By the Blouin News Technology staff

Using big data to improve urban landscapes

by in Green Tech.

Traffic in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Traffic in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

As big data becomes a more understood technological tool, its usefulness to improve various industries grows in importance. The medical sector has been at the forefront of using big data to address needs such as pinpointing the origins of disease outbreak, testing large numbers of patients and analyzing the results to better understand how to provide treatments, and map the potential risks for cancer based on certain peoples’ genetic codes. But big data is also being looked at as a tool for urban development. Smog-reduction and creating better traffic and transportation systems are some of the ways city planners are beginning to think about using big data to improve urban landscapes. A recent report from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs analyzes more about ways to make cities more efficient using big data.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey

The report looks at a few different elements of city structure, and ways to improve them using big data:

Energy: Enabling smart, distributed systems to create a more energy efficient city
Transportation: Improving the flow of people and goods through monitoring and prediction
Education: Adapting and customizing solutions to improve education outcomes
Public safety: Integrating data analytics to improve crime prevention and enforcement

Contributors to the report are looking at ways to make the city of Chicago an example of how to use big data to improve city projects. While the research uses Chicago to look at ways to incorporate big data, the report indicates that such analyzation can be used for other global cities. Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated:

Not all cities are equipped with the talent, resources or political will to analyze massive amounts of data and make them available to the public. Yet if a city is going to stay globally competitive and attract the best talent, it will have to make big data part of its mental and physical infrastructure. Chicago can become a global leader in this area.

Other global cities are also making moves to use big data to improve processes for citizens. Seoul is developing a system of taxi-hailing technology using big data to make it easier for city dwellers and visitors to flag down cabs. Lyon, France is working on analyzing data sets to better direct traffic in the city and reduce congestion. New York City has released data sets to the public to try to contribute to the global mapping system dubbed OpenStreetMap. City planning is very much on its way to taking advantage of big data’s possibilities to improve urban life on a global level.