The most highly-evolved, competitive cities of tomorrow will have cultivated the most advanced social systems and most fulfilled citizens, with data fueling this interdependent prosperity.
By 2050, 70% of Earth’s 10 billion people are expected to live in cities. Leading global “smart city” projects seek to employ data and sensor networks to optimize urban systems in preparation for such density, making them more efficient, as with traffic and energy. They model cities as machines.
This is important, yet not enough. A city’s viability depends most on its people, whose ever-improving capacity for coexistence has been fostered by better and better communications, including radio, television and the Internet. Data is the medium that will surpass them all.
Data will enable massive communication between the things in a city, between people and things, and between people as individuals, groups and communities. Much of this new urban conversation will be aware and purposeful, yet most will happen at an unconscious level, supported by agents such as our smart phones. Compared to the communications we know today, it will be the equivalent of magic, with the confluence of myriad streams of collective intelligence feeling like telepathy.
Urban Opus is therefore dedicated to the ways in which people and data will co-create the quality of life and prosperity of cities. We address an escalating $trillion urban renewal marketplace by accelerating innovative, citizen-centered data projects, services, products, and programs.
The place to start is community, and a model of a city as a “community of communities”. The wisdom of any crowd or mob may be volatile, but the wisdom of a community is influential, and the tempered wisdom of comingled communities is powerful. A community may be people who live in a certain place, or people who ride bicycles, people who are gay, people who speak Japanese, etc. Every city hosts thousands of communities, with every citizen feeling differential senses of belonging to their own completely unique set. This person-scaled networking of communities weaves strength and power into the social fabric of a city.
Every civic politician in the smartest cities everywhere will tell you the same thing: at any given moment they may know where every streetlight in their city is, but they are crippled by not knowing what their citizens think, or want, or need. Urban complexity is exploding while the capacity and vision of central government diminishes. The data-driven intelligence of self-organized and digitally-empowered communities can surface solutions to public policy problems, and become engines to resolve them.
Simply put, a city is more than a machine and the smartest sensors have two legs. Urban Opus envisions that humanity – far more complex than traffic – can be enabled to flourish when data serve to enlighten and inspire urban existence. We envision that every quality of life can be enhanced as people participate in this new urban conversation. Imagine schools, communities, culture, health, etc., all revitalized by plugging into the hopes and dreams of ordinary people doing everyday things.
Urban Opus is a unique smart city accelerator that focuses on this social potential, on incubating the humanity of the urban machine. While data may become a primarily commercialized entity, like telephony, its massively civilizing influence ultimately represents a larger market and more essential mission. Across the globe, the growing autonomy and mutual recognition of thousands of distinct cities personifies them, one fractal up, as the striving residents of a planetary city. Their shared needs and purpose define them as a community, and a marketplace.
For Urban Opus, citizen data is the emerging lifeblood of both cities and civilization.