Ericsson adds crowdsourcing to smart city program

Swedish giant extends Networked Society Index with interactive website and social media data

By Caroline Gabriel

Ericsson has launched an interactive map on its website which charts its Networked Society City index. The map ranks 32 cities with a score of 0-100, judging "their ICT maturity in relation to their social, economic and environmental progress, aka the triple bottom line." It is now looking at crowdsourcing data from local populations in northern Europe and central Asia to add more detail to its analysis.

The aim of the Networked City tool is to let cities compare their scores with other smart city projects. Ericsson said that the launch of the City Index "triggered lots of valuable and relevant discussions primarily with city and government stakeholders", and the comparison tool should spark further conversations.

Cities not currently included on the list can request to be added to the index, with Ericsson promising to qualify the city's input and then add it to the charts. Links to the data can be embedded in social networks too.

The PR statement tells participants: "You may also play with the data proxies and see what drives a good ranking and at the same time form an opinion on where your city officials should be investing." Although Ericsson is positioning the initiative as an altruistic one, it will also gain insights and contacts to help drive its services and platforms in the city space. It already claims to handle about 40% of global mobile traffic on its networks, and will be looking to add M2M data to that total.

"We believe that the benefit of this interactive map will extend way beyond sharing the information; it will serve as a tool to explore ever-evolving opportunities associated with the connected world," said Charlotta Sung, head of the northern European and central Asian regions of the project - which currently cover 22 cities with a combined population of 314m.

In terms of the metrics that Ericsson uses, the 'triple bottom line' is meant to give an indication of the health of a city. The social ranking looks at healthcare, life expectancy, education, literacy, murder rates and unemployment. The economy aspect charts GDP, productivity, patents per million inhabitants and new enterprises. Lastly, environment looks at rates of recycling, waste, natural resources and fossil fuel consumption. The idea is to indicate how well a city functions without the networking technology thrown into the mix before determining the impact of its current connectivity projects - and then extrapolating the potential if networked extensively.

This is why some cities that have strong TBL scores are dragged down by their ICT deployment scores. But of course the relationship between the health of a city and technology are inextricable: congestion and pollution are better managed by coordinated traffic systems, water quality and waste control are better controlled through real-time monitoring, etc. While this looks like an Ericsson marketing tool, if we can trust the collated data, this interactive index could prove very useful in tracking the deployment of smart city projects around the world.

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