Big Data ➡️ Smart City

In Barcelona it’s already happening — the city is becoming totally integrated through big data. Computer systems are being attached to lampposts; sensors are being placed underneath parking spots. Everything is being measured and monitored, from traffic and crime to noise and pollution.

In other words, this city that’s been around for two millennia is becoming very modern and very, very smart.

By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 30 billion embedded devices worldwide. The “Internet-of-Things” (IoT) will revolutionize urban life to the magnitude that smart phones revolutionized individual life; the power and influence data will have on cities is beyond what we can currently imagine. If you look at most cities today, they are insanely incohesive, inconsistent, and inefficient. Strategies to simply operate the city are barely working. But if we’re able to aggregate, analyze, and act upon big data it will change city living — and we find ourselves today at the cusp of this paradigm shift.

A city where the full value of data is realized is the foundation for not only driverless cars and drone deliveries; we are talking about an entire connected ecosystem where the possibilities are limitless.

Why is building smarter cities important?

The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data is collected from citizens and devices — then processed and analyzed. This technology is already more ubiquitous than you may think, but the motivation is profit for private corporations, not the urban-dwelling citizen.

But similar to taxes: shouldn’t the data we contribute also benefit us? Once cities start embracing platforms like stae, which provide governments and developers alike with actionable data APIs, then we’ll begin to see more city applications and startups that serve the common good. We recently hosted a civic hackathon with Jersey City, where apps built on top of the stae platform were able to take on a new, more useful life because it enabled developers to positively impact the city in a sustained manner.

Barcelona’s smart city ecosystem

Barcelona has established a number of projects that can be considered ‘smart city’ applications within its CityOS strategy. You can read about all of this stuff on Wikipedia: sensors in Parc del Centre de Poblenou where real time data is transmitted to gardening crews about the level of water required for the plants; bus networks based on data analysis of the most common traffic flows and traffic light patterns, etc. Now when an emergency vehicle is dispatched, it’s possible to sync green lights en route through a mix of GPS and traffic management software, allowing emergency services to reach the incident without interruption.

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And this is just one of many cities becoming smarter. We’re seeing it everywhere from Singapore to Santa Cruz, from Solapur to Stockholm. In fact, Atlanta thinks about their “CityOS” in a very similar fashion to Barcelona:

Smatlanta “DataOS”

Today in the mainstream media, we’re likely to hear about energy efficiency being a keystone issue of the 21st century — but data efficiency is actually more foundational; data efficiency will be the cause of energy efficiency (along with countless other efficiencies). Improved city planning and development, local economic development, better waste management, water quality monitoring, intelligent traffic management, etc.

We’re on a mission to move the smart city to the intelligent city. Stay tuned.