Urbanflow: Building an 'operating system' for cities

Discover a new way to interact with the urban environment and civic data, no smartphone necessary.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

Sure you can download a bunch of apps to help you navigate a city.

But Urbanflow, a joint effort of Nordkapp and Urbanscale, wants to make it more simple to access city data and explore the urban environment. Their solution? Essentially creating what they call an "operating system" to make it easier to access multiple layers of civic data in one place. The data would be literally built into the city with interactive wayfinding screens that can point you to a local store, show you transportation options for getting there, and even print out maps that double as transit fares.

But it's not just for vistors looking to explore a city, it can also provide data for citizens, everything from energy consumption to traffic density to air quality.

Why interactive screens?

"The unique benefit of situated urban screens lies in their capacity to be both locally-oriented and general purpose at once. The same urban screen can show contextual, hyperlocal information as well as broader, citywide content, allowing users to peek around walls and across the city. For officials and administrators this means making the city more transparent and efficient to manage through the use of real-time data and feedback," Urbanflow says.

The video below shows how it works:

Urbanflow Helsinki from Nordkapp on Vimeo.

While Urbanflow focuses on the wayfinding screens, this is the kind of personal data that seems to work best with mobile or web-based apps. As John Pavlus points out at Fast Co. Design, no one wants to wait around for someone else to search for a great restaurant, for example, when they can just access that information on a smartphone. So as long as Urbanflow takes an all-of-the-above approach and integrates the system on multiple platforms, they will be successful at achieving their goal of making cities "more accessible and enjoyable for both residents and visitors."

[Via Fast Co. Design]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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