open data

Which Waze?

When was the last time you looked at a paper map to get somewhere?  A long time ago, I know.  I remember ordering the AAA TripTiks not so long ago – plotting the route we would take while on the road to a vacation. Ok, so now I feel old.

I also remember when I got my first navigational system, a Garmin box that had a suction cup to attach to the windshield.  That device was life changing – I found new ways to get around the town, and I distinctly remember feeling like this new technology was finally addressing my navigationally-challenged self.

How did this happen?

What you might not know is that these systems, along with Google Maps and Waze, built-in car navigational systems and other mapping applications on your phone – are some of the first commercial implementations of Open DataYep, it’s true.  (And yes, I’ve written about Open Data before.)

The data used for these systems is GPS – Global Positioning System data.   Read More…

What’s going in over there?

dev-mapp-1Have you ever driven by one of these signs and thought – “Hey, I wonder what’s planned for that property?”

Well, you guessed it, THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! And it uses Open Data.

code-for-caryThanks to the great work done by the new Cary Code for America Brigade (read more about them at the CaryCitizen), you can now get quick access to development information around Cary by using your smart phone or your computer. This impressive project does a great job at illustrating the value that Open Data can provide to citizens, by giving you the power to see what development is occurring close to home, or work, or in your community.

 

devmapp-logo

 

 

DevMapp is a very cool application that maps development in Cary – by mashing a Google Map along with permit and rezoning data provided by the Town.

What does that really mean to you? Well, with this application you can look at its map (the app will locate where you are if you give it permission to do so) and then you can visually see where development is being planned across the town. Just “click” on those properties that are highlighted and then you can dive down and review the plans associated with that property, see the rezoning applications, etc.

A Walkthrough

Ok, let’s pick an example to walk through.  I’ve picked  one close to where I live. (Why not?) Going to the DevMapp application on my computer, and allowing it to see my location – the application shows me this map, below – after I zoom in a bit. Notice that so much of the new development is occurring on the western side of Cary. No surprise, right?  (I’ve addd the red circle to illustrate that point.)

Map of development around Cary

Map of development around Cary

Also notice that the colors of the properties on the map indicate the status of that property. That is, where there is active construction is occurring – is displayed in RED, and upcoming rezonings, in BLUE. (Note – it’s the BLUE projects that are  on the map, not the bodies of water.)

DevMapp

DevMapp

So, I click on the property at the corner of Davis & High House – close to my house. And, lo and behold, I see it’s the Bradford development. On that popup is a direct ink to the Town of Cary site and subdivision plans associated with this project. Woo hoo! Instant and easy access to what’s planned for that corner.

bradford-devmapp1

Now, let’s look at a Rezoning: This time, I’ll click on a “blue property” – this one is on High House Road. In this example, the rezoning pop-up is displayed, and also a hotlink to the Town of Cary Rezoning page. In this case, I see that the rezoning is in 2014, so I click on the 2014 rezoning page link. There, I see the information regarding this rezoning – such as the fact that it has a scheduled Public Hearing on June 26. And, finally, clicking on that link takes me directly to the Staff report for that property. Voilà!

rezoning-devmapp

How does it work?

The application takes the rezoning and permitting information about a particular property that is going through the review process or in construction, and uses that data provided by the Town and then marrying it with the Google Map geolocation information. Finally there is a bit of magic – or what we call programming,  by the team at the Code for Cary Brigade, to bring you this great application.

All of the information provided by the Town of Cary is Public Record and Open Data – and a great way to provide visibility of development in and around Cary in an easy-to-use app.  

Try it out

iphone-codeforcary-mapSo, now it’s your turn.  From your computer, if you are reading this from a PC or MAC, you can click HERE – or type in: http://www.codeforcary.org/dev.html

Or, from your smartphone – type in www.codeforcary.org in your browser, and you can check it out there.

By the way, be sure to do a shoutout to the team that did such a great job on this – either on Twitter – @CodeforCary.

Want to help out?

Get involved with the Code for Cary team. You can learn more and meet them at one of their Hack Nights.  You don’t have to be a programmer to help – lots of folks have great ideas and thoughts to improve the current application, or you may have ideas for new work to tackle.  All are welcome.

As always, thanks for listening and please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.

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Featured photo created by me using the DevMapp application, and turning on Satellite Mode. 🙂

 Updated 6/5/14 – Please note a few changes to this post:

1) Added the new DevMapp logo and Code for Cary logo

2) Note that the DevMapp application has since changed the color used for rezonings from BLUE to GREEN.  (Besides that, the function remains the same.)

3) Updated a few pictures because the CaryCitizen is too good at it and I stole their ideas. 🙂

Technology at a crossroads

I love technology.  I do.

I’ve written about it before, it’s part of my twitter profile, and I see the value of technology to engage citizens, connect people and improve lives.  Technology can bridge the gap between communities and continents, it democratizes all voices, allowing citizens to participate on a level playing field, and improve access – closing the educational divide.

You use it, and you want it

budgetfeedback

Here in Cary we’ve seen our citizens use technology to engage with the Town:

– Citizens use the Town website to look up Town agendas, minutes and development activity and watch Council meetings on YouTube.

– Provide budget feedback via Twitter (24 tweets), post on Facebook (37 comments) and email (66 emails).  The number of  Tweets and Facebook posts combined (61) this year were more than ALL of the input we received for last year’s budget (59 comments.)

– We saw you create an online petition signed by 1275 residents to save the Cary High School Water Towercarywatertower

  •   – A biennial survey that shows 54.5% of our citizens own or plan to own a smartphone this year and the trend is that smart phone users outnumber basic phone users.
  • And on and on…  Read More…

Open Data coming to Cary

Yes, it’s time for another Technology Blog post.

(This is the moment when I know my mom is rolling her eyes – I can feel it.)  But, there is a “method to my madness,” because, as Nicholas Negroponte says:

Collage by Will Lion

Collage by Will Lion

So, with this post I hope to give you an idea, even if it’s a glimpse, into what Open Data IS, and why it is so important for Cary.  First, what is it?

What is Open Data?

Open Data is the act of making information that is collected during the course of normal Town operations (that doesn’t identify individuals or breach commercial sensitivity) available in a standardized way.  The data that we are talking about here includes geographic information (greenways, roads, parks), public event schedules, and basic crime statistics.  This is already public information, the act of making it OPEN and easily accessible in a standardized format allows users, developers, the Town itself, and the technology community to leverage and use this data in new and innovative ways. That can mean applications that increase citizen engagement, provide vital information to our citizens, and improve their quality of life. It can also mean ways to leverage the data to help us become a “smarter town”, by looking at ways to improve our processes and become more efficient.  Without consistent streams of this data, few people will invest the time it takes to unlock the immense value hidden in the information that is collected every day by the Town.

What does that really mean to me?

It means that by making this information more easily accessible, cool people (and companies) can create awesome apps.

RGreenwayLet me give you an example.   Check out RGreenway. (You can download the app for free from iTunes.

RGreenway is an iPhone app that came out of the CityCamp Raleigh event last year. (I was honored to participate in CityCamp with all of the fantastic citizen hackers out there.)   Read More…

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