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Which city has the smartest public technology?

By the time the Chicago White Sox take the field against the Boston Red Sox in their first encounter of the 2013 season, their mayors will know how the towns fared in a competition designed to spur innovative ideas in the operations of U.S. cities.

The two cities are among 20 finalists competing for a $5 million grand prize and four $1 million runners up prizes to be handed out this spring by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayor’s Challenge. The contest is designed to “generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life,” according to the contest website.

The cities are also the only two finalists whose ideas are based on using public data and streamlined access to records to help manage agency and citizen affairs.

Chicago’s project, the Smart Chicago analytics platform, is "an open-source analytics platform that identifies real-time patterns and provides a single operating picture for decision-makers using data aggregated from all city departments,” according to the competition’s website.

The system is a dashboard that enables city managers to look into and compare data sets across city agencies and data centers to determine where cost savings might be discovered or operations streamlined.

“So it's leveraging all that information and making a smart choice in the moment, but it's also a combination of tactical and strategic planning,” Chicago CIO Brett Goldstein told Mashable.com. The plan is to build the system using open-source technology so that other cities can get a leg up in costs and development. “All around our intent is to make this extensible,” Goldstein added.

Boston’s project, Darwin, is smaller in scope, and designed to help parents use cloud computing technology to share information among designated teams of child caregivers.

"Darwin places youth data in the hands of parents,” according to the Mayor’s Challenge web site. “Darwin empowers parents to invest that resource with educators, technologists, and researchers to ensure the best programs for their children."

Darwin gives parents access to report cards, lesson plans, class schedules, homework assignments and conduct reports, as well as teachers, principals, coaches, day care operators and tutors, according to its developers. “Parents can share information easily with the people that know your child best.”

The five winning project will be picked after April 1, according to the Bloomberg website.

The other finalists: Cincinnati; Durham, N.C.; High Point, N.C.; Hillsboro, Ore.; Houston; Indianapolis; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lafayette, La.; Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Providence, R.I.; Saint Paul, Minn.; San Francisco; Santa Monica, Calif.; Springfield, Ore.; and Syracuse, N.Y.

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