Intelligent Cities: The Helpful City

Intelligent Cities: The Helpful City

PSFK explores the sentient city, and how it impacts communities and families.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 11 may 2010

The development of systems that allow city wide exchange of data and the reaction to that data is important to study. The impact of what is sometimes called the sentient city is not just at a city level but it also impacts communities, neighborhoods and families.

Intelligent Cities can create personal, helpful, efficient and communal cities. In four articles on PSFK, I’m going to describe each of these four aspects and the manifestations occurring today that point to a better urban future.

Helpful City Intro

This might not be as difficult as it might seem. Systems are aggregating information from publicly available data and using this to deliver useful location based services that can be accessed through the web and mobile applications.

Manifestations Of The Helpful City

Map service plans efficient routes for multipoint trips


Maplink’s tool calculates and provides the optimal route to travel between up to 25 addresses. In addition, it also allows users to save an address list and estimate fuel and toll expenses.

Wireless parking system delivers information on available spots

Wireless parking

What if sensors on the street knew exactly which parking spots were free? Your phone could direct you straight to a free space and the city could use that real-time information for dynamic meter pricing, discouraging driving when car traffic is too high.
San Francisco is already trying the idea.

Track and share fitness runs live


Runkeeper is launching a live tracking feature that can enable people to share their runs or for that matter, any outdoor fitness activities in real time, live on the web with their contacts.

Realtime access to bike-sharing information


AllBikesNow is a mobile application that offers users real-time information on the availability of bikes at bike-sharing stations. The application is continuously informed by stations with information that guides users to the closest available bike that fits their need.

Public fruit sharing

Fallen Fruit

Fallen Fruit is a service that creates maps of fruit trees that grow on or over public property. Participants in the project track detailed information on the location and spread of fruit trees, which feeds into comprehensive initiatives to visualize shared food resources within communities.

Future Developments

How could the Helpful City enhance our lives?

1. Refrigerators that know when your food is expiring, able to add items to your mobile to-do list

2. Fitness applications that map your workouts to overall health over years, noting early indicators of poor technique/potential injury

3. Transit systems that optimize arrival and departure times across modes of transportation

4. Niche maps that are generated without active participation, charting cities according to levels of noise, types of smells, and local foods.

5. Applications that more efficiently guide you towards where your friends and similar strangers are gathering

There are plenty of other ways the Personal City can evolve. Leave your suggestions in the comments box

Next Steps

PSFK has prepared a unique presentation on Intelligent Cities. If you would like to invite our staff to present it to your team and discuss possible opportunities for your company to explore, contact PSFK’s Jeff Weiner –


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