve it.

At the end of the evening, we also discussed IBM Smarter Cities, the 
Portland System Dynamics Demo, and the possibility of hosting a BetaNYC 
meetup at IBM on 590 Madison Avenue.  It was a fascinating evening and I 
encourage all to check out the links provided in this writeup and get out 
and join a meetup near you. 

Talk to you tomorrow.

Best Regards,


Motto: "Do First, Think, Do it Again"

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Received on Thursday, 6 March 2014 15:52:14 UTC

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