A new revolution called Smart Web

A new revolution called Smart Web

Renato de Castro & Rob Monster

Using sharing economy to empower the local ecosystem for smart cities.

For years we have been working in retrofitting our cities, developing a new concept so called smart cities. It is clear that the main driver is technology and successful projects nowadays are the ones oriented to citizens. New apps and platforms are emerging as solutions to integrate government and citizens, but the question is: are we taking full the benefit from it? Isn't it time to rethink also the way we deal with the digital world, based on the internet and the way we use it to empower our smart cities?

DigitalTown (DT), an American disruptive startup from Seattle is trying to fill this gap. They were founded in 2005 and re-launched in September of 2016 as a public company (OTC PINK: DGTW) and it already worth millions of dollars. It delivers innovative web and mobile solutions to solve municipal challenges. The idea is to transform city websites into the a key-point to build a smart city that helps nurture and support the local community. Imagine a digital city master plan built on a smart web, where you navigate directly to everything, addressing special local domains from city services (.city) to legal services (.law), retailers (.shop), restaurants (.menu) and even private art dealers (.art).

 

Isn't it time to rethink also the way we deal with the digital world?

 

DT is using the cloud as an organizing force for an improved quality of life among people, what they are calling -IoP (Internet of People) and businesses -IoB (Internet of Business). The smart web is intuitive, and DigitalTown is the architect. SmartWeb gives you the convenience of the big box retailers, with the benefits of buying local and keeping money in the local economy. Residents and tourists should feel at home! The concept transcend the idea of citizenship and bring all actors (tourists, residents and real local citizens) to the same ground.

DigitalTown’s smart search is a whole new way of looking at internet search. Unlike search behemoths like Google and Bing, DigitalTown search is not being done on a single website, but rather on a massive global network of local sites, all of which are connected by a single login.

smart London

 

The full concept is based on four basic principles:

Local First: For starters, city search powered by DigitalTown is local. Rather than wading through a sea of irrelevant search results, local search is focused on what is truly local, systematically weeding out the search results published by sources that are either not authoritative or not local. If you are in London, you will see the best offer of local businesses.

Smart Search: Smart search uses natural language to smartly identify what you are seeking. If there is a known structured answer to the question, including the ability to book or buy from a local merchant, these options are presented rather than having to click out to an external site. Keep it simple but always local.

User-aware: When logged in, Smart Search knows your preferences and over time learns more about you, and assigns preference in search results to the items that are most pertinent to you based on your interests and preferences. Doesn't matter where you are, you are unique even when in the digital world, so why not bringing this to the real local world.

Descriptive sites: DigitalTown’s global network of sites follow a standard set of conventions based on cities and topics. Nashville.city is about the city of Nashville. London.menu is about restaurants in London. All of a sudden the web makes sense! In the end, the idea is giving you the possibility to take advantage from your unique global digital identity when enjoying the best experiences that local business can offer you around the world.

 

SmartWeb gives you the convenience of the big box retailers, with the benefits of buying local and keeping money in the local economy


Economic Development behind a new Smart Web

In May 2017, I attended ICANN event in Madrid called GDD Summit to stakeholders of the new Internet, where I had the pleasure to interview the CEO of DT, Rob Monster. ICANN is the global regulator of the Internet. Rob explained me the new Internet is based on descriptive extensions that can help make search work better by creating focused search experiences that are intuitive and relevant. Descriptive domain extensions like .MENU for restaurants, .LAW for legal services and SHOP for retail are part of this new movement called Smart Web and will make search work better.

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According to Rob Monster, DigitalTown is an engine for economic development providing a breakthrough set of tools to unleash the productive capacity of the community. The idea is to make it easy for locals to buy local, and at the same time equips local producers to sell global across Retail, Services, Dining, Lodging and Property. The platform provides merchants of all sizes with a free storefront entirely funded by transactions rather than having setup fees and monthly fees that can quickly become a burden, particularly for new merchants. With just a few clicks, a new merchant can begin selling online.

 

CASE STUDY

The iconic Grand Bazaar of Turkey has been around more than 850 years and is host to more than 4,000 independent merchants. Across Turkey, there are 85 Bazaars representing 100,000 merchants. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the city of Istanbul alone, the Chamber of Commerce reports 400,000 member businesses. And yet eCommerce penetration is only about 2%. With the rise of Amazon from the West and Alibaba from the East, the writing is on the wall. The traditional merchants of the Middle East will need to adapt or risk seeing declines in standard of living for the next generation of merchant families. DigitalTown is working with the Federation of the Bazaars of Turkey to introduce a national network of eCommerce sites powered by .SHOP. With each .SHOP portal, consumers are able to shop for items in their own language, and see items in their preferred currency. And rather than scare off tourists with a .COM.TR domain, the .SHOP domain signals to all visitors that the merchants are open for business. Logged in users see shipping options that are optimized for their location, and with centralized tracking of all orders in a smart wallet, it is easy to keep track even when buying directly from local merchants.


Civic engagement as part of the deal 


The platform is also investing in the concept of civic engagement. DigitalTown provides an integrated platform for people to better interact with their cities, turning legal residents into engaged citizens.

In a DigitalTown, citizens can start or join projects, participate in polls or petitions, and discuss issues. By participating in civic improvement projects, verified citizens also build their online reputation, not just locally but also globally.

 

CASE STUDY

Simon is a high school student. After a run-in with local law enforcement, he found himself assigned to 50 hours of community service. With the city’s civic engagement portal, it was no problem to find local options for community service projects to work on. Within a month, Simon had more than worked the hours. Along the way he made a few friends and even a mentor, a colorful and elderly veteran named Elvin who could wax poetically about his youthful adventures a few decades before, including a tour of duty that took him to Hawaii where he mastered the outrigger canoe. A few months later, while on a family vacation in Hawaii, Simon thought he might try his hand at outrigger canoeing. He went online at the city portal of the beach town where they were staying. Much to his surprise, Simon’s login for his hometown also worked here. He was able to find someone with an outrigger canoe to rent. And the best part is that when the canoe owner saw that young Simon was an active community volunteer, he was able to use the canoe all week for free!

Gran Bazaar

 

Smart Destination

DigitalTown is also about powering Smart Destinations. Among city planners, the ubiquitous term is called “Wayfinding” — the ability to find your way. In the move to digital mapping and GPS-enabled smart phones, the emphasis is on getting to where you want to go. However, what if you don’t know where to go? Therein emerges the great challenge of creating Smart Destinations, and that is to deliver on the promise of Smart Agents that can translate your needs, interests, location and availability, into answers to questions like “Where to go?”, “What to do?”, “Where to stay?”, “What to eat?” and “Who to meet?”

 

DigitalTown search is done on a massive global network of local sites, all of which are connected by a single login

 

As part for its go-global strategy, DigitalTown has just launched a huge pilot project in Europe called smart.london (https://smart.london/). The emphasis of Smart.London is to use cloud-hosted technologies as an organizing force for connecting stakeholders on a peer to peer basis. For anyone who doubts the potential of cloud applications, consider for a moment that Uber's 2016 revenues were more than $20 Billion. The world's largest taxi company owns no cars and in just a few years, has reinvented an entire industry. However, in the process, Uber invited controversy and raises concerns about the long term tradeoffs of enabling "Winner Take All" peer to peer platforms such as Uber, AirBnB, etc. Smart.London is built on the principle of Platform Cooperativism, working in collaboration with London.tech. Every citizen, business, and visitor will leverage the benefits of the peer to peer economy in a way where everyone benefits and innovation thrives through a smarter web. It's IoP (Internet of People), IoB (Internet of Businesses), and IoT (Internet of Travel).

It is definitely a new revolution starting to help us to create real smarter cities.

 By Renato de Castro

A new revolution called Smart Web

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