App Development, Thought Leaders

How Location-Based Mobile Apps Make Cities Smarter

November 6, 2019

by Magdalena Pawlowicz


Despite what one might assume, smart cities are far from science fiction. With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) via wearables and mobile apps, governments and citizens can instantly connect and advance the elements that make cities “smart” and sustainable.

IoT is transforming how we connect and receive data. It spotlights new ways of understanding through finding out how citizens in a given city can benefit from technology and what can be leveraged to “smarten” them.

Cities are driven by its citizens, but the major decision-makers are municipalities or governments. To smarten a city, public institutions need to communicate and understand its people, departments, and their desires/needs. To achieve this, said city needs to rely on data and technology.

Three Ways Located-Based Applications Benefit Cities

  1. Create an expressive environment
  2. Streamline city and citizen relations
  3. Combine social sourcing within decision-making

1. Create an Expressive Environment

The goal of a successful smart city is to connect systems and departments by using technology to create a sustainable environment. They need people, mobility options and the environment itself in order to thrive. Without those components and important data, a smart city system won’t work.

Calgary’s Animal Service launched the City of Calgary Pets to make it easier for locals to find adoptable pets, as well as track down lost cats and dogs. For missing pets, owners can also see if their cat or dog is at a shelter waiting to be reunited.

create an expressive app

Vancouver Sun

Through the app, users can receive a plethora of information that wouldn’t be accessible without the citizen component. For example, there is a map that shows which areas allow off-leashing, a section to report animal incidents, and a guide for finding the closest emergency vet clinics.

The app not only allows citizens to communicate regularly about an important city topic, but can also connect users to important city information and authorities.

2. Streamline City and Citizen Relations

Technology will control smart city systems, and “smart location-based mobile apps” can communicate the information generated from the smart city systems to its citizens, companies, visitors, etc. Location-based apps collate and analyze information to give its users a utilitarian understanding of the “where” and “how” and “what.”

Originally called Citizens Connect, BOS:311 debuted in 2009 to make it easier for citizens to report problems to the city. Users can report graffiti, dead animals, illegally parked cars or scheduled waste pick-ups. The report gets placed on a map that is also accessible in the app and can be shared on social media.

Developing a smart city is not a piece of cake. However, it is achievable with intelligent solutions. Solutions can help drive smart cities with ease.  As a smart city has many keen departments, we are talking about lots of data and technology for monitoring and analysis, but without citizen input, the city will never truly be smart.

3. Combine Social Sourcing With Decision-Making

Varied data along with direct citizen involvement are important to the decision-making process of city planning. One of the ways citizens can be part of decision-making is to ask them to deliver data, information or opinions by using mobile apps.

This type of data collection is termed crowdsourcing or social sourcing, which involves the engagement of people to collect and share data to measure and map phenomena. Social sourcing allows for the rapid collection of localized data that lets administrations react adequately, timely, and efficiently to problems in specific locations.

Cycle Atlanta was developed with multiple governmental departments in conjunction with Georgia Tech University to track user cycling routes, and it additionally lets riders flag potholes and other problems for the city. That data is then uploaded to a server that helps inform the city of where people are biking, allowing them to focus in on cycling infrastructure (like bike paths) where it’s needed most. is a location-based mobile app platform that makes cities smarter by connecting stakeholders (residents, visitors, businesses, local governments, NGOs etc.) to a range of information in their near vicinity.

combine social sourcing

The app also works with cities to display information. For example, it gives alerts about traffic congestion and real-time air pollution. The platform is also working with universities in an effort to create smart city services all over the world.

A consequence of social sourcing is that contributing data requires effort from people, particularly when data creation is in play. People are required to contribute while they are carrying out another activity (e.g., commuting, shopping or engaging in sports).

Since participation comes with costs, when it comes to location-based mobile apps for social sourcing, it is particularly important to address how the long-term sustainability of the social sourcing system can be ensured. People can stop participating at a moment’s notice. Many major cities are starting to experiment with different things, trying to get citizens involved.

Integrate a Unified Network with a Location-Based App

Location-based mobile apps and governments can connect cities and manage multiple public services and utilities that are highly diverse as a unified network. As cities adopt more sensors and are open to public data, they create possibilities to display new digital services in location-based mobile apps. With the enhancement of citizen engagement with institutions and adaptability to measurable KPIs, smart cities can become smarter and city infrastructure can be adapted to the needs of citizens and maintained more efficiently.

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