Although the full realization of the SmartData platform is far from completion, a precursor of the initiative, WindyGrid, was launched last year by Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT). WindyGrid, which Goldstein designed himself, is a platform which presents a unified view of multiple city operations on a mapping interface for public safety officials. These operations are far-ranging and could even include such disparate pieces of information as CTA bus speeds and weather conditions. WindyGrid currently monitors more than a dozen different types of data, including geo-spatially tagged 311 and 911 calls and historical data, and is continually being updated to include more variables.
If cities across the country were to have access to a tool like SmartData or WindyGrid, its implications for local governance would be enormous. That is exactly what Goldstein is aiming for. “We want to get this technology and all the benefits it brings to cities across the country,” Goldstein says. “We need to do things like share the algorithms and codes over [open source project sharing site] Github. We also need to provide written documentation of what we’re doing to cities, so they’ll know what the benefits of a predictive analytics platform are in non-technical terms.”
Sharing this new technology with other cities is also one of Chicago’s reasons for entry into the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. “Currently, there are a lot of challenges to sharing this information that Github alone can’t address. How do algorithms designed for Chicago’s unique data system generate value in a city that has a completely different set of data?” Goldstein says. “With support from the Mayors Challenge, we will be able to develop algorithms and strategies that make our project more portable and accessible for other cities.”
What does the Mayors Challenge victory mean for Chicago? “The grant will certainly help us build this system. What we’re making is an essential piece of reforming how cities operate in the future,” said Goldstein. “We are and will continue to be at the forefront of making our city smarter and a better place to live for our residents.”