Intelligent Cities: The Personal City

Intelligent Cities: The Personal City

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

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 10 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.

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We are broadcasting information about us more than ever before and we can interpret this data to help us understand our quantified selves.

Devices collecting personal data about our lives give individuals deep levels of insight on their habits and behaviors. These systems are often passive, gathering data in the background from day-to-day activities. Over time, this information gives people the tools and motivation for people to improve their lives.

Manifestations Of The Personal City

Check In & Share

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The popular Foursquare service provides a simple example of how people appear to be more willing to provide their personal information. Foursquare is a combination city guide and social game that encourages people to explore their cities while broadcasting information about their location. Users are motivated to share this personal data as part of a competition with their social circle, receiving points each time they check in at locations such as restaurants and bars.

Passive mobile apps monitor sleep habits over time

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Mobile applications like Owl and Sleep cycle track a user’s sleep habits passively during each night. By monitoring a user’s movements, snoring levels, and other ambient data from the environment, these services collect a comprehensive database of information that helps to better understand one’s behavior.

Shared Traffic Info

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Waze is a free mobile application that enables drivers to build and use real-time road maps, alerts on traffic and accidents, and data. Drivers can actively report and update other users with what’s happening on the road including accident alerts, police traps, weather hazards, cheap gas offers and more.

Connected body scale wirelessly sends weight data to the web

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The Withings Connected Body Scale measures a user’s weight, fat mass, and lean mass, and sends that data wirelessly to a personal profile online. The device syncs with Google Health to build a long-term picture of the user’s health information.

Future Developments

How could the Personal City enhance our lives? Here is some of the suggestions we received at a recent presentation with Asian/Pacific region bloggers:

1. A weight monitoring system tells you what to eat

2. In-depth data allows for better matchmaking service

3. Find likeminded people to sit together when you travel

4. Monitor energy consumption

5. Understand the relationship between food types and your weight gain

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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