I first covered Stae back in April 2016. The vision hasn’t changed much, it’s all about preparing cities for the future and upgrading infrastructure by making it more efficient through technology. But there are now a couple of cities using Stae for their digital strategy, making it a bit more real.
So far, Atlanta and Jersey City started implementing Stae with their existing services. You can think about it as a sort of GitHub meet IFTTT for infrastructure data.
“Cities are still thinking about data as archive files. They’re not thinking about streams of data,” Stae co-founder John Edgar told me.
So let’s take this step by step. First, cities already have many sets of data coming from utilities, public transport, ambulances, residence complaints, traffic cameras and more. Instead of exporting a CSV or Excel file every now and then to look at this data, Stae wants to turn this data into APIs. By doing that, Stae standardizes data sets and it becomes easier to manipulate them.
And Stae is not the only one thinking this way. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos just introduced a bill that asks city agencies to share their data using an API.
Second, Stae provides a single interface to access data and manage authorizations. For instance, you can share data with your citizens by turning some information into open data. The police department could also access some sets of data while the city could restrict access to other sets of data. It’s a good way to granularly manage your vendors.
Finally, Stae wants to link together multiple sets of data to analyze them and draw some conclusions. This is what I call the SimCity part. If you could combine traffic jam data with bike sharing stations in a couple of clicks, you could make educated decisions about future bike sharing stations.
“There’s a challenge trying to understand the relationship between those different sets of data,” Jersey City’s Chief Innovation Officer Brian Platt told me. “You know, it can be done manually. But in government, there’s not always the capacity or frankly the capability to do this.”
Jersey City is trying to turn Stae into the single repository of data. Getting everything in there is already a challenge by itself. When it comes to combining and analyzing data, this is going to take a bit longer.
“We hope to — We’re not there yet,” Platt said. “If we want to intersect bike sharing and weather and crime, we would have to manually analyze everything.”
In many ways, it all comes down to constrained budgets and resources. Jersey City doesn’t have a full-time data scientist, so the local government is relying on platforms like Stae to do the heavy lifting. Having a central repository is already a big change.
While many cities don’t have a big enough budget to upgrade their infrastructure, technology can already make existing infrastructure more efficient. Let’s see if Stae can help cities scale.