That power can translate into dramatic changes in the way we live in urban areas and the way governments improve cities and engage with residents. While some cities have adopted so-called Government 2.0 principles by putting records online, open for all to see, much of the information is banal and not often real-time: building permits, crime reports and the like. There’s currently no central database that collects live information from all the mobile phones and other sensors within a city. Yet that reality may not be far off. Several large-scale technology and computer companies, including IBM and Cisco, are hoping to develop just such a tool. This central hub, rich with data, could enhance how we understand our cities and ourselves.
Meanwhile, smartphones — both actively and passively — will continue to engage with the urban environment to foster a conversation between city and citizens that is mutually beneficial. Such citizen sensors will help build intelligence into almost all facets of life in the city. In this looming future, your phone will know how fast you’re walking and where you’re going. It will know that your bus is late. It will notify the local utility about your neighbor’s gas leak. Your city will learn from the data you provide and will adapt accordingly. And you will learn as well, tapping into the data you and your city are working together to collect. This collaboration will weave an intelligence into the urban experience that improves life in remarkable ways. The city will be not only smarter but also better.