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How mobile apps are going to help us build better cities

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Some of you might know that I’ve recently started using a mobile app called Strava. It’s a platform that allows you to track your runs and bike rides, as well as those of your friends. It tells you your speed, elevation changes, and it also maps your trips–among many other things. Here’s what my 50 km ‘Ride for Heart’ looks like from last Sunday.

But what’s even more interesting is how cities are starting to use the data this app collects:

For $20,000 a year, transportation planners and others can access Strava Metro, which provides an unprecedented look at where and how people are biking. It can tell them where they speed up and slow down, for example, or where they might stay in the street or ride on a crosswalk. That information can reveal where bike lanes or traffic calming measures would be useful, and if those already installed are effective.

It’s a perfect example of how “tech” is infiltrating so many other sectors. Mobile technology and networks are generating huge amounts of data and it’s happening at an increasing rate. We’re gaining insights into the way people live that simply wasn’t possible before. Some of this information will inevitably be misused, but a lot of it will be used to improve the way we live our lives.

I know that the City of Toronto also has its own proprietary cycling app and is hoping to collect similar sorts of data from it. But intuitively, I don’t think they’ll be able to compete with the scale of a platform like Strava. Though I certainly applaud the initiative.

The information age is an exciting time.

Image: Strava via Wired

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