‘Big Data’ – why the new oil of today will run the cities of tomorrow

‘Big Data’ – why the new oil of today will run the cities of tomorrow

The world has a notoriously insatiable appetite for oil. It fuels our everyday lives and it’s the power behind our innovative transportation methods; fuel keeps the lights on and without it, our cities simply could not function. Today, there’s a new resource in town that is being extracted to fuel smooth functionality. It goes by the name of Big Data and it has the potential to transform our cities for the better.

It’s been estimated by IBM that a massive 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day. That’s the equivalent of 57.5 billion 64 GB Pads. Let that just sink in for a moment…

How Big Data impacts lives

From understanding and improving business processes, to improving security, science and healthcare, big data is changing the way industries operate. It also has the potential to change the way our cities operate, transforming them into smart cities. To enable this transition and to effectively run a smart city requires data collaboration between governments, local authorities, and data location companies. All parties will need to work together towards the same unified goal of creating an efficient, living and breathing city.

Even if you don’t fully understand what quintillion means, it’s safe to say that that not every byte will be useful. But those organisations and companies who have identified, extracted and analysed the relevant data can reap significant rewards. Take the following as examples.

During Barack Obama’s final state of the union address in 2016, he called upon his Vice President to head up Cancer Moonshot, a taskforce charged with making 10 years’ worth of advances in over 100 types of cancer, in half the time. Central to this initiative is the national cancer data ecosystem. Currently, vast amounts of patient data exist but is stored in siloed proprietary databases, rendering them widely inaccessible and hindering the possibilities for this data in helping survivors. Moonshot will link America’s largest data houses, enabling one-stop, unrestricted access for researchers, doctors and diverse patient populations to share data on cancer, fuelling faster progress.

In Amsterdam, the City’s fire service launched an initiative dubbed “Firebrary”. This was the creation of an open data library of firefighting terms and definitions, which can be shared between departments to ensure everyone is essentially speaking the same language. Through the concept of linked data, vital information can be taken from fire hose sensors and personal protective equipment to build models which can be used to assess risk. The concept is not just that the fire department is collecting as much data as possible, but that this data is available in an open and easy to access manner.

How to succeed with Big Data

In order for both these initiatives to succeed, governments and city councils removed the barriers between parties that were working towards the same goal. At HERE Technologies, we have made it our mission to be the facilitators of collaboration for use cases where location plays a central role. For this, we have built an Open Location Platform to break down the barriers of progress. Through the HERE Open Location Platform data owners can add, mix and manipulate their data, fostering faster progress towards any shared goal. We have taken on the ambitious task to become the platform of choice for location services, supporting everything from smartphone apps, autonomous vehicles, intelligent transport systems and smart cities.

No government or company can transform a city into a smart city on their own. We know that collaboration will underpin the success of smart cities. Businesses and governments need to form partnerships with governments, local authorities and organisations across the world. Just this year HERE formed partnerships with the City of Hamburg, Slovenia and City Digital Chicago to make advances in the road towards smart cities.

‘Big Data’ – why the new oil of today will run the cities of tomorrow

Collaboration is key to success.

In Hamburg, we will be co-operating on joint projects to increase both the reliability and the efficiency of the transport system; to enhance traffic safety in the city and to reduce noise and air pollution by improving the traffic flow. Hamburg will provide access to real-time data related to public transport, construction sites, major events and parking availability. In turn, we will integrate this information into our Reality Index, HERE’s own vast database of dynamic and static location information. Using this data, both the city authorities and HERE will be able to jointly or separately develop services and provide information to transport users, helping create a seamless journey around the city and enabling Hamburg to improve its own traffic management.

Collaborative partnerships can also help improve public safety, whether that be on the roads or overall city security. If governments and local authorities can share, and have access, to real-time data from one central platform, then potential hazards can be highlighted to unsuspecting citizens before a problem arises. To make the most effective strides towards smart city advancement however, data companies, governments and research bodies need to pool their resources together. By working together and exchanging information, the obstacles towards building smart cities can be identified and dismantled much faster.

The Future Ahead

Big data has been heralded as the new oil for many years, and sharing and understanding the resource at our disposal plays an essential part in making the world a better place. The data is out there, we have the tools to collect, distribute and analyse it. What is needed now is for data collaboration between governments, local authorities and data companies to deepen. The faster this can be achieved, the quicker citizens will be able to benefit from the seamless experiences of travelling in a smart city. One party alone cannot shoulder the responsibility to transform our cities – the new oil needs to be shared.