40 Brilliant Open Data Projects (and How They're Redefining Smart Cities)

thumbnail.jpgWritten by Peter Murray on Mar 14, 2017, Carto.com
The original article may be found at: https://carto.com/blog/forty-brilliant-open-data-projects

In honor of New York City’s Open Data Week 2017 we’ve compiled a resource featuring 40 smart, data-driven projects reminding us of open data’s value.

The rate of urban migration around the world is rising at an alarming rate. Experts estimate that 70 percent of the world’s population (more than six billion people!) will reside in urban areas by 2050. In response, government officials are investing in data sharing technologies to discover ways to provide public services more efficiently.

This form of city planning has invariably been described as “smart”, “intelligent”, “responsive”, “resilient”, and, more recent, “senseable”. But how do these initiatives use open data to address the concerns of residents? In answering this question we discovered projects whose originality left us speechless and dedication to social justice inspired.

We’ve assembled the list below both to recognize these accomplishments and promote more work with open data! The examples are categorized by service type and alphabetically listed because projects democratizing access to open data should be celebrated equally:

  1. Navigating Open Data Sources
  2. Transparency and Accountability
  3. Performance Management
  4. Transportation and Infrastructure
  5. Resilient City Planning
  6. The IoT of Smart Cities
  7. Civic Engagement


Building an open data portal is expensive, and returns on this investment can be difficult to measure. To ensure citizen engagement with open data portals city officials and third party partners are designing constituent-centric interfaces and applications. Here are our favorite web and mobile applications designed to help citzens navigate open data.

If you’re looking to get started with open data, then Dat is the place to start! Dat is an open sourced, decentralized data sharing tool trying to do for open data what Git did for source codes. Check it out!

LocalData is a mobile application allowing community groups to participate in open government data planning. In Detroit, for example, community groups surveyed city streets to collect data in areas needing infrastructural renovations, which exemplifies one way that open data projects can engage city residents.

Open Data Impact Map
The Open Data Impact Map is a geospatial platform identifying communities around the world engaged in open data projects. If you’re looking for inspiration on what to do with open data, then check it out!

OpenGrid, an interactive map platform, is raising situational awareness for Chicagoans. Residents can easily search curated datasets, including those provided by the City of Chicago, and visualize the results on an interactive map.

Resident Card
Tel Aviv’s Resident’s Card App allows residents to customize their interactions with local officials by opting to receive real time updates from city services of interest.

SmartAppCity uses a Public-Private Partnership framework to encourage local businesses in Madrid, Spain to participate in city-wide open data initiatives by sharing their data in the city’s open data portal.



Among the objectives for smart city projects is the goal to improve efficiency, and these open data projects help citizens cut through bureaucratic red tape faster than ever.

Clear My Record
Clear My Record is a free web application that centralizes criminal records in a repository shared among various government agencies in effort to help citizens have low-level offenses expunged from their records. The level of efficiency provided led the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to implement the app to optimize operational performance.

Commonwealth Connect
Commonwealth Connect is a mobile app facilitating data sharing between government officials throughout Massachusetts. Residents can now report non-emergency issues that are housed in a data repository before being dispatched to the appropriate city or state agency.

DataHaven’s mission to collect, interpret, and share open data for better decision-making across Connecticut. Data visualizations, for example, are helping elected officials understand the interrelations among city and state services such as income-based segregation, which has caused significant urban structural strain.

Investigative Post
Investigative Post’s Dan Telvock used open data to expose higher than reported levels of lead in Buffalo’s drinking water. Open data empowers citizens to hold local officials accountable!

The City of Durham avoided creating a city-wide data silo by building a shared city and county open data portal. Now local and municipal agencies can work together to improve services for their constituents.

Staying informed about one country’s initiatives, regulations, and laws is hard enough let alone for each member state of the European Union (EU)! But thanks to openlaws, EU residents working across national borders can sign up for mobile updates on latest information and changes to ensure all legal requirements are met.

OpenStates provides a resource for U. S. citizens to research upcoming local legislature as well as compare legislative proposals to other states.


Local governments have adopted and adapted the service industry’s motto, “The customer is always right,” with the help of open data. Check out the examples below to see how open data ensures that the constituent is always right!

The City of Boston pioneered Constituent Relation Management (CRM) with a technological update that turned the existing Mayor’s Hotline into BOS:311. This web and mobile app lets residents report non-emergency issues to the city’s Constituent Service Center, which dispatches request to appropriate agencies across Beantown.

ChattaData’s High Performing Government Dashboard provides progress reports on initiatives to cultivate a more inclusive city. Chattanooga set a goal to increase Diverse Business Entities (DBE) participation by 14 percent, and thanks to transparent community outreach, fair and equal access to procurement opportunities, and open government data the city exceeded its goal in September 2016!

Residential Typology Analysis Tool
Data Driven Detroit (D3) developed the Residential Analysis Typology Tool, a geospatial tool using cartographic and satellite images, to identify high and low residential density areas, which help city planners prioritize data smart renovations.

ResultsNOLA, a scorecard tracking progress data-driven projects across New Orleans, not only ensures clear communication between city services, but also encourages interdepartmental collaborations on more open data project with NOLAlytics.

Urban Spatial
With open data from Philadelphia’s OpenDataPhilly portal, Urban Spatial built predictive models that pinpointed buildings in need of city inspection and created a data visualization to communicate these findings.

Young Europeans
Young Europeans uses open data from Eurostat to provide demographic sketch of EU youth ages 16 to 29. This web application is a great tool for youths throughout EU to stay informed on economic opportunities in neighboring countries.


Transportation and infrastructure form a city’s lifeline, which explains why open data advocates have focused heavily on these two areas. The projects below make use of open data, and in some cases are literally changing what it means to be data-driven.

Anson Stewart, an affiliate of MIT’s CoAXs group, created job maps for Boston, Massachusetts and Los Angeles, California with the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics open data. Locating job growth across a city is a great way to prioritize smart city projects in order to encourage further economic development.

Citi Bike NYC
Citi Bike NYC, the largest bike sharing system in the United States, provides open data on riderships, routes, and even individual bikes! Sara Robinson used this data to create a data visualization displaying gender patterns for bike routes across New York City, which is a great example of what open data can tell us about our own cities!

Digital Matatus
Digital Matatus is a great example of a cross-sector solution to the problem of limited government resources. Developers and private citizens in Nairobi, Kenya are helping local officials standardize a city-wide transit system by collecting location data with mobile devices to establish an open data network. An amazing first step toward becoming open data-driven!

MARTA on the Go
MARTA on the Go is a mobile app providing commuters real time service conditions for bus and rail transit throughout Atlanta’s Metropolitan Area. MARTA is committed to building “livable” communities in areas with limited access to public services by building transit stops to encourage urban renewal in these locations.

Red Eléctrica de España (REE)
In compliance with the City of Madrid’s open government data initiative, Red Eléctrica de España (REE) created an open data platform with help from Vizzuality and CARTO to discern power supply usage across Spain. Subsequently, residents can now monitor electricity usage and explore its economic impact on their local communities.

Smart Columbus
Can smarter public transportation address public health concerns? Yes, according to Smart Columbus, a holistic approach toward smart cities proposed by officials in Columbus, Ohio. Transit centers will be built in areas throughout Franklin county where open government data reveals alarmingly high rates of infant mortality that exceed the national average. Can’t wait to see how this project unfolds!



Climate change has helped accelerate the rate of urban migration. From apps monitoring flood conditions in Germany to radiation level warnings in Japan, these examples highlight cross-sector partnerships using open and public data to better prepare cities around the world to confront the challenges ahead.

Portugal’s Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil is leading an international coalition that is leveraging open data from EU member states to improve water management resources. SmartWater planning is a growing area with the field of open data and smart city planning, and we’re thankful for this work!

LevelAlarm is a free platform featuring mobile emergency response app alerting residents about rising water levels at nearby bodies of water across Europe.

National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH)
NOAH is the Philippine government’s disaster mitigation system that measures water and rainfall levels to identify areas exposed to high risks of landslides, flooding, and other health concerns related to water contamination.

Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP)
The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) is an international partnership dedicated to making climate data accessible and meaningful for non-specialists to promote resilience planning. CARTO is honored to support to such a worthwhile cause, and we hope PREP inspires more cross-sector collaborations!

Following the devastating tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, a global network of volunteers created Safecast. This geospatial web and mobile application visualizes open environmental data to provide accurate information to residents at risk of radiation exposure.


Recent efforts to improve smart city grids and networks has led to the creation of sensor networks capable of monitoring a range of issues impacting residential living conditions. The Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled local officials to connect various devices throught the city to this type of sensor network, which some are calling Smart City 2.0. The examples below both eased our fears of Big Brother and excited us about open data’s future.

Autolib is changing the way Parisians get around the city of lights. As an intelligent public car-sharing service, Autolib’s fleet of electric vehicles harness a constant stream of open data from kiosks and sensors around Paris not only to optimize commutes, but also help in reducing air and noise pollution.

Array of Things (AoT)
The Array of Things (AoT) serves as a “fitness tracker” for Chicago. But instead of monitoring individual residents, sensors monitor the city at a macro-level to ensure privacy rights remain intact. The data collected from AoT sensors will be made open to encourage developers to create more applications aimed at improving living conditions for Chicago residents.

RideKC Streetcar
Kansas City is piloting an Internet of Things (IoT) corridor along the RideKC Streetcar downtown route as part of an energy conservation initiative. Local officials are installing interactive kiosks with real-time updates on service conditions, free WiFi hotspots, and a responsive sensor system to monitor traffic flows so as not to waste energy during off-peak hours.

Smart Nation Singapore
Singapore is aiming to become the world’s first “smart” nation thanks to its open government data portal, which also functions as a data repository for collected public sector data. What intrigues us about Smart Nation Singapore is its definition of “smart,” which has less to do with “technology” and more with how well society uses technology to address social inequality.

Smart Benches
Smart benches located throughout London are built with sensors to monitor and collect open data on traffic volume and environmental conditions. At the same time, these smart benches provide more access to WiFi hotspots and solar-powered charging stations throughout London!

Urbanflow has situated responsive, ‘living’ screens throughout Helsinki projecting an interactive city map overlayed with a wealth of information to keep residents and visitors informed on local events. An interesting twist on our addiction to screens!


Access to open data has helped bridge the information gap between elected officials and their constituents. But what else can citizens do with open data to improve their neighborhoods, communities, and cities? Well, as the examples below demonstrate, a lot!

BA Accessible
BA Accessible, a mobile application for residents of Buenos Aires, is crowdsource tool that provides accessibility information for spots around the city. Not only does this inclusive project provide valuable information for residents with impaired mobility, but it also alerts local officials to areas that need to be made handicap accessible.

The Displacement Alert Project (DAP)
The Displacement Alert Project (DAP) exemplifies how location intelligence can be used for public good. The Dap.Map is an interactive, web-based data visualization built with open data provided by city, state, and national agencies. The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development is dedicated to ending the affordable housing shortage, and alerting New Yorkers at risk of displacement is an important step in the right direction.

CalFresh is a web and mobile application for California residents in need of food assistance. Residents can now apply electronically for assistance, which helps ensure resident’s needs are met in a dignified manner.

Mapping Police Violence
Open data does not always present the full picture. The Mapping Police Violence project is a timely and important initiative demonstrating the need for even more transparency from open government data as it leverages data from various sources to address and redress racial injustice across the United States.

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