Smaller towns and cities under about 50,000 in population often cannot afford to develop custom apps and in-house smart-community capabilities. They need a standard platform that is easily, cheaply and quickly adapted to local needs. This platform should deliver a variety of functions that every hometown wants and needs and which improve Quality of Life (QoL) metrics for individuals, cohorts and the community at large. Examples include: Independent kids & seniors (encourage walking downtown by establishing surveilled safe zones, monitoring their boundaries, and alerting parents/responsible parties when people wander); Yesteryear (access local history info while walking, allow users to crowdsourced memories); Visualizing a better downtown (combine GIS, pedestrian animation, remote sensing data to relate redevelopment plans to people walking downtown, crowdsourced reactions to alternative scenarios); Current conditions (report on air quality, noise, weather, crowdedness, police activity, traffic). The platform should also be able to serve a town’s unique characteristics, for example, a Town & Gown app for college towns that alerts residents to football game traffic, early dismissals, job and cultural opportunities.
This platform should be extensible, that is, the community should be able to opt into features as wanted or needed, allowing them to start small. The platform initially will access standard nationally available data sources (e.g., Census.gov, Google Streetview). It should also accept locally crowdsourced data and local official data. It should be available to smart phone users within the town without requiring complicated logins. Because we want to determine whether small towns & cities represent a viable niche, a major requirement is to test a variety of capabilities in pilot communities and disseminate those that attract users.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
KPI’s for the overall framework are more oriented toward uptake and cost-effectiveness. KPI’s for specific apps can target increased walking by residents (5% overall, 10% for kids & seniors), 20% greater awareness of local history in a downtown survey, 25% fewer negative public comments at redevelopment agency meetings, 30% increase in safety perception; 15% increase in pedestrian safety and wellbeing; and 30% more economic activity downtown during good weather, to follow the examples given previously. Framework uptake should be measured in towns per year adopting the framework, with a Year 3 target of 10 towns and a Year 5 target of 100 towns. Framework cost-effectiveness should be measured relative to what big cities pay for their custom capabilities (cheaper vs more expensive on a per capita basis).
The Hometown Dashboard framework will develop a standard structure and ontology to enable widespread and cost-effective adoption. It will not start from scratch but rather incorporate de facto standards such as the API’s already established by the Census, GIS, and GoogleMaps enterprises.
Replicability, Scalability, and Sustainability:
Our analytics are based on sensor data and software and are inherently scalable, sustainable and can be replicated.
Towns should be able to adopt the framework easily. We have not yet determined whether it can be locally hosted or whether it needs central servers and a subscription arrangement. Continued development will initially be grant-funded but we hope towns, Business Improvement Districts and/or developers eventually will pay fees for creating some new features. We will also explore the viability of funding development with advertising revenue.
Hometown Dashboard should help bring residents back to the streets and shops of their own downtowns and improve the effectiveness of Main Street programs that encourage commercial revitalization and greater civic pride. This in turn should increase local service employment and local property values, providing relief to local taxpayers. Greater amounts of safe walking and civic activity have public health and quality of life benefits too
Team Information: Clinton J. Andrews, Professor of Urban Planning, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, [email protected]