Three Things to Cheer in the News This Week

| Annmarie Levins

Photo Left by John Tlumacki (metro) via BetaBoston "Mayor Walsh opens up Boston’s online data"
Photo Left by John Tlumacki (metro) via BetaBoston “Mayor Walsh opens up Boston’s online data

The Red Sox haven’t provided much to cheer about yet, but in other areas within the city and surrounding communities, the news is brighter.

Mayor Walsh’s executive order opening the City of Boston’s data deserves a big cheer.  It represents a major milestone in the city’s evolution as a tech innovator and is a clear declaration that Boston intends to be a leader in transparency.  Advocates of open government cheered this development for the greater transparency it brings to citizens about their city and its management.  But open data also brings something else: myriad new opportunities for entrepreneurs, academics, community organizations, individual citizens, and other groups, who can use data to drive innovation, insight, research, collaboration, and problem-solving.  As the analysis released this week by GovLab at NYU revealed, open government data creates opportunities in virtually every part of society, from transportation to finance, from education to real estate. The GovLab survey includes 43 Massachusetts companies that use government data to generate new business and develop new products and services.

The City’s commitment to open its data also reflects the evolution of technology.  The availability of cloud computing to store and process big data sets, coupled with major advances in the analysis and visualization of different data types, make it possible for the city and others to share and use the data effectively.

This brings us to the second cheer of the week, for Global Internet of Things Day, which was celebrated on Wednesday, April 9th.

The Internet of Things — which refers to the ability of devices of all sorts to connect to the Internet and transmit information back and forth – is something that could not have happened, at least not at scale, without recent developments in technology.  Developments in sensor and battery technology enabled devices to get smaller and smaller, while advances in connectivity enabled the connections among devices and the cloud to get stronger.  And tools like machine learning now enable more accurate insight and prediction.  As a result, our ability to measure the environment around us – and take automatic, customized action in response – is greater than ever before.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.  The applications range from the personal (health monitoring devices and smart homes that track and manage energy usage) to the agricultural (systems that monitor moisture and water plants and crops exactly when and as much as needed) to the industrial (manufacturing equipment that tracks its own wear and tear so it can be repaired before it breaks). The Internet of Things requires an ecosystem of companies and capabilities, including sector-specific knowledge (e.g., for applications in self-monitoring of health and wellness), expertise in security and reliability, and platforms for data integration and analysis.  The diversity of expertise and culture of innovation in the Boston area positions this community to be at the forefront of creating and growing these new businesses.

And thus to my third cheer, for the news of the tremendous growth of start-ups in Boston. It is great news for all of us in the Commonwealth to see growing investments in the start-up sector and the expansion of opportunities in new communities within Greater Boston.

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