According to a UN study, 55% of the total world population is living in cities and by the year 2050, this figure could rise to a whopping 68%. The modern world is increasingly urbanized and megacities are rising faster than ever before, especially in Asian and African countries. The report highlighted that, at the present rate of development, there will be 43 megacities by 2030 and New Delhi is set to surpass Tokyo, which is currently the world’s largest city.
Although the increase in the number of urban areas is frequently linked to economic growth, experts warn that local authorities have to be very careful on how they manage megacities. Where large groups of people live, there is a stringent need for sustainable urban planning and public services, otherwise inhabitants will not enjoy a high standard of living.
Big Data can help urban planners address the challenges of modern urban areas, making cities smarter, safer and better for inhabitants. Through predictive analysis, smart monitoring, and pattern recognition, Big Data can facilitate the development of smart cities – cities that use different types of IoT sensors to collect data and then use these data to manage assets and resources efficiently.
In a world where heavily, urbanized areas are the main culprits for resource depletion and environmental pollution, Big Data innovations can tip the scales and provide sustainable alternatives.
Streamline transportation services
Smart mobility is crucial in any large urban area. As the population grows, urban planners have to implement smart solutions that prevent traffic jams. Although megacities are now almost synonymous with infernal traffic, Big Data could help reduce congestion and streamline transport:
- Smart traffic lights, which are already in use in several cities, monitor vehicle numbers and adjust in real-time traffic conditions to predict traffic flow and prevent traffic jams. In Pittsburgh, intersection wait times have fallen by up to 40% and journey times by 25% after smart adaptive traffic lights were introduced. In Nanjing, China, experts have created new traffic routes and decongested busy streets after installing sensors into 10,000 taxis, 7,000 buses and 1 million private cars.
- Smart parking systems include IoT-based devices installed on each parking lot, sending signals to nearby receivers if there are any open parking slots. Widescale implementation of smart parking systems can benefit both individuals and companies.
The safety of citizens should be a priority for every city, and Big Data can make it easier for authorities to prevent crime and manage emergency scenarios. Advanced data collecting and predictive analysis can understand where and how crowds form and recognize the areas where crimes are likelier to happen.
Big data can also help authorities respond quickly to accidents or natural disasters. For example, Israeli-American company Nowforce utilizes cloud-based computer aided dispatch connected to personal safety and mobile response tools to provide smart city and emergency response concepts. The company was recently acquired by Verint Systems and yielded notable returns to early investors Monet Venture Group, which was led by Liran Stein, Indigo Strategic, and led by VC investor Dorian Barak and Winnovation, managed by CEO Barak Ben-Eliezer.
Another example is Trenitalia, Italy’s main train operator, which installed sensors on trains and now receives real-time updates on their condition. In the future, this system could allow the operator to plan a course of action ahead of an unfortunate event.
Aid effective spending and budgeting
In order to thrive, every city needs to make smart, sustainable investments in infrastructure, healthcare, and education. However, establishing where, how, and how much to invest can be difficult. Without knowing, local governments can engage in complex projects that weren’t necessary and ignore aspects that would need improvement. This is something that Big Data can change. The data collected can be analyzed with modern tools, so that governments can know exactly which upgrades are needed urgently and which can be postponed.
Save energy and utilize resources wisely
Sustainability is at the core of smart cities. If cities develop uncontrollably, without taking into account the impact they have on resource waste and emissions, they can become a threat to the planet, so it’s essential that government orchestrate this growth in a sustainable, responsible way. What is the role played by Big Data?
- Smart landscaping. For example, to conserve water, Los Angeles used data collected and analyzed to best replace areas of non-native plant life with native, drought-resistant flora.
- Smart street lighting. Los Angeles replaced 4,500 miles of old street lights with new energy-efficient LED lights. These lights are part of an interconnected system that will inform the city of each bulb’s status and, if there is a malfunction, it can be located and fixed immediately. In the future, this system of lights could be used to warn LA citizens of various conditions.
- Minimize water waste. Water waste is a major concern for many cities. They are starting to use big data to help conserve water better.
Increase transparency and openness
In an ideal city, citizens are not only satisfied with their standard of living, but also informed on how and where their tax money is spent. Smart cities bring with them a new era of fiscal transparency, where the relationship between inhabitants and their governments is closer and actions are based on mutual trust. In the cities where Big Data is started to be included, governments have also created smart city legislation and passed laws tied to specific surveillance technologies. Last, but not least, the emphasis falls on open decision making, community engagement, and gaining feedback from everyone in the city, be them individuals, businesses, or public institutions.
These are just some of the powerful ways big data is changing our world. Big data is setting the stage for smarter, safer, more efficient, and more eco-friendly cities.