Blog by Joanna Hecht, Pitch and Pilot Fellow, Office of Innovation and Technology

The concept of the smart city—using data and technology to improve services and programs—can seem abstract. We want to ensure that our smart city ideas are connecting on a local, personal level and creating a better city for all Philadelphians.  To connect more local ideas to City-wide problems, SmartCityPHL is partnering with SolveOpen. This Philadelphia-based organization provides a collaborative innovation platform that details the city’s challenges and invites proposed solutions from anyone.

“This partnership will help us bring new voices into smart city conversations,” said SmartCityPHL Director Emily Yates. “We hope that both innovators and the city as a whole will benefit from this unique platform for identifying and testing new ideas.”

The Platform

The main channel for this partnership is the SolveOpen website. The website’s “Challenge Center” contains city-based challenges that lack clear-cut solutions. Working under the guidance of the SmartCityPHL team and other partners, SolveOpen writes these challenges so that anyone can tackle them. Anyone who wants to contribute to Philadelphia’s smarter future can offer a solution. Winners will not only collaborate with city agencies to bring their ideas into the real world, but also receive cash grants starting at $1,000.

The Challenges

The first two challenges are focused on helping city government present information differently so it can serve residents better.

A New Bottom Line: The City offers many programs to support businesses in becoming more socially responsible and sustainable. Can technology help businesses decide which of these programs are right for them? The City is looking for ideas that can help make this decision in two ways:

    1. Some programs serve specific sectors or focus on businesses that meet certain eligibility criteria. How can we help them better navigate opportunities?
    2. Secondly, changes to business practices that have a positive social impact can cost money up front but may benefit the business in the long term by attracting new customers or reducing costs over time. How can businesses evaluate if a change is worth making?

Applied LiDAR: Every few years, the City collects LiDAR, a special type of imagery that supports the City’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications. There are already several ways LiDAR is used by various City agencies, including understanding tree canopy and solar rooftop potential. How else can the City use this data to support big goals like improving city services, saving public funds, better maintaining infrastructure, increasing public safety or health, or increasing resilience to climate change?

By advertising challenges, providing background information, and rewarding great ideas, SolveOpen is hoping to help the City better serve its residents. Additionally, SolveOpen invites residents to make a difference by contributing their own unique perspectives to broad challenges.