0.1. Introduction

This is the customer support web belonging to urbiThings, the new platform for territorial management developed by Urbimática.

Support web scheme

The web is arranged in help topics consisting of separate articles that explain each of their features. Below is a summary of the topics:
  • First steps: purposes of the platform, how to access, which elements compose the user interface, which services are provided and to whom.
  • On the basis of user interface design, next topics are organized:
    • Header: feeatures and tools located at the header of urbiThings web
    • Side tool panel: features and tools:
      • Advanced Search of geoservices
      • Catalogue of geoservices
      • Basic and advanced editing tools.
    • Bottom results panel of all the queries carried out by users in urbiThings
    • Side work modules panel: includes all the administration, user profile and sharing menus related to the service.
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s): in response of common questions
  • Glossary of terms: all the terms used by urbiThings
Si quieres empezar a trabajar puedes pasar al primer artículo: Acceso a urbiThings, pero si quieres saber más sobre urbiThings y tienes tiempo para leer… The city is a huge machine very special, is self-assembled, and is composed of millions of interconnected pieces. Tangible physical parts or intangible functional, legal and administrative pieces but not less important. All subject to constant change, united by an intricate network of physical, functional or cultural relations. Pieces that are acquiring their own personality on the Internet. Information systems that attempt to represent this immense machine will only achieve this through controlled collaboration or through new paradigms based on location services and distributed intelligence. UThings is postulated as a new methodology in cloud for the global urban management of the city; That identifies, describes and locates geographically all the urban, legal and physical elements of the city forming an Inventory. The power of collaboration to build geospatial information is evident. But collaboration alone is not enough to build useful and truthful information. It must be channeled, building virtuous circuits of data that ensure the synchronization between the real world and its representation in a spatial information system. The territory and the city are the means where human activity materializes. It forms an amalgam of objects, systems and functions, a dynamic ecosystem. A huge machine that must meet the current and future needs of a society characterized by its will for growth and constant improvement. Public Administrations, responsible for regulating and promoting this process of constant change and adaptation, need to know and understand the territory under its jurisdiction (its Administrative Unit) for its regulation and control: to anticipate future needs, to plan its transformations, to evaluate its feasibility and ensure the sustainability of territorial capacity. All this in a framework of technological innovation, interurban competitiveness, increased social participation and intense citizen control of public action. There is a huge challenge to build a public horizontal information system that serves everyone. In which everyone can collaborate. That is maintained day by day and that does not suppose an unsustainable economic investment. A system that serves all urban actors:
  • To the planners to obtain a current, complete and immediate vision of the city. As essential knowledge base to formulate plans.
  • To the managers of the city to have a broad vision of the objects and existing relationships and the impact of the changes. Giving them the possibility of efficiently managing new urban management services based on distributed intelligence and the robotization of urban systems.
  • To the developers and promoters so that they can evaluate without obstacles their opportunities of action. Reducing risk due to lack of updated information.
  • Policy makers to have real indicators. Product of dynamic data services. Make efficient use of the data substrate of the system.
  • To citizens and visitors, because they are assuming new ways of interacting with the city and its components, using emerging technologies and its mobile devices. New modes that must be supported by extended location services.
For all that uThings is configured as a collaborative system, in which we try to involve as many actors as possible for maintenance, sharing costs and responsibilities for the purpose of having up-to-date information, synchronizing the change in the real world with the change in Virtual Inventory, because collaborative systems such as OpenStreetMap or Google 3D have demonstrated the power of collaboration as a data source. But unlike them uThings is a collaborative mechanism controlled and supervised by the competent Public Administration. The only way to ensure the quality and accuracy of the data.

The actors of urban change

Our urban territory is subject to constant change. It is an adaptive machine that constantly grows and renews itself to accommodate human activity. Today that change is determined by two opposing forces: on the one hand the real estate market that is subject to the laws of supply and demand and that uses urban change to generate profit. And on the other hand the Public Administration that tries to regulate the market and the urban growth to obtain a balanced and efficient city. Like all markets, real estate is defined by the interaction between supply and demand.
  • The real estate offer formed the developers and marketers who are constantly pushing the territory, looking for opportunities of soil and construction. Their pressure is so strong that without adequate control they can generate uncontrolled urban growth: they generate functional imbalances that collapse mobility or urban services, foster informality and legal insecurity, occupy valuable or risky land. They are the essential engine of urban change, but they represent a blind force that must be controlled.
  • Real estate demand is also another blind force. It searches without ceasing urban spaces to exercise its residential, productive, commercial or services activity. Because cities offer a human niche with enormous advantages and that is why they will undoubtedly house most of the human population during this century. The urban market has become a global market in which cities offer their best opportunities to meet demand and secure their position in a world of cities.
On the other hand the Public Administration, as regulator, uses four control tools:
  • Planning to achieve efficient and economically and environmentally sustainable urban models
  • The pre-change authorization verifies that the proposals for urban change comply with the planning and minimum technical conditions
  • The change inspection is responsible for verifying that parts of the city are being used correctly
  • And the final assignment of rights and obligations is fundamental for each actor to properly execute his role in that urban machine
Both of them work within a powerful legal framework that regulates their rights and obligations. Without such a framework, legal uncertainty would prevent the proper functioning of the real estate market. Much of the functional and urban problems of Third World cities come from the absence of an appropriate legal framework, whereby their administration is unable to regulate a wild urban market.

The mechanisms of urban change

The urban dynamic of constant change is formalized through descriptive documents and executed by urban agents:
  • The description of the change is shaped by a document that defines the operations that are intended to be carried out on the city. Obsolete parts to be removed. The new pieces that are brought to the city or pieces that change their shape or properties.
  • The change documents (plans, projects, decrees, contracts …) are drafted by specialized urban technicians and have a dual utility: they serve for public officials to evaluate their appropriateness and authorize or reject them, and also serve their executors as a guide for The effective realization of the change on the territory.
  • Urban change is driven by four types of urban actor: 1) by the promoter of change, usually an urban developer, a citizen or the public administration itself; 2) by the urban technician: an architect, an engineer or a lawyer who writes the change document; 3) by the urban official who from the public administration verifies its suitability; And 4) by urban executors: the builder who acts on physical objects, the notary or lawyer acting on the functional objects, or the urban service provider that ensures that a part correctly performs the function for which it is designed.
All this means that the construction and maintenance of the city are now collaborative processes. Processes that have taken centuries to formalize and that work in a similar way in all modern cities. With the nuances imposed by each culture and local legal models.

The key to uThings: leverage traditional systems

If urban change is already a collaborative process (supported by paper), our proposal is to take advantage of it so that it not only serves to build the real city, but also serves, in parallel, to build the virtual city. For this uThings includes two innovations in this already existing process:
  1. Systematize change documents: Urban change documents are currently written using sophisticated computer tools (word processors, database, CAD / GIS / BIM systems) that result in a printed paper document. Document that is sometimes redigitalised to serve as a data source of urban systems. A schizophrenic and absurd process that must be redirected through systematization: the document of change must become a digital transaction that defines urban objects, their properties, relationships and associated operations. A document written in a strict language that can be used by an automated transactional executor, able to keep an Inventory of urban objects up to date.
  2. Train the urban actors and provide them with the necessary tools to intervene in this process each with its corresponding role: drafting change documents, verification and inspection, or consultation.
The improvement proposed by uThings does not differ substantially from the processes of business automation that have been suffered by companies and public administrations since the middle of last century. The system should be configured as a city-based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which partly reproduces the functionalities of these enterprise systems, in which all company personnel and sometimes their suppliers and customers collaborate to maintain and plan Resources, operations of production, marketing and distribution of goods or services. In this case the city as a whole is a company in which we all participate with different roles: as local government, as a planner, as a developer, as manager and service provider or as a citizen and visitor. A company that manages the resources and assets of the city with the collaboration of all and connects with the new technological management processes characterized by the distribution of intelligence, connectivity, telemetry and robotics. Leveraging and updating traditional urban planning, construction and management processes, and providing new transactional functions to change documents to maintain full, spatial and dynamic city inventories.

The result: a city inventory

The result of the collaboration is an urban inventory. A virtual replica of the city, its objects and relationships. A true representation of the real world, maintained collaboratively by all those who propose and execute changes in the territory and controlled by administrative processes that authorize and verify the execution of those changes. A replica organized in four levels of objects:
  • Planning objects: represented by the planning areas and their associated data, tell us how the city should be and its future development.
  • Objects of rights: which include all rights to land and buildings, which determine the legal capacity of people to use the territory.
  • Physical objects: that comprise the description and characteristics of all the constructive elements, installations and furniture existing on the territory.
  • Obligatory objects: they comprise all the duties on the ground and constructions for all urban actors, and that ensure the sustainable functioning of the entire urban system.
Four levels fully connected by cross-sectional relationships that form a huge network and determine how the city works. This Urban Inventory is kept up-to-date through transactions: operations that define changes to its elements in the form of adding new elements, removing obsolete elements and modifying the geometric description and data content of existing elements. Transactions that materialize as Instruments, traditionally represented in the form of plans, projects, agreements, contracts, decrees … the same ones that have always been used to describe the alterations on the urban reality. But equipping the instruments with this transactional character, since at the moment they are descriptive documents little or nothing standardized and never systematized, it demands that they undergo a profound change, at least in part of its content, so that they not only serve to give shape To changes in the real world, but also serve to exert that transactional role on the Virtual Inventory. To this end, the instruments are systematized as a data structure, defined and written with the help of the systems provided by the Registry to its editors and composed of four parts:
  1. Attributes understood as determinations or properties that describe each urban element: the data sheet of a planning area, an urban property, an infrastructure element or a building, or clauses of a contractual obligation.
  2. Entities understood as the pieces that form the four urban planes described above, which are described as a geographical space to which properties and data defined as Attributes are assigned.
  3. Relations understood as the lines that connect all the Entities of the city such as an urban ascription, the relation that connects an easement of passage with its servants and served farms, the relation between a right of activity and the physical object where it exerts the connection between two road sections or between two water pipes … An immense network that informs us how the pieces of lego that form the city connect.
  4. And finally the Operations, understood as the concrete and explicit definition of how each Instrument changes to the Inventories, so defined that the automated systems of the Registry are able to interpret and execute them to keep the Inventories updated.
The Inventory is also configured as a router to Internet Objects (IoT) that allows establishing a bidirectional flow:
  • From the inventory to the management systems of the city. By notifying them of the modifications made to the Inventory by the urban change documents.
  • From the management systems to the Inventory as a way of feeding indicators to the city scorecards. This function allows the city to efficiently manage the torrent of data generated by vertical systems by providing spatial filtering mechanisms and simplifying and generalizing data.
The Inventory feeds the publishing systems of the city by making available to the citizen a complete view of their environment on any device (Personal Computer, Tablet or Smartphone) and includes the possibility of the citizen interacting with the Inventory in two ways:
  • Using the Inventory as a router to value added information that the owner of each urban object makes publicly available, either in a disinterested way or as a marketing tool for their products and services.
  • Enriching the Inventory with the contribution of conjunctural information, incidents, complaints, emergencies, graphic or video documents, historical information or cultural interest, proposals, personal creations or free content of all kinds. Providing to the Inventory an additional facet of public interest and knowledge of the city.

Integration and Services

UThings is configured as a service platform hosted on a global host managed by Arnaiz Urbimática. This does not prevent a Public Administration from having its own platform to provide services to its Organizations. The service platform allows:
  1. That anyone can access the Internet freely and freely to the contents that the Manager of each Administrative Unit decides to publish.
  2. That the Organizations that the Manager of the Administrative Units admits as Collaborators can describe in a standardized and systematic way their operations against the Inventory by means of Instruments of territorial change to keep it updated.
  3. That the Manager of each Administrative Unit can efficiently manage their Inventories, the Instruments that maintain them and the data they want to publish with their corresponding formats and symbology.
The Inventory is inserted as a basic piece within the functional organization of the municipality, providing services and interacting with all municipal areas:
  1. With the Mayor’s Office and its annexed services, as it provides a scorecard that serves to know the state of the city at all times.
  2. With the Treasury since it controls the concepts of income by assignment of Rights: assets, activity and use, ford … And also controls the concepts of urbanization, equipment, conservation and maintenance expenses to which the Obligations contained in the Inventory .
  3. With Urban Development since it provides a virtual version complete and synchronized with reality, essential for managing the operation of the city.
  4. With Environment as it always indicates environmental conditions and risks, and above all because it serves to efficiently manage urban maintenance policies.
  5. With Culture and Economic and Social Development because it provides them with a global vision of the city and participate in the benefits of a dynamic dashboard.
  6. With Security and Coexistence because it provides the real situation at all times of the city, ensuring the effectiveness in the deployment of security strategies and emergencies.

Within the framework of a Territorial Administration

Collaboration and technology have often gone hand in hand to create useful information. However they have never done so considering that the territory is a scarce commodity. A coveted object whose possession has generated the greatest conflicts that this world has known. A well managed and controlled by one or more competent Public Administrations. Therefore it is not possible to build collaborative processes that generate truthful information, which feed into a synchronized Inventory, without intervention in the territorial Public Administration process. Without the assignment of virtual territory to their political managers, so that they are responsible for the quality of their data, in parallel to their competition on the real world. The Inventory is organized by copying the Administrative Unit of the existing territory. The one that results from districts, municipalities, provinces, regions and states. All of them as “AdministrativeUnits” that configure the distribution of the competence cake. To this end, the interaction of these Administrative Units with the Inventory is established on the basis of three elements:
  • Administrative Units as contributory spaces containing Inventories. The system proposed does not have a single Inventory, it has as many Inventories as Administrative Units contain. Apparently it reproduces the current disintegration competency, but with the advantage that it does from a centralized and unique repository which allows establishing relations between them. In this aspect the technology will allow the decentralization of management, as a way of bringing the Public Administration closer to the citizen, but without dispersing the information
  • The Organizations as legal persons that can act on the Administrative Units with different scopes:
    1. As Administrators to manage the internal inventory operation.
    2. As Managers when they assume the administrative competence and therefore regulate the operation of the Inventory in its Administrative Unit.
    3. As Collaborators when they assist the Manager in maintaining the Inventories through change documents.
  • And the Users as individuals or functional positions attached to the Organizations and that perform the daily operation of the Inventory. Assuming each one a paper on the Administrative Units assigned to his Organization. Role determined in turn by the role of its Organization on Administrative Units. In this way the municipal official can propose Change Documents, the editor of a Technical Office can describe them, the technician of a Quality Office can analyze them and execute their operations, or the municipal politician observe everything without touching anything.
The competency structure is hierarchical. In such a way that the urban objects can be assigned to public administrations of different level. This implies that the final inventory is not only the product of the collaboration of agents of urban change with the Administration, but also of the Administrations between them. Following a flow of data exchange that can be represented according to the following scheme, in which the circuits represented ensure the transport of information among the four or five agents involved: the regional level, the state level, the local level, the producers Of Change Documents and information consumers who are citizens. The flow of information is verified in two ways:
  • There is an upward flow of information that transfers the data produced by the local level on the state of its territory to the regional and state level. We understand that it is the local level who has accurate and up-to-date information on what happens on the ground. This flow of feedback data load the systems of territorial analysis.
  • There is a horizontal collaborative flow from producers to consumers at each skill level. Controlled by these levels through the management of their respective Registries, the updating of the Inventories and the publication of the results for analysis and execution.
In addition there are three other ways of feedback not drawn on the chart:
  • A flow of horizontal return, in the opposite direction to the previous one:
    • When, as a result of the analysis, the competence level sends instructions to the producers to alter the urban entities. This is the normal way of reviewing the documents by altering the needs of the city.
    • When final consumers claim, suggest or resort to the level of competition, they must instruct producers to change their exchange documents.
  • A downward flow of “exchange orders” from the state to the regional levels and from the local to the local levels. It occurs when from a higher station determines the need for alteration of the current ordering or territorial reality in the lower estate. Given the incredible inertia of urban planning and change processes, “orders” may take years to issue until they are executed. This period of transience often generates many problems, since the current ordering of the lower estate, during that period, can be totally or partially suspended. Let’s call this flow Adaptation. In the European Union, the transposition of directives into national legislation works very similarly.
Spatial information has become an indispensable product for territorial management, for the development of economic activities and for the lives of citizens. There is a pending revolution on how the data acquisition and maintenance modes will be, the modes of storage and management of that data, and modes of publication and exploitation. UThings is born in an environment of public-private collaboration, intense scrutiny of public management and the birth of the Internet of things and machine-machine dialogue. The Public Administration has the obligation to lead and control that process in its territory and uThings is the tool to achieve it.