Last week, Blouin News looked at the ways in which big data has the potential to shape the next generation of farming and agricultural practices with new tools and data analysis. But the urban sector has equal potential to benefit from such technology, and certain cities have already been looking at ways to improve elements such as traffic patterns, smog, and energy consumption using data-based tools.
Building smart grids on which cities’ electrical systems run is one aspect of creating networks that can utilize data to understand consumption patterns, but a host of other technologies are at our disposal now, too. Reports noted last week that Copenhagen, Denmark is working on a big data platform to help it achieve its sustainability goals; the city will work with Hitachi to create a big data network that will aim to support green infrastructure planning, traffic management, and energy usage. And a new report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government shows that several cities in the U.S. are making headway as well.
The report — published by Professor Sherri R. Greenberg at The University of Texas at Austin — looks at 12 cities across the U.S. that have demonstrated improved integration of technology to better service citizens. For example, Greenberg found that some cities have taken advantage of the general increase in mobile device usage to connect communities regarding traffic and public service announcements. The research states:
…cities are enhancing public safety and emergency response capabilities with real-time analysis of aerial, fixed, and mobile data from various sources in numerous formats. They use big data and predictive analytics to improve planning and service delivery, from fire fighting in New York City to health care in Chicago.
Crowdsourcing is another tool increasingly used by city governments as mobile use is typically high in urban areas. Apps that connect users collect data on city populations’ opinions on local services and can promote innovation at a governmental level. The report notes that Boston, Chicago, Louisville, and San Francisco are a few of the cities that have been “quite active in soliciting constituent development of online government applications and tools”.
Other cities examined include Austin, Texas; Kansas City; New York City; Philadelphia; Riverside, California; Salt Lake City; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Greenberg’s research found that the cities examined through the study are not shy about exploring newer technologies to improve services. Open source platforms, data platforms, mobile applications, and even the internet of things are becoming commonplace tools that these urban areas are looking to usher in the next generation of city dwelling. The report notes:
Cities also are using sensors for various challenges from pollution control to earthquake monitoring to traffic management. The Internet of Things (IOT) is on the rise, allowing cities increasingly to combine sensors, data and the Internet to improve services such as water conservation, energy efficiency, traffic management, and snow removal.
Perhaps as city governments and municipal groups become more familiar with these terms like “big data”, “open source,” and “the internet of things,” the practices that the aforementioned dozen cities have put into place will become commonplace in other regions in the U.S. Given that the rest of the world is looking at data-based tools to help with city service management, it is likely only a matter of time.