Building the data foundations for smart cities

Building the data foundations for smart cities

Building the data foundations for smart cities

Smart cities will start to become a reality in the near future, but it is essential to develop and utilise emerging technologies so that this significant change will be made in a sustainable way

The development of smart cities is going to become hugely important in the coming years as urbanisation puts increased pressure on the infrastructure and services of cities around the world.

The United Nations predicts that by 2050, around 70% of the world's population will be concentrated in urban areas, compared with 54% in 2014.

As a result, city authorities will need to take significant steps to address population growth, safety, traffic, pollution, commerce, culture, and economic growth. Emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, sensors and analytics, are going to be crucial in helping urban environments and their growing populations develop in a sustainable way, by allocating resources as effectively and efficiently as possible. It’s already becoming clear that the development of smart cities isn’t just a luxury but something that will be crucial to the viability and success of increased urbanisation.

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As smart cities become a reality, it will be important to have technology in place to support the new services and evolving needs. A Question of Scale An effective smart city will measure as many aspects of the urban environment as possible, generating a huge volume of data from a plethora of sources as a result.

>See also: 5 ways to ensure the success of smart city projects Typically, a smart city will have sensors on street furniture that measure environmental variables such as temperature, seismic activity, humidity, and pollen and pollution levels. By measuring these factors, the city’s infrastructure can respond to alleviate the impact of problematic developments, potentially without human intervention.

For example, the impact of traffic congestion on pollution levels could be used in a system that directs drivers to alternative routes to lessen the concentration of pollution. In a typical smart city, it has been estimated that each bus stop and lamp-post will hold an average of eight sensors.

With around 250,000 connected objects in a typical urban environment, this adds up to two million sensors, all producing real-time data that needs to be processed and distilled into what is most relevant. Dubai provides a great illustration of the volume of data that smart cities are expected to produce.

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As part of government-backed efforts to become a smart city, the Emirate is launching smart initiatives across infrastructure, transport, communications, financial services, urban planning and electricity. Nearly 1,000 smart services have been mandated to go live by 2017, including the deployment of 200,000 smart meters in 2016, expanding to one million by 2020.

The amount of data generated and required by these services is vast. The sheer capacity of the latest data storage systems when used in conjunction with scale-out solutions, such as EMC’s isilon and elastic cloud storage (ECS), will enable cities to develop a full range of data-driven services to address the challenges presented by increased urbanisation.

>See also: How will security attitudes change in the era of the smart city? But for a city to be truly smart, its systems must be able to access and process vast amounts of data. This is where data lakes will prove crucial, as they aggregate huge volumes of data of different types and formats and ensure it can be readily accessible by advanced analytics tools.

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