From construction projects to accidents, inefficient traffic lights and unpredictable public transportation, millions of Chicagoans spend longer than necessary getting to work every single day. And as seasons change, so do the crowdedness of public spaces and the need for specific amenities.
But much of this city chaos is wholly avoidable. Studies conducted in New York found that between 28 and 45 percent of drivers were cruising to find a parking spot. If cities directed drivers to where the open parking spaces were, congestion and pollution could be reduced substantially. Likewise, if public transportation providers let commuters know when buses and trains were delayed or crowded, they could plan ahead in order to make it to work on time.
George Burciaga of CIVIQ Smartscapes (pictured right) has been working for 15 years to build solutions that bring real-time information to people on the street level. In the past five years, the Pilsen native built his Chicago startup — a maker of Internet-enabled touchscreen booths for outside use — into a ubiquitous presence in Chicago’s urban landscape.
Acquired by CIVIQ earlier this month, his team is now doubling down on its civic engagement capabilities to help visitors and locals alike better navigate and understand cities, airports and other crowded and chaotic spaces with features like smart sensors, real-time transit information and directions to nearby points of interest.
“Five years ago I would have said the acceptance of the new technology was extremely challenging. Getting people to understand it. But that’s not the case anymore,” said Burciaga. “Just about every major city in the world is referring to how it’s becoming smarter in some capacity.”
Smart city initiatives can take a lot of different forms. It could mean residents use an all-in-one app that notifies them when the bus is five minutes away, or whether to dress for an afternoon blizzard. But smart cities also have the potential to make their residents safer.
“If there’s a gunshot, the equipment around should know that there is, and should tell everyone connected there is an issue in a very specific environment,” said Burciaga. “The digital screens around it should set off an alert. The police should have been dispatched. The city should have been notified. The data should be collected to be more predictive in how we use resources in that environment. The bus should stop moving in that direction.”
In New York City, CIVIQ is part of LinkNYC initiative, which is replacing 7,500 pay phone booths with advertising-funded stations that offer free WiFi, USB charging, phone calls, maps, and tablet-based Internet browsing.
As part of the agreement signed with CIVIQ, the company will continue accelerating the growth of Burciaga’s Chicago-based team.
“It’s probably the best place to pilot, or to engage, or to think about, or to conceptualize what we will do, and how it will react in a city,” said Burciaga. “If it works in Chicago, it will work anywhere in the world.”
Images via CIVIQ Smartscapes and Twitter.