In the 80s and 90s, we envisioned future cities to be built on new technology. Flying cars, mile high farms, with renewable energy production happening everywhere. However, the Jetsonesque vision of the future has not been realized, at least not yet.

But don’t miss this next part.

The cities of the future are being built, just not on technology. Rather, they are taking a completely different form – one shaped by big data.

According to Forbes, IBM and Cisco are some of the tech giants leading the charge. They are developing “data-driven systems for transport, waste management, law enforcement, and energy use…” to increase efficiency and, ultimately, better the quality of life for city dwellers.

The article explains how Glasglow, Scotland will be able to use footfall traffic data, motion sensing streetlights, along with many other data sources, to monitor crime.

That’s just one of many incredibly creative applications of big data in the urban environment.

In Rio De Janeiro, government officials are now using big data to share emergency information across 30 different agencies. Never before have the people of Rio been so well equipped to deal with emergency situations, especially flash floods and heavy rains that are all too common in that part of the world.

Take an urban metro train system, for example. To figure out which resources to allocate to which train lines, the metro must take tedious measurements on human transit at a massive level.

It can take months or even years.

With big data sets, the information can be understood, presented, and acted upon instantly. If footfall sensors detect a lot of people moving in a certain direction, the metro system can adapt instantly by sending more trains to that area.

By analyzing how many people’s metro cards don’t work in certain locations, the city can understand where heavy populations of “non users”, or tourists are utilizing the system (because they are less likely to understand how to use the cards).

In turn, they can allocate more educational and human resources to those areas.

This is not a theoretical example.

London’s University College is carrying out an experiment just like this.

There are many examples worth discussing but we will finish with one that is going to save Carnegie Mellon over $2 million a year.

IBM recently partnered with the university to lower utility costs in their 36 buildings. According to IBM, “More than a hundred years of infrastructure can all be managed through a single system.”

If IBM can successfully build this system for a large university, could they do it for an entire city? How much money would that save?

Only time will tell.

At the intersection of smarter cities and big data, there exists a plethora of possibilities. The world is just starting to understand how powerful big data can be, and soon we will start to feel its effects (even if we don’t realize it).

Unfortunately, big data is a very complex idea and many change makers in government and big businesses aren’t sure how to approach it. They aren’t sure what it means for them.

Here at Annexa, we pride ourselves on staying current with all of big data’s trends, including every new use. Our consultants work with businesses and governments across many different agencies and industries to develop large scale solutions through the use of big data.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with an Annexa consultant today.

Photo by: Aurelien Guichard