By Michel Depière on Feb 25, 2016
“Smart City” is a term that you encounter regularly in the open data community. The city believes that there is more to it than just a temporary hype. Hence, we strive to be one of the Smart Cities. Through a number of projects and objectives, we seek to attain this goal. One of these is to commit to open data and even move beyond this by offering ourselves as a city-as-an-open-service.
It goes without saying that, as a company, but also as a city, you try to get as much punch out of your resources as possible. Antwerp wouldn’t be Antwerp though, if our vision wouldn’t go beyond just using what we have. That is why we created a fully integrated digital platform for the various services that the city entails. But there is more: we chose to open this platform to developers outside the city organisation.
A direct consequence of this, is that we give those developers the power of the platform and the room to create applications using this technology for their own projects. Additionally, Antwerp is stimulating local start-ups but also established companies to come up with practical solutions and user-friendly applications on all fronts of the digital spectrum. The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, summarised it like this: “Antwerp will continue investing in the digital economy. We cannot distance ourselves from this impressive transition. We want to give power to talent, create work- and meeting-places and help grow embryonic start-ups to become a companies, references, even a phenomena”.
Antwerp has over half a million inhabitants and we are still growing. These people have regular touch-points with the city organisation. From the need to streamline this communication into an easy and inhabitant-centric model, the A-profile was created. It is, quite frankly, the key to all functionality of the digital city. Using this profile, the user can link combine existing profiles, like the A-card and the E-ID into one. Apart from the leap in user-friendliness, the visitor can access very distinct and targeted information according to their preference.
The city is periodically adding functionality to the platform. The A-profile is one of the first functions to be released for public usage as an open service. Every developer can use it to their advantage and integrate it in their own digital application. This way, the user can access multiple sites and applications with only one login.
The A-profile is currently in development for external use by Postbuzz, burenonline and Krumb, to name a few. Postbuzz is a unique platform that connects neighbourhoods digitally, by providing local information based on geo-location. A digital mailbox has been created for every brick-and-mortar location. You can register with your Facebook-account for the moment, but very soon also with your A-profile.
Krumb is a location based app that combines a place with the story behind it. As a user, you can drop a krumb in the form of a picture, a remark or a combination of these two. The city will soon be using this app to inspire the user to find surprising locations or unexpected titbits of information on well-known places. Once again, the user will be able to register with their A-profile.
All this technology and open data the city is already providing has created a strong foundation for Apps from Antwerp. This competition is aimed at young tech companies and is in search of innovation and creativity. Combining the minds of the people of Antwerp, the companies, the students and even the visitors, we search for opportunities to improve the city. Everyone can put forth their current issue or struggle. Developers can pick and choose from these issues or start a project from a different angle and present this. All kinds of solutions are allowed: from apps to websites, social media platforms, newsletters etc… By means of a public voting round, the whole city can choose which of the projects will win the financial support of up to €20.000, combined with legal, marketing or logistical support from the city. Check it out now on www.appsfromantwerp.be
The ambition of the city is reaches far, very far. Like companies as Google or Apple inspire and create opportunities, the city is looking to play a similar role to support creativity. The new digital infrastructure, the city-as-an-open-service and open data, are tools that companies but also individuals can use to break barriers and push limits. As a city organisation, we cannot do everything on our own, but we sure can support innovation that help our people to move beyond mediocrity and work towards greatness.