By Data-Smart City Solutions • March 18, 2016

Each week we will bring you a summary of what happened this week on our site, on Twitter, and in the wider world of civic data. Suggest stories on Twitter with #ThisWeekInData.

The US Department of Transportation announced the seven finalist cities in its Smart City Challenge: Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA. The finalists will now receive $100,000 to develop their initial proposals into a detailed plan demonstrating how new technologies will help reimagine transportation. A winner will be announced in June. The challenge has gained several private partners as well, most recently with Amazon Web Services joining to offer computing architecture and advice to the finalists.

CityLab wrote about Pigeon Air Patrol, a London-based project putting sensors on pigeons to measure real-time air quality throughout the city. The lightweight sensors are attached to mesh vests, which are then slipped onto the pigeons. As the pigeons fly through the city, the sensor measures air quality, geo-tags the measurement, and reports the measurement back to the project team. Londoners can log onto the Pigeon Air Patrol website to view recent measurements or tweet their location to @PigeonAir for a direct response. The project creators say that the pigeons are not only helping gather data about air quality, but also increasing public attention and engagement surrounding pollution in general.

President Obama traveled to the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) to discuss integrating tech into government. Obama’s administration has worked to lower the tech gap between government and the private sector, most notably with the rebuild of after its initial buggy launch. At SXSW, Obama pointed out that government should be able to provide services with the same satisfaction and tech level as the private sector, and that growing frustrations from citizens can lead to an anti-government mindset. He stressed the importance of having tech-minded workers within government like those in 18F or the Digital Service, and asked techies to consider turning to government.

Next City President Tom D’Allessio interviewed United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) secretary general Josep Roig and deputy secretary general Emilia Saiz about how cities and local governments fit into the growing conversation about globalization. Topics discussed include sustainable urbanization, challenges facing local governments, the role of women in governance, climate change, and the future direction of government reform.

As part of Sunshine Week, GovTech highlighted Ithaca, NY’s work improving its open data and public records access through technology. Their previous review process was manual and difficult for employees to complete, which made it hard to meet deadlines and release records in a timely fashion. Ithaca decided to revamp their process and switched to using an enterprise content management software system to handle new records requests. The new system streamlines and automates many parts of the workflow, allowing requests to move through the system much faster and freeing up employee time to focus on other tasks.

GovTech wrote about the planned Array of Things expansion. The Array of Things, a large series of multi-function sensors, is currently deployed in Chicago and will soon be launched in Seattle. The project leaders are intentionally expanding to cities with large research institutions in order to ensure there is sufficient local tech expertise and to encourage the Array of Things as a collaboration between cities and universities or research centers. Seattle’s Array of Things sensors will be customized by University of Washington researchers, particularly to add rain tracking capabilities. The project leaders are hopeful that the Seattle deployment will help them to get a better sense of the best way to replicate the Array of Things in other cities and will help make future replications faster and more successful.

We featured a guest post about San Jose’s traffic safety improvements written by Kevin Miller, Senior Executive Analyst for Data Analytics at San Jose. As part of San Jose’s Vision Zero Initiative, the city has worked to leverage and analyze existing data to help reduce traffic fatalities. The Data Analytics Team is working to translate their findings into actionable policies on several fronts throughout other city departments. San Jose also began making its data open and publicly accessible in addition to releasing a Smart City Vision.

Stephen Goldsmith wrote about Los Angeles’s attempts to improve the citizen experience for transportation throughout the city with a mobility management approach. L.A. has launched a number of initiatives and partnerships to track road congestion, build smarter bus stations, collate transportation options for easy use by residents, and better organize and visualize its collected data. By emphasizing user experience, L.A. is rethinking its whole approach to transportation and improving connections throughout the entire city.