As cold weather bites, Scottish councils use technology to keep people moving

Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 11:27
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

As forecasters predict plummeting temperatures across Scotland, three Scottish local authorities have opened up data to technology companies to improve services for commuters and councils services to help keep citizens on the move and local services functioning.

Glasgow City Council, along with a collaboration between Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils, received funding from independent innovation foundation, Nesta, to work with technology partners to open up data they hold to improve travel in poor weather.

Glasgow City Council in partnership with IRISS, has developed Glasgow Gritting which uses real-time data from the authority's gritting vehicles to show local citizens which streets have already been gritted and are safer to use.  It also shows the routes gritting vehicles are taking.  This will not only help ordinary citizens to plan their journeys, but will also help other Council services to plan their work to ensure vulnerable people can still be reached and helped.

In the north-east of Scotland, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils have joined forces with technology company Swirrl to develop Smart Journey.  This web and mobile app service shows all current traffic problems in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire areas as well as any reports of ice, snow or other weather issues affecting the roads.

Commuters are being asked to provide feedback to Smart Journey through the mobile-enabled website or Android or iPhone App.

A key feature of both projects is to allow local people to contribute to make the information presented more accurate.  In addition, all of the code for these applications will be made publicly available so that Councils from across Scotland and beyond can develop their own, similar, digital services.

In Glasgow this could mean local people requesting additional gritting of an area where one treatment may not have been enough or highlighting additional poor conditions in other areas, helping the Council's roads team to prioritise its future work schedule.

Jackie McKenzie, Head of Nesta's Innovation Programmes in Scotland said: "We all know that when cold weather strikes, councils are under enormous pressure to keep towns and cities moving, helping people get to work and reaching the most vulnerable in society.

"The fantastic work being done by Glasgow, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils shows how open data can be used to develop new services for citizens and, by encouraging them to provide additional information, to make that service even better.  Local authorities have shown the amazing results that can be achieved through the excellent partnership they have developed with digital companies.

"Nesta hopes that other councils across Scotland and beyond will take advantage of the fact that all of the information and code for these initiatives is open source helping others to develop services for future years."

Source: ©Nesta

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