The Role of Portals in Smart Cities

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Before delving into the primary objective of this post, I would like to point out the difference between a portal and a website.

The word “Portal” is a term that has become very popular in both social and business circles, which makes it difficult to clearly differentiate it from an “Internet Site”. Towards the end of the 90s, as computer science students we used the term “Internet Web Page” to refer to the page, for example, of a clothing store. This was its “E-commerce Website”. But it appears that the “Portal” concept is definitively more attractive, even though the most appropriate term for referring to most sites we find published on the Internet should be “Website”.

We use the word “Portal” strictly as a synonym for “Port” to initiate browsing. Just as a traveler arrives at a “Maritime Port” to begin his or her cruise on the Mediterranean, an internet user goes to their “Portal” to begin navigating the internet. The aim: to wind up in terminal “Websites” where the information sought by the user is actually found. Based on this idea, we can understand that a powerful information engine is essential to “Portals”, an element which a “Website” may lack, as in the case, for example, of the web page of a modest neighborhood shop.

Most major portals also provide other services or utilities, including news, weather, entertainment, sports, finance and others. Their revenues usually come from the sale of advertising platforms, and the key to their business lies in positioning themselves in navigating users in their search for information to the destination sites.

Linked to the idea of the Portal notion, as part of the future “Smart Cities”,  “Smart City Portals” should act as the bridge towards so-called “e-government services”. These portals will be essential in modernizing our governments and are understood only if they have the capacity to meet the following citizen needs:
1. Providing information: With the capability to offer information on available services. These types of portals will customarily include information on matters of significant interest to citizens, such as the following:

  • Parking facilities
  • Light sensors distributed throughout the city
  • City temperature and humidity levels
  • Garbage collection
  • Etc.

2. Data interaction: These portals will enable users to take part in and interact with the material housed online.

3. Transaction support: Portals will offer increasingly more customized web-based service transactions to meet user needs, featuring highly important multi-channel access.

4. Participation: These collaborative portals will enable citizens to be involved in future decisions, offering truly pertinent online services. Blogs, Group Discussions, Wikis and others shall constitute customary tools for incentivating collaboration.

In the current context of Social Networks and Web 2.0 Technologies, “Smart City Portals” are bound to succeed, even while facing the challenge of achieving a concurrence of expectations of an “excessively” large community of users and a highly significant variety of available digital platforms.

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