Data Canvas – Sense Your City with swissnex

swissnex San Francisco’s data initiative, Data Canvas, continues with a project called Sense Your City that is all about empowering citizens to understand their cities by building DIY sensors and collecting data to share with the world (apply by December 5, 2014, for yours).

Sense Your City takes place in seven cities around the globe and peaks with an online data visualization competition, which launches in February 2015 at the Lift Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Project co-organizer Emina Reissinger, responsible for Partnerships and Initiatives at swissnex San Francisco, tells us more:

Q: Emina, what is Data Canvas: Sense Your City?

A: Data Canvas is a partnership between swissnex San Francisco, Lift, and Gray Area. Under the Data Canvas umbrella, Sense Your City is the second edition of an international, online, open data competition to create innovative visualizations by opening up data to the public.

Last year’s challenge focused on public transportation (Data Canvas was previously called the Urban Data Challenge) and brought cities and their citizens closer.

This year we want to empower citizens to gather their own data with the use of open source and Do-it-Yourself (DIY) environmental sensor technology—giving the power to the people to sense their cities by measuring air quality, noise, pollution, light, and temperature and opening these data streams for all to use.

Q: What’s the aim of Sense Your City?

A: By enabling and educating people to build their own DIY sensors, we are equipping citizens around the world with the tools to understand and participate in the future of their cities.

The goal is to strengthen the global open data and DIY movements by engaging governments and citizens around urban questions using data, and by connecting makers, hackers, community organizations, universities, high schools, and anyone else who is curious about this challenge.

Q: How can people get involved?

A: The swissnex network will function as a hub for outreach within seven cities: San Francisco, Shanghai, Boston, Singapore, Bangalore, Rio de Janeiro, and Geneva. Apply to receive a sensor kit (provided by our partner Seeed Studio) and get involved.

Q: Why should people participate?

A: Sense Your City is an exciting opportunity to build your own sensor to measure air quality or other environmental factors right where you live, work, or play. Your participation will also allow you and others to draw insights from the data collected worldwide because the data streams will all be open. If you’re interested in democratizing innovation and data, you should participate.

Q: What makes this project innovative?

A: Data Canvas: Sense Your City is special because it’s a global, community-driven project that engages people all the way from data collection to visualization. It also contributes to our ability to analyze data for public education.

The overall Data Canvas initiative will result in a one-of-a-kind network of art and information, using data. Through hackathons, challenges, and technology partnerships, the project increasingly diversifies data sources, from open data to DIY sensors, and hopefully leads to the establishment of citywide sensor networks with actionable, open data.

The project strives to make the information contained in the data digestible through data art that is shown online and in public places, fostering data literacy and prompting engagement.

Finally, this work represents a large amount of research that we are documenting and can draw insights from to establish best practices on educating the public around civic issues using data. Data Canvas is leading the way in bringing public and private partners together to collaborate on data issues, and engaging citizens while helping city governments get excited about how open data can improve civic life.

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