How Big Data Can Make Smart Cities More Sustainable and Livable
Wed, April 21, 2021

How Big Data Can Make Smart Cities More Sustainable and Livable

The fields of AI, IoT, and data analytics have grown to be more innovative but in recent years, the smart cities movement has been rapidly catching up with the aforementioned areas / Photo by: Continentaleurope via Wikimedia Commons

 

The fields of AI, IoT, and data analytics have grown to be more innovative but in recent years, the smart cities movement has been rapidly catching up with the aforementioned areas, said Adam Kaplan of ITProPortal, a business IT news portal. By 2050, 68% of the global population is set to live in urban areas, per the estimate of the United Nations, an international organization, as cited by Kaplan. Hence, making the world’s cities more citizen-friendly, connected, and efficient “comes at an opportune time.” 

Big data is the epicenter of smart city innovation. Cities can draw data from public agencies, connected devices, private citizens, and more, enabling them to optimize their operations and manage change as more people live in them. According to McKinsey Global Institute, smart city technologies have the potential to enhance “key urban quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30%,” Kaplan cited. The benefits of smart cities will be far-reaching, justifying that a data-driven innovation is crucial to usher a new era of urban life. 

Traffic Management

Transportation in smart cities focuses on the prospect of AVs. However, cities are leveraging data to deliver huge improvements in urban mobility. In the coming years, this will accelerate with revenue from traffic-focused smart city technologies skyrocketing from $2 billion in 2019 to $4.4 billion in 2023. For example, data gathered by IoT sensors and CCTV cameras can be used to help city planners address bottlenecks, ensure a smooth flow of traffic, and reduce congestion. Citizens can also benefit from open data as they can better plan their journeys and avoid congestion thanks to real-time access to traffic information. 

There are traffic management platforms that combine data from various sources such as camera feeds, IoT sensors, mobility apps, connected cars, and public agencies. For example, using big data intelligently saves lives and enables better traffic management. Big data fuels a new generation of transportation innovation. We have cameras and sensors to monitor parking availability and traffic lights fed with real-time data to facilitate a smooth flow of traffic. Such tech innovations are a boon to city officials and municipal planners, but the biggest beneficiaries are the end users or the citizens. 

Transportation in smart cities focuses on the prospect of AVs. However, cities are leveraging data to deliver huge improvements in urban mobility / Photo by: Bharathiya via Wikimedia Commons

 

Public Safety

Public safety is on its way to being a “major growth market” for smart cities, as it is forecasted to reach $295.98 billion by 2023. In practice, public safety in smart cities entails the use of GPS data to find missing individuals. Emergency responders take advantage of the data gathered from IoT sensors and devices for more accurate dispatching. Moreover, AR-equipped drones that relay critical information to emergency responders allow search-and-rescue operations to be more effective during events such as the California wildfires. 

On the other hand, the use of data-driven policing like heat maps, gunshot detection technology, smart cameras, and more have ignited fears of “Big Brother’s encroachment.” It is important to balance civil liberties and public safety. Therefore, city planners should not lose sight of the promise of big data for public safety. McKinsey forecasts that smart city public safety solutions can minimize fatalities by up to 10%, crime incidences by 40%, and emergency response times by 35%. 

Smart City Management

Population growth and climate change will pose challenges to smart cities over the coming decades, but never fear, for big data can help city planners adapt to these challenges. By monitoring hard-to-reach areas, drones can produce rich, actionable data to make decisions on infrastructure repair and maintenance. This prevents “potentially deadly structural deficiencies from going unaddressed.” For instance, we can see the devastating damage caused by an oversight of dam maintenance. By using smart data, we are more likely to catch and monitor vulnerabilities. 

Aside from damage prevention, data can keep cities’ arteries pumping and structures physically sound. Supply chains rely on smooth roads, sound bridges, and well-functioning trains, and economies can go downhill without them. By leveraging data, governments can ensure their life-long integrity. Smarter grid management will be enabled thanks to data on climate, resource availability, supply, and demand. This happens when IoT devices provide operators with real-time information, allowing them to make intelligent decisions about supply management during peak and off-peak hours.  

Municipalities should formulate a robust data strategy if they aspire to be smart cities. The data they will use to optimize their operations must be rich and abundant. Hence, it’s important for city planners to take a holistic approach in data collection and sharing. All of these will involve public-private collaboration and “continued investments in analytics capabilities.”

For the Citizens of Tomorrow

Charles Towers-Clark of business news Forbes said that making our cities more livable, sustainable, and better suited to their inhabitants is an urgent task. Measuring and monitoring population as well as a city’s assets will help us identify the areas we need to improve on and how we can integrate smart city technologies to help ease strain as cities continue to expand. 

Climate change and population growth are urgent issues city planners need to tackle. With big data and other technologies, city planners can leverage them to make smart cities more livable and environment-friendly.