Sidewalk apps

The constant battle for database managers is to make sure that the information that they hold is up to date; the tech is typically the easy bit. Centralised content management requires centralised resource, and typically that resource is not the source of the information, but acts as either a rule maker or a facilitator. This is why the best databases use decentralised or crowdsourced inputs, and why LinkedIn will always beat your CRM for being up to date. People power can also be used to crowdsource information on our cities, and in doing so provide planners with deeper insights (and free analytics) on how they work. Sidewalk Labs’ new app CommonSpace does just that. The app allows the public to survey and document how public space is used, and in turn provide an evidence base for policy, community initiatives and civic engagement. This has for instance been used to measure the impact of a new seating pilot in a public park, funded by a charity. The app facilitated fast, cheap documentation of spatial usage by non-specialists, in what would have otherwise been a laborious process. It employs visualisation and analysis tools to present information in a way that allows policy makers to spot trends. By reducing speed and cost, tools like this reduce the barriers to entry for public engagement in community projects, which in turn increase democracy and engagement.