Using SDI for Smart Communities: Providing community information to residents

October 28, 2019 Gordon Plunkett

Local governments are traditionally responsible for providing local services such as safety, transit, infrastructure, environment and recreation. Often residents are not aware of available services or changes to services, so it is incumbent on the local government to conveniently provide information about services in a visual format, such as in web maps and web apps. This blog reviews the importance of providing information to individuals, how to make the information accessible, how SDI technology can be used to implement solutions, and provide some examples of cities and communities across Canada who provide information to the public via geospatial web apps.

I recently gave a presentation at the 4th SDI Summit event in Québec City that was organized by the Canadian Council on Geomatics (CCOG), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Québec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MERN). The CCOG works to advance geomatics activities among federal, provincial and territorial governments by reducing duplication of effort among governments and by facilitating access to geospatial information for the benefit of Canadians. Special thanks to the Government of Québec for organizing and hosting the event. The theme of the 2019 SDI Summit was SDIs for smart cities.

In my presentation, I elaborated on how "smart" can be defined in the current context:

  • cities and communities that make the lives of their residents better
  • communities that help increase the efficiency of moving people, goods and services
  • governments and communities of all sizes that enable “smart” services
  • smart is a journey, not a destination and requires a rethink of "business as usual" mindsets
  • smart requires a digital transformation of business processes.

The presentation then went on to describe the Industry Canada Smart Cities Challenge and the winning cities and communities. In particular, I highlighted the message from the City of Montréal’s Smart Cities Challenge proposal video, which states: “Data is a powerful tool to make better-informed decisions.  However, current data tends to be fragmented … This is why our proposal includes the development of two data hubs, where relevant data sources will be put together, made accessible and ready for analysis ...  as we increasingly rely on data to make better decisions ...”

I then went on to indicate why cities and communities need to implement an SDI within their business processes and technical infrastructure for the sharing of their spatial data within the city and with the external world. An SDI facilitates the capture, management, maintenance, integration, distribution and use of spatial information. The outcome of an SDI implementation is that decision and policymaking can be made more efficient and practical and can result in improved evidence-based decisions.

A smart city leverages spatial data in a variety of ways including analytics and engaging with its constituents. Here are several of the “Patterns of Use” for SDI data in a smart city.

The focus of the remainder of my SDI Summit presentation was on the constituent engagement pattern of use. Constituent engagement means: 1) getting individual constituents involved in policy development; 2) getting input from constituents; 3) getting information out to constituents.

Next, I gave an example from each province of a city or community providing constituent engagement services in a special or unique way. Some of the common elements in these examples were that the organizations used web map and apps; the sites were intuitive and efficient; the sites provided access anywhere on any device.

These are four particularly unique examples of smart city community engagement from across the country.

The City of St. Albert site obtains reports of problems or issues (such as potholes or parking) including submitting pictures via the web application and then providing the status of the issue (open, acknowledged or closed) which is available for public view. The award-winning City of Brampton site provides apps, maps, map stories, open data, dashboards, budgets, online services and feedback capabilities to its residents. The City of Repentigny site was particularly unique in that the app allows residents to enter a location and find city services and amenities close to their residence or location. The Halifax Regional Municipality site called ExploreHRM provides a user-friendly interactive map for finding addresses, streets, bus stops, property information and much more including open data download.

The presentation wrapped up by indicating that geospatial data can be leveraged within an SDI to provide smart community capabilities in applications such as planning, engineering, delivering services, connecting with the community and using data and analytics to make local government and constituents decisions. Check out some of the smart cities sites to get ideas for implementing your own smart city or smart community interactive web map.

About the Author

Gordon Plunkett

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

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