A couple of years ago the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at the UCL Bartlett School, based on Tottenham Court Road produced this great City Dashboard that puts flesh on the bones of all the ‘smart city’ and ‘big data’ guff. Can we do one of these for Kings Cross and bring the ‘Knowledge Quarter‘s knowledge’ out of its institutions and onto the pavements?
I firmly believe that the more we know about it, the better Kings Cross will be. There are huge amounts of knowledge about Kings Cross locked away where we can’t see, our:
past – basement of the British Library, in Camden and Islington’s local studies centres, the local papers’ archives
present – information about live train times, hire bike availability, taxi queues, pollution, weather, locked away in data stores and scattered across different apps but also what people are Tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking about the area – are performances, bars, restaurants good, where are the offers?
future – what arts and culture, civic events etc are coming up, planning applications, alcohol and entertainment licences, strategies etc Camden (but not yet Islington) has finally got its act together on local open data etc etc
Let’s get all this out and very literally into the public realm. Kings Cross is full of places to display information publicly– almost every cafe has a TV, the huge boards at the station, massive ad hoardings, builders hoardings, blank slab sides of buildings. And practically everyone carries in their pocket a phone that can retrieve and display huge quantities of info.
We could do several dashboards – one that focuses on transport (live times of trains and buses) and immediate environment (weather pollution etc), one on culture and enjoying yourself one on economic and civic activity. And with each overlapping the other – providing some cultural info on the transport dashboard etc. There are all sorts of dashboards and infographics out there – over in Birmingham, up in Trafford, Scotland etc etc.
Transport companies have for ages used information to keep people within shopping range of their expensive concessions. But we could help people wait more easily in local cafes and cultural institutions if they had live train information there too. Whilst this information has been available for ages for the technically literate it relies on you having some charge in your battery, knowledge of the apps and not playing Candy Crush at the same time. I have never seen an indie cafe displaying train departure times.
So as well as making dashboards it would mean working with:
local cafes to show them how to connect their TVs to the internet and display a dashboard.
Building and hoard owners to project on their property or display the dashboard in their reception
local information owners who don’t share it in ways that it can easily be re-used.
But it all needs time, money and skills. However the Knowledge Quarter businesses surely have these – the KQ reflects that we have some extraordinary web and data talent in the area. Not least CASA that did the original City Dashboard. It would be great to get the Knowledge Quarter out of its institutions onto the streets, cafes and pockets of Kings Cross. Perhaps they should give it a go?