Participatr screenshot map

5 smart city products for planners

How can we make our cities better places to live, work and get around? And as we move towards creating smarter cities, how important are open data, big data, the IoT, digital tools and software for planners?

The Royal Town Planning Institute says new technology can not only help city-regions create better places to live, but also tackle complex economic, social and environmental challenges by ensuring strategic planning is carried out more easily and effectively.

In its Better Planning: Smart City-Regions paper published last September, the RTPI stressed that the devolution agenda offers new opportunities for these city-regions to create joined up plans for housing, infrastructure, health and the environment across council borders.

So let’s take a look at what’s out there to help planners, and better involve the public in the consultation process:

VU.CITY | Game engine technology allows the creation of digital city models for London, Manchester, Paris, Birmingham, Brighton and Belfast. These models overlay geographic information system data, sightlines, transport links and sunlight paths. For example, VU.CITY is working with the London Borough of Southwark to design and test ideas for development and growth in the Old Kent Road area.

Cisco Kinetic for Cities Urban Mobility | The platform gives city agencies information to improve routes for commuters and guide long-term smart city growth. It uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth beacons to provide information on crowd density, movement and dwell time, while measuring traffic volume, even distinguishing between different types of vehicles.


Participatr’s interactive feedback maps allow the public to comment, agree with other comments, and upload photos to highlight concerns

Participatr | Bristol-based Participatr creates interactive online tools for town planners working on development frameworks and sustainable transport plans to gather ideas, issues and feedback from the public, including vulnerable and harder-to-reach groups.

Open Data Institute | Inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, co-founded the institute in 2012 to advocate the use of open data. In 2015, the organisation helped fund and support OpenSensors‘ Breathe Heathrow air monitoring project. The Breathe Heathrow team deployed air quality and noise sensors in the gardens of volunteers who live around the airport — under windowsills, on the sides of sheds and beneath garden tables — to collect data to help measure the airport’s environmental impact. The ODI says this project has shown local authorities how they can use open data methodologies for planning and development.

Taqtile Holomaps

HoloMaps displays topography, infrastructure, and buildings in 3D

Taqtile’s HoloMaps for Enterprise | Dirck Schou, the Seattle-based company’s co-founder, describes the Holomaps as “the city planner’s best friend.” Amongst other applications, the mixed reality tool — a 3D map viewer for Microsoft’s HoloLens — allows users assessing different development sites in more than 200 cities to navigate through a holographic model while overlaying data such as traffic flow, current and forecast weather, demographic information, as well as the location of nearby facilities, public transport, and geo-tagged tweets.

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