Smart Cities built with Big Data
21 Jun 2017 Smart Cities
What turns an efficient city into a truly Smart City? The difference is as important as it is subtle. And the main reason is supported, of course, by the Internet of Things. When we speak of a smart city, we are describing an urban environment capable of responding to its inhabitants’ needs in a timely, appropriate fashion. To do so, the city must have a way to "feel" their needs. The eyes and ears of a Smart City are sensors, and its brain is the citizens. So what are the nerves in this "organism"? The information in this system is clearly Big Data.
Big Data, the Heartbeat of a Smart City
Massive amounts of data that are too large to be processed by traditional computer applications are known as Big Data. In order to work with such a vast information stream, we need techniques and technologies dedicated exclusively to processing it. This allows for results that would be impossible with smaller ranges of information in smaller quantities. For example, by analysing this Big Data we can find data associations that we had previously not perceived, optimising strategies for action.
Another result of the analysis is known as Data Mining, whose objective is to find predictive behaviours, that is, information that allows us to predict responses to a situation in order to be more efficient and productive. The foundations of the new artificial intelligence solutions which are capable of working with an overwhelming amount of data to yield infinitely more efficient operations in many fields are built on Big Data. Thanks to Big Data, we can get information we could never have imagined. And more importantly, we can use it to create better places to live.
Six Keys to Building a Better City
Telefónica is fervently seeking to improve the environment in which we live. The promises of Smart Cities go in that direction, so Big Data is used to provide these cities with the power to act according to their needs. But where does this information come from? We can identify six keys that make a city “smart". According to Sergio Garcia Gomez, Telefónica’s Global Product Manager for Smart Cities, speaking in Forbes magazine, they are parking, street lighting, the environment, waste management, transport and tourism.
A city with data-driven solutions from hundreds or thousands of sensors can benefit from analysing this Big Data to create more efficient patterns and operating protocols. It also provides the city with information from users in order to improve services. But getting back to those six keys, we can see some cases in smart parking, for example. Automatic services record the influx of vehicles in a certain area and time, which users can check to optimise their driving time, thus lightening the traffic on the streets. Lighting can be smartly managed to reduce unnecessary consumption. Waste management is one of the major challenges facing modern cities due to its exponentially increasing amounts.
Managing waste collection, transport and treatment can become much simpler, so resources and time can be saved throughout the process. This will also help fulfil the city's sustainability plans. Transport is another of the great beneficiaries of the potential offered by Big Data, since it allows the times and location of each element to be accurately monitored, creating more efficient management plans and providing information that is vitally useful to users. All of this helps environmental management by making it incredibly more efficient. Last but not least, tourism can take advantage of Big Data analyses by sending real-time assistance information, tourist attraction status, relevant information, or even transport coordination. As if all this were not enough, the information can go both ways, providing real-time statistics that can serve to better manage the city's valuable resources.
Building the Cities of the Future, in the Present
Many cities have already decided to showcase the information they contain. The emergence of Smart Cities is already happening. Cities like Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Madrid and Barcelona, just to cite a few, are examples. In Las Palmas, initiatives like LPA Inteligencia Azul try to use the information collected both automatically and from its inhabitants to create a response to the needs generated in their environment. Telefónica uses information collected on the CARTO platform to manage initiatives associated with the Smart City in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga. But Spain is not the only country witnessing this upswing. Around the world, there are more and more projects, both individual and collective, to create smarter cities, cities that would be impossible if it was impossible to collect and analyse the massive amount of data that Big Data entails.