Inclusive Innovation for Smart Cities: HUBweek 2016

unknownThis September I had the opportunity to attend HUBweek and participate in the roundtable “#Tech4Democracy: Meet the Change Makers.” The event, hosted by the Harvard Ash Center, explored the potential and pitfalls of digital technology in realizing democratic values such as participation, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and equal representation. I was honored to join amazing leaders in the field: Seth Flaxman from DemocracyWorks, Rey Faustian from One Degree, and Tiana Epps-Johnson from the Center for Technology and Civic Life right here in Chicago.

One of the major themes of HUBweek was inclusive innovation. That theme is certainly worth discussing within the context of smart city work. Inclusive innovation in smart cities could mean everything from building usable tools, building equitable technology infrastructure, or having ethical data collection practices. During the roundtable conversation our moderator asked me the question below which has sit with me ever since:

What would be a “home-run” in the smart city space: an innovation that the city could adopt that would make a big, positive difference in the lives of Chicagoans?

Though it would have been tempting to brainstorm a cool, hypothetical “home-run” piece of technology on the spot, my mind gravitated toward innovative processes, not tools. This might be because here at Smart Chicago, we just wrapped up the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project which challenged us to create an inclusive process for gathering feedback on Chicago’s newest “smart city” project.  Of course, if things happen the way we think they will, cities will only get smarter. Array of Things is unlikely be the last “smart city” innovation deployed in Chicago’s public spaces. Given that, perhaps a lasting, valued innovation would be the creation of a values-driven smart city process — a framework we can follow to ensure that current and future smart city projects are deployed with residents and for residents. After all, these projects — whether are they sensors, fiber networks, or Wi-Fi kiosks — shouldn’t just be innovative or new. We should also expect these smart city technologies to be accessible, welcoming, relevant, and usable.

You can listen to the whole event on soundcloud. The roundtable begins on 4:50:

Smart Chicago Ash Fellow Glynis Startz featured on Microsoft Chicago’s Civic Chat

This year at Smart Chicago we were pleased to host Glynis Startz, a Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow in Innovation. As an Ash Fellow hosted by Smart Chicago, Glynis assisted as a writer, thinker, and strategist on the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project.

More about the fellowship:

The Ash Center’s Summer Fellowship is designed to prepare students for careers in the public sector. Students work with some of the most creative and effective public officials and policy advisors in the country, not only to learn but to add value by sharing cutting-edge trends and ideas explored at the Kennedy School.

Glynis was featured on Microsoft Chicago’s Civic Chat on Watch the video linked below to learn more about Glynis and Smart Chicago’s 2016 civic engagement work with data and the Internet of Things.

Here are all of the blog posts that Glynis wrote while she was working with us:

To learn more about the civic engagement process behind Array of Things and its privacy and governance policies, read our Array of Things Engagement Report.

Launch of Array of Things

This week Array of Things project launched, installing the first of its sensors in Chicago.

Here is an excerpt from the official announcement:

Array of Things is designed as a “fitness tracker” for the city, collecting new streams of data on Chicago’s environment, infrastructure, and activity. This hyper-local, open data can help researchers, city officials, and software developers study and address critical city challenges, such as preventing urban flooding, improving traffic safety and air quality, and assessing the nature and impact of climate change.

In the first phase of the project, 50 nodes will be installed in August and September on traffic light poles in The Loop, Pilsen, Logan Square, and along Lake Michigan. These nodes will contain sensors for measuring air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and ambient sound intensity. Two cameras will collect data on vehicle and foot traffic, standing water, sky color, and cloud cover.

Smart Chicago partnered with Array of Things operator, UrbanCCD, and the City of Chicago to manage a civic engagement process in June of 2016. This process included collected public feedback on draft governance and privacy policies and hosting public meetings in two of the areas of the city that would see nodes first: Pilsen & the Loop. See documentation from the public meeting in Pilsen in this blog post and see documentation from the public meeting in the Loop in this blog post. To read more about these civic engagement efforts, read Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Engagement Report.

Here is a video about Array of Things featuring Brenna Berman, the Chief Information Officer for the City of Chicago, and Charlie Catlett, the Director of UrbanCCD and lead investigator for Array of Things:

Below is a video describing the technology in the Array of Things sensors. It also touches on the engagement process and the privacy policy feedback collection.





Release of the Array of Things Civic Engagement Report

On August 15th, Array of Things released the final version of the project’s governance and privacy policies as well as responses to public feedback collected in June through the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project.  Alongside this release, Smart Chicago shared The Array of Things Civic Engagement Report.

Here is an excerpt outlining the purpose and content of the Report:

As smart cities embrace and deploy innovative technology embedded in public spaces, residents voices need to be represented. To prevent disconnect between residents and their city’s technology, broad engagement is key — not only to inform residents of innovations, but to take inventory of public concerns and questions associated with them.

The purpose of this report is to describe the civic engagement and resident feedback collection process associated with a new Internet of Things (IoT) initiative in Chicago: The Array of Things. This report outlines the methods, decisions, and philosophies that went into this effort to increase Chicagoans’ engagement and involvement with smart city technology. Since the deployment of Internet of Things is so timely for cities around the world, we’ve shared the lessons we gleaned from our work. We hope this information can be of service to similar projects in other cities.  

This civic engagement work was accomplished alongside Array of Things operator UrbanCCD as well as the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation & Technology. Smart Chicago’s Documenters played a key role in promoting and recording public meetings. Additional partners who participated include the Chicago Public Library (CPL), The OpenGov Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance & Innovation. CPL provided welcoming community spaces to host public meetings, the OpenGov Foundation worked with us as we utilized Madison to collect resident feedback, and our graduate fellow from the Harvard Ash Center, Glynis Startz, helped execute and write about this work.

The Internet of Things and the data which will emerge from it have great potential to advance research and community priorities. Involving residents in these projects early and regularly ensures that technology is relevant, not just innovative.

Smart Chicago continues to seek new ways to engage residents with emerging urban technologies. As we do, we are committed to writing about and sharing our successes, challenges, and best practices. If you have questions about this report, please contact us.


Array of Things Final Governance & Privacy Policies Released

Today, the Array of Things project released its final governance and privacy policies. The Array of Things website now houses the final policies as well as answers to public feedback from the project’s operators.

ArrayofThingsLogo-smallArray of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that will be installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The Array of Things project is led by Charlie Catlett and researchers from the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.The governance and privacy policies for this urban sensing project were shaped by the comments and questions collected during the civic engagement period in June.

There are 3 online forms you can fill out to get involved or receive news on Array of Things:

  • If you’re interested in becoming a research partner for Array of Things, fill out this form from the Array of Things operators.
  • If you’re interested in suggesting ideas for the Array of Things project, including new locations for sensors, fill out this form from the Array of Things Operators.
  • If you’re interested in receiving general news and updates about the Array of Things policies and civic engagement, fill out this Smart Chicago form.


Systematizing Privacy and Governance of Data and the Internet of Things

This blog post was originally published on Data-Smart City Solutions and is by Glynis Startz — Smart Chicago’s Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow. Glynis is assisting with Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work, among other smart cities-focused projects. Glynis is a Master in Public Policy Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

As cities begin to see big data as an essential part of governing, more are examining and formalizing their handling of data, and of the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular. There is a growing expectation that governments deal with data in a systematic way and embrace responsibilities beyond encryption of personally identifiable information (PII). As an Ash Center Summer Fellow at the Smart Chicago Collaborative, I’ve had the opportunity to witness Chicago’s process before the deployment of the Array of Things. As feedback rolled in on the Array of Things Governance and Privacy Policy, it seemed an ideal time to explore how other cities have dealt with this issue in comparison, and the direction or directions in which the conversation is moving. Recent examples include Seattle’s Technology Privacy Policy and New York City’s Internet of Things Privacy Policy.

In late 2013, in response to resident concerns over several public failures of data transparency, Seattle launched the City’s Privacy Initiative. According to CTO Michael Mattmiller, its goal was “driv[ing] consistency across the city” and helping departments evaluate their data handling and governance on a project by project basis. Seattle Information Technology led the process by creating a Privacy Advisory Committee of local experts and academics from the University of Washington. The effort culminated in the adoption of six Privacy Principles as City Council Resolution 31570 and a Privacy Policy directing city departments to follow a more in depth Privacy Statement. The principles outlined in the document are 1. We value your privacy; 2. We collect only what we need; 3. How we use your information; 4. We are accountable; 5. How we share your information; and 6. Accuracy is important.  

Approaches in Seattle & New York City

Instead of focusing on creating a set of static requirements, Seattle created a process which forces individuals and departments to fully to think through the implications of their data related actions for individual projects. Staff must consider these privacy principles when creating a new service, as well as create a privacy impact assessment for new technologies. The choice to structure the privacy policy in this way both requires and relies on future care, effort, and thoughtfulness of employees across the city.

New York City’s Internet of Things privacy document, which deals only with the governance of IoT data, is longer and more specific, but sets forth similar principles. There are a number of issues—surveillance, transparency—which are significantly more salient with the sensors required by IoT, but there are many common themes between the two policies. NYC lists their principles as 1. Privacy and Transparency; 2. Data management; 3. Infrastructure; 4. Security; and 5. Operations and Sustainability.

The Seattle and New York City approaches focus on establishing the spirit of the law rather than specific requirements which can be followed to the letter. There are positives and negatives to this approach, which puts the impetus on employees to react to specific situations. This could mean more tailored, sensible approaches to different technology projects, but it also forces citizens to rely on the city government to accurately evaluate each circumstance. That could be difficult for employees to manage and difficult for residents to check. In these policies is the assumption of basic trust in government to follow the spirit of the law when the letter is absent.

Trading less information for more privacy

Both Seattle’s and New York City’s approaches imply that privacy and governance start before the data hit the city servers. They emphasize not just careful handling of data, but also transparency, openness, and careful deliberation surrounding data collection. I believe it is the attention to data collection that really indicates a new level of maturity in technology or data initiatives in cities. It recognizes that cities that hold data have a responsibility to keep it secure. Some could argue that the technical ability to safeguard data has not grown as quickly as the ability to collect large amounts of data inexpensively. This issue is particularly relevant in regard to IoT devices which generally have the ability to gather almost continuous measures. For cities, the decision becomes less about how much data it wants to collect and more about about how much data it will discard.

Growth in the Internet of Things means cities open themselves up to new innovations, but also to a tempting, but potentially dangerous approach to data collection: ‘if we can get it, we may as well’ could create difficult questions about requirements for maintaining data, opening data up to the public, and keeping data secure. The ability to capture large amounts of data easily and cheaply is both a boon and a possible danger for local governments.

Both Seattle and NYC have a framework for thoughtful decision making about information collection. New York in particular requires data collection in projects be designed toward specific purposes and addressing specific problems. The importance of these policies rests on a couple of assumptions: that residents give up privacy when their data are collected, even if those data are not technically Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and that the only way for data to be truly protected is for data not to be collected in the first place. I think these are both valid assumptions, though ones that should be weighed against the value of these data collected, or, more importantly, the potential value of these data not collected. This move to push departments to think through all the future implications of data collection is an important step in the maturation of tech in government.

There are drawbacks to being selective in data collection. It’s not always clear ex ante what data will be the most valuable. Valuable research can be done with data that were collected but never used. Requiring exacting rationales for data collection risks losing the possibility for some of those discoveries, particularly as it becomes easier to facilitate discovery and use of government collected data. In some ways this was a main premise of the early open data movement–cities had data they weren’t using and didn’t necessarily know what to do with, and they put it online for transparency’s sake, but also with the expectation that citizens would make use of it in new and surprising ways.

What’s next for privacy policies?

It seems likely that more and more local governments will be coming out with privacy and governance policies for their data in the coming years — both general policies (like in New York City & Seattle) or project-tailored policies (like in Chicago). Larger cities may follow the path of New York and create ones dealing solely with the IoT, but it is less clear what form these policies will take. There are clearly trade-offs between specificity, clarity, and freedom. Structural decisions may come down to who the policies are designed for, residents or experts, and how much cities are willing to hem themselves in. I’m not sure there’s a correct answer here, but I absolutely think these are questions every city should be sure they’ve asked themselves before writing a policy.

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The proper design of a data governance policy may look very different in different cities. Large cities with significant internal resources and expertise may be more able to put forth generalist policies which put the impetus on departments to make specific decisions. Small cities, on the other hand, may not feel they have the ability to leave the process ad hoc and must instead mandate a one size fits all policy. Pushing the other direction, however, small cities may have more freedom to allow individual deviation because of their less bureaucratic structures, while larger cities have less of an ability to make certain the spirit of non-specific policies are being adhered to.

As more cities create policies, and hopefully engage with residents around them, more insight can be gained about what citizens want and expect from their government in this area. What level of specificity do they require? How much trust do they have in government to do the right thing and how much do they require continued oversight? How do residents view the trade-off between privacy and data use?