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June 6, 2019

The Urban Computing Foundation: What’s It All About?

More smart city hype - or the seeds of something new?

By CBR Staff Writer

The Urban Computing Foundation, a new Linux Foundation forum that launched in May, has already attracted members like Google, Uber and IBM, and a Technical Advisory Council that includes Facebook, Interline, MIT and Uber experts.

The forum’s mission is to “enable developers, data scientists, visualisation specialists and engineers to improve urban environments, human life quality, and city operation systems and build connected urban infrastructure” via an open governance model.

IBM is one of the project’s early participants. So what is it up to exactly? Computer Business Review put some questions about the project to Jeff Borek, Worldwide Program Director, Open Technology, IBM Cognitive Applications.

What’s the Big Idea?

The big idea of the Urban Computing Foundation (UCF) is for developers working in intersection of smarter cities, multimodal transportation, and autonomous vehicles to have a venue to effectively collaborate together on the next “big ideas” in open source software. In addition, there is also the potential for open data to accelerate the next generation of solutions for connected urban living.

Open data is an exciting new element of this effort, and just as you would never want to put your code out in the open without an appropriate open source software license, you would not want to put your data sets out in the open without an license appropriate for their circumstance. That’s why we worked with the LF two years ago to establish the Community Data License Agreement (CDLA).

Who else is involved?

Uber, Facebook, Google, HERE Technologies, Interline Technologies, Senseable City Labs, StreetCred Labs and University of California San Diego (UCSD)

What’s Drawn in IBM?

IBM has a long history of success in collaborating in open source ecosystems to advance the IT industry for the benefit of open ecosystems and our clients. From our early leadership in the Apache, Linux, and Eclipse Foundations – to our more recent contributions to launch the Hyperledger Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation – IBM has worked hard to maintain a fair and balanced relationship with the OS communities it collaborates in.

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We don’t always make the biggest initial software contributions, but we always find effective way serve the community. We also believe open governance is key to a ‘level playing field’ and greater adoption.

The Foundation says the first Contribution is Kepler. But Uber already Open Sourced that… Is IBM set to open source/contribute any projects soon?

We are looking across IBM Research, our Smarter Cities and IOT Business Units, and our collaboration with the Call For Code initiative to asses the options for contributions and collaboration in the coming weeks and months. We are also engaged in the Linux Foundation LF Edge initiative, and believe that these two efforts will yield good results as they both develop greater momentum. We are also excited about the potential of how Open AI technologies will come into play, such as the projects our team is working on.

Smart Cities Sometimes Seem Overhyped, Particularly with Most Western Cities Facing Limited Budgets: Do You Really See Much Momentum?

That’s another one of the great things that have sustained open source software over the past two decades. When times are good, open source benefits from the expanding growth in IT budgets to fuel innovation. When times get tough and budgets constrained, the savings from open source are even more compelling – helping enterprise clients looking to stretch their IT dollars.

Early efforts in smarter cities were largely focused on the IOT infrastructure (i.e. the sensors, networks, and system integration needed to lay the foundation). The UCF is a very welcome and logical step to pivot towards next generation solutions that leverage open source tools and open data.

See also: Uber Releases Free Geospatial Analysis Application

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