Urban Opus is a nonprofit 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.
By 2050, 70% of Earth’s 10 billion people are expected to live in cities. Leading global “smart city” projects employ data and sensor networks to optimize urban systems 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 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.
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 foresees that the most highly-evolved, competitive cities of tomorrow will also have the most advanced societies and the most fulfilled citizens, and that data will fuel this interdependent prosperity.
Urban Opus exists to accelerate committed organizations and entrepreneurs in the realization of transformative, global opportunities involving people, data and future of cities.
How We Work
Cities are communities of communities, and the vast majority of community organizations, and cities themselves, have limited capacity to imagine how data might serve their publics better, and to build applications that do so. Urban Opus brings such capacity to the table, enabling our community partners, their public, and their mission to serve as fertile ground for valuable innovation.
Large organizations often have plenty of data, and technical capacity, but limited experience with the art and science of public engagement. Urban Opus specializes in this human interface, and can blend existing open and proprietary data sources with interaction design to achieve the ‘alchemy’ of meaningful engagement.
Urban Opus is expert at collaborative, city-scaled innovation and venture acceleration. We understand how to bring corporate and community stakeholders together to pioneer new forms of digital public engagement. We can work anywhere in the world, but we also offer Metro Vancouver as a unique ‘living lab’ for local and immigrant entrepreneurs. It is a fabulous place for proving new ideas.
Cities everywhere have innovators, so Urban Opus is forming them into a network of cities, entrepreneurs and solutions to collectively catalyze urban evolution. Wherever you live, you can be part of this opportunity.
The collaborative innovation processes and expertise of Urban Opus were honed for more than a decade within the community and economic development achievements of the Mobile Muse Network, which similarly employed Metro Vancouver as a living lab for pioneering new forms of mobile media for public engagement.
Urban Opus is an outgrowth of innovation initiatives of the Human Communication Technologies (HCT) Lab and the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC) Lab at the University of British Columbia.
Meet the People Involved
David Vogt — President
Originally an astronomer, Dr. Vogt specializes in collaborative innovation, specifically bringing together entrepreneurs, researchers, customers and other stakeholders to co-create original, market-ready solutions involving emerging technologies. David’s focus is the experience economy: how humanity is entering an era of almost magical ability to stage and mediate individual and collective experience.
Rodger Lea — Principal
Currently adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada and CEO of an IoT focused startup, Sense Tecnic Systems Inc, Dr. Lea brings to bear over 20 years experience in industrial research at companies such as Sony and HP. He’s passionate about new technologies, Smart Cities and building thriving innovation ecosystems.
Mike Blackstock — Principal
Dr. Michael Blackstock is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at MAGIC and co-founder of Sense Tecnic Systems. Blackstock’s research focuses on systems support for the Internet of Things, ubiquitous and pervasive computing. In his thesis work he proposed a common programming model for ubiquitous systems based on existing systems’ abstractions, evaluated by integrating several representative and well known research systems. Prior to joining MAGIC, Blackstock was VP of R&D at Inetco Systems, and co-founder of two local startups, Colligo Networks and Infowave Software.
Phil Chatterton — Project Leader
Phil is a dynamic and energetic technology expert focused on data innovation, community transformation and digital alchemy. His passion is launching and growing first-of-a-kind ventures. Phil continues to make a big impact across the education, collaboration and community spheres. His deep experience in the education space (from both corporate and institutional roles) has enabled him to initiate ground breaking digital initiatives on both sides. Phil is passionate about creating better communities and building a society that uses digital tools in a constructive and transformative way.