When it comes to smart city innovation, it’s arguable that most use cases are not that exciting to the average resident. A connected garbage bin, traffic light or parking meter is not going to cause applause and adoration for city officials at least in the first instance. But as more and more local systems start to communicate, it will start to make more sense and increase consumer satisfaction, at least until residents forget a life before they existed.
I spoke to Peeter Kivestu, director of travel industry solutions and marketing from analytics solutions and consulting services company, Teradata. Kivestu believes that much of the focus has been on connecting the ‘things’ rather than the data within. The value of data grows with use according to Kivestu: “If you have data and you use it, it increases in value, particularly if you curate it, integrate it or get to use it in a purposeful way.”
He believes that there’s an opportunity for cities to embrace a platform business model where the city enables a level of connectivity around its data. Inherent to this is what he calls a smart data exchange, a new kind of asset that enables cities to evolve into a new way of delivering value for its citizens so this when it gets back to the social economic benefits.
Smart data from cities is, for the most part, siloed and fragmented
According to Kivestu:
“A city is working when all of its systems work together and when all of its people benefit in some way. But when systems are disconnected or parts of the population are disconnected and not able to access value, then the city is dysfunctional. A city is a system of systems. Yes the systems themselves are physically connected. So you’ve got highways, energy systems and buildings and city services they’re all there happily coexisting in the real universe, but digitally they’re not connected at all.”
Kivestu offers the example of wanting to attend a football game at a local stadium, mindful that traffic around the stadium will be at capacity:
“I’m just going to drive my car to a local parking lot and park there and take transit. So that’s a reasonable thing to do and I can do that in the physical world. Digitally I can find out when the transit is leaving, the departure times and so forth. But I really don’t have any idea about the situation in the parking lot so I drive my car to the parking lot. I find out the parking lot is full and therefore I miss the transit and I miss the football game.”
This kind of technology in progress and shared data would increase opportunities for innovation in this space. For example, smart app, Just Park, that sells parking spaces that guide you not only to the stadium but your seat. Smart stadiums can also benefit staff and officials through accurate real-time data such as the number of people present and their locations, tools that are useful in case of an emergency or a missing child. Smart surveillance can also be utilized to provide safety evacuation information such as instructions and directions in the case of an emergency analytics can be coordinated with weather and traffic information outside of the stadium. This means fans can leave happy, with the knowledge of their fastest route home.
Connecting Commercial and Public Infrastructure
However, for this to happen outside of the commercial arena, like smart stadiums, the data needs to be connected across the city and commercial infrastructure. As Kivestu explains:
“There are lots of cases where we have data but it resides in silos as it was built for different purposes. For example, there are safety implications to create variable speed limits on highways. If there’s been a blockage on the highway up ahead of you then the variable speed limit sign shows a lower speed to warn drivers that ahead of traffic congestion.
However, the two systems of data that collect the blockage on the highway and determine the speed shown on the highway live in two different environments. So if somebody comes along and asks a question ‘Do variable speed limits work?’ The next thing they find it will not be easy to answer not knowing that they operate in two different systems. Then, in the process of bringing the data together, you find that the data is measured in different units or the speed limits are on roadway mile markers and the highway speed data is referenced in some other way making them difficult to compare from a data perspective.”
Good data is open data with cities setting their own needs based local agenda
Integral to the notion of a shared data repository is accessible open data, a concept embraced in many cities including LA, Barcelona and New York. Many cities are opening their data to both businesses, universities, and citizens to enable them to gain in-depth insight into the lived reality of the city. Every guy who wants to build an app like that if they have to go build their own data systems it is going to take longer.”
Ultimately, Kivestu believes that each city needs to determine what data is most fundamental to the life of their city.
“It may be sustainability, greenhouse gases, the best way to distribute electric vehicle charging stations or what should be built and where. The growth of electric vehicles means that it makes sense for car and electricity grid data to be connected.
You want to give developers the information so that they have so that they are encouraged to do the right thing. Smart cities need to make life better in the city especially with an aging population base. These problems are not going to go away.”