How Data Can Build the Smart Cities of the Future.

Author:Sykes, Nathan

Urban planners depend on data to learn about housing trends, transportation habits, the most frequently used areas and more. Entire smart cities are based on data science and IoT and it won't be long before data is the primary element that helps officials make decisions about citizens and their needs- in some places, it's already happening. The link between data and smart cities is getting stronger by the day, allowing us to build cities that are not just smart but safer and friendlier.

Although modern society has some extremely robust big data platforms, they often fail to provide the context needed to determine the full meaning of statistics. For example, a noise sensor might show an extraordinary amount of loudness on a certain date and big data analytics could confirm that the noise issues have never been quite so extreme previously.

However, what impact does it have on citizens, and how can city representatives find that out unless citizens used a platform that allowed residents to weigh in on how the sounds they heard adversely affected their lives? The technique of blending statistical insights with context collectively results in thick data.

Residents of Placa dei Sol in Barcelona were approached in 2017 by activists looking to use technology to spur positive change: in this case, to control the noise levels in the neighbourhood. They needed participants for a project titled Making Sense, funded by the European Commission. The goal was to give people noise sensors they could use to measure levels of sound pollution in their area, compare the readings to established permissible levels and use the data to put pressure on city representatives to make improvements. The dozens of people who took part in the project periodically met face to face in a workshop space to collectively figure out how to bring about solutions. Those gatherings turned noise issues into a group concern, not just one grumbled about by individuals in their homes. The data collected is being used to measure and analyze the problem and find sensible solutions to it.

Data sharing could present new opportunities.

Some people who analyze the potential for data usage in cities point out that it'll be significantly easier to meet goals if planners share information with other officials elsewhere. Then, they'll be able to see whether the things they're doing are working as well as they should or if different cities came up with superior methods.

Such collaborations could...

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