What if drivers of oversized trucks had an app showing all the low bridges in Franklin County? Or if a hungry family knew the location of the nearest open food bank? Or if senior citizens’ locations and public-transportation routes could be analyzed together to find better ways for the older residents to get around?
Smart Columbus — a partnership of businesses, local governments and research groups that oversees the city’s work on the federal Smart Cities grant — is introducing on Thursday the initial version of a computer operating system meant to address these and other transportation-related challenges in the city.
The system is called the Smart Columbus Operating System and is available at smartcolumbusos.com. It will aggregate data from sources across the city so that it can be available to the public and used by software developers in the public and private sectors.
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“Fundamental to ‘becoming smart’ as a city is discovering how to use data to improve city services and quality of life for residents,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther in a statement.
“When we apply data to the challenges we experience as a city, we can transform outcomes in education, employment, health care and even access to healthy food. Today’s initial launch of the Smart Columbus Operating System is a major milestone in our smart-city journey, as we are now better able to analyze, interpret and share data that will help us solve critical challenges and inspire innovation.”
The operating system is funded by the $40 million federal grant that the city received for being the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City challenge. The operating system will serve as the backbone for projects to be funded by the grant.
“Through research conducted with residents and community partners, we’ve identified real mobility challenges felt by real people — residents, freight operators, nonprofits, city officials and more,” said Michael Stevens, the city’s chief innovation officer.
The operating system is developed as open source code, meaning that other cities could use it to develop their own platforms to address their transportation problems.
Applications of the operating system, along with the initial data sets, will be tested this weekend during the Smart City Hackathon at the offices of Fintech71 Downtown. Fintech71 is a nonprofit that launched last year and invests in young financial-services companies.
At the event, teams of software developers, designers and entrepreneurs will develop new apps or solutions to problems using the operating-system data. Leaders of local startups, technology firms and social-service providers will coach the teams, which will pitch their solutions to a panel of judges on the final evening, Sunday.
The team with the best pitch will be given additional support to continue its work.