Sunday, 18th August 2019
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Ideation of Cities: Taking the smart city to the next level

The notion of a ‘smart city’ is a global phenomenon that has become synonymous with urban living in the twenty-first century. However, since it was first coined, the term has become somewhat saturated in the media. By Leen Balcaen, Sr. Director Industry Solutions at HERE Technologies.

Smart cities are broadly defined by their ability to make optimal use of all their connected data to increase efficiency, improve infrastructure and better the quality of life of its citizens. However, due to the varying definitions of a smart city, the term remains ambiguous and encompasses a plethora of different sentiments. In taking a step back and talking about the smart city as one part of a broader evolution of urban spaces, we can begin to focus on what defines the concept. More specifically, we can bring out the importance of location intelligence and data collaboration.

Governments worldwide are searching for ‘smart’ solutions to address challenges around accessibility, sustainability and mobility. With urban areas expected to hit 70 per cent of global populations by 2050, issues around urban mobility and congestion are becoming increasingly pertinent and cities must adapt to become ‘smarter’ in order to avoid the negative impacts of these challenges. Cities are increasingly looking to use technology in order to improve efficiency of services and city operations. However, smart solutions aren’t possible without smart data. Analysing a city’s data is intrinsic to its ability to respond to the urban challenges it faces, as without accurate data cities are stuck in the present.

Data collaboration

The origins of success derive from the collaboration of data. Cities are collecting vast amounts of data every day, but it’s impossible to comb through all of it. That’s where businesses come in; each holding a piece of the big data puzzle. By better understanding their geospatial surroundings, businesses can become the service providers of smart cities, driving the data behind innovative mobility ideas.

The explosion of data in the modern era has resulted in unprecedented amounts of information around all aspects of mobility. There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day with this figure rapidly accelerating due to the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). Cities are covered with cameras and our cars are loaded with sensors. The pervasiveness of connected devices and mobile networks in recent years has seen data footprint expand exponentially. And yet, while human and machine generated data is continuing to increase at an incredible rate, the richness is typically hidden due to the volume, velocity, and variety of it. That is why we need to look at the common element across all data sources - location.

Locational intelligence

When it comes to smart cities, location intelligence is a vital aspect of data collaboration. A city’s buildings, transport routes and housing all take location and surrounding context into consideration when being constructed. Hence, location encompasses every aspect of a city and is the fundamental dataset when realising new or adapting existing cities.

A way for cities to harness locational data is by embracing collaboration with businesses. As the abundance of data collected by businesses and cities is increasingly shared and entrusted to a comprehensive data repository, technology will lead to smarter outputs that assist people in their everyday lives. If modern businesses continue to invest in shared data, the rate at which innovative solutions reach the market will quicken. Combine this with the intelligence of governments and local councils, and we can expect the likes of traffic models to improve commute times; the movements of cars and people to optimise city planning; and the application of tracking technology to locate shipments and reduce the financial impact of lost items. When this intelligence is optimised, cities will live in real-time, reacting to changes in infrastructure and populations and benefiting every aspect of life.

Ideation cities

Smart cities in the modern age will reach the next level of innovation by focusing on locational data and embracing data collaboration. In time, cities will move from seeing, to thinking and eventually doing. As we move forward with technology, cities will continue to expand and change as urban population growth rates are showing no sign of relenting. Issues around sustainability and mobility will create some of the biggest challenges humanity is set to face and they can only be tackled by businesses sharing their resources with each other and with governmental institutions.

Applying machine learning to the sensors and cameras will collate the data collected and allow us to find patterns, trends and anomalies that exist under the surface. Once this is achieved then cities can truly understand the environment around them and ensure vehicles, drones and people interact safely and intuitively. Location has the potential to create a truly harmonious, autonomous and connected future.

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