When it comes to improving the lives of citizens in areas as varied as housing, transport and health, Smart Cities are at the top of the agenda. However, the organisations aiming to support Smart Cities development and growth are in danger of being left behind. Unless they implement the right kinds of technology platforms, they won’t be able to unlock the potential of the Smart Cities data, which may be limitless in scope and scale.
Making smarter decisions with data
The key to unlocking insights from data is analytics. It is not enough to track and store information, organisations need to be able to work with data to target specific objectives and keep track of progress towards them. Smart Cities work to monitor information on a vast scale and then use the information to take action. In transport, for example, all kinds of sensors may be embedded into public and private vehicles, or roads and train lines. If those working in the sector can quickly intervene once the information is telling them something, they can more easily help solve problems, such as shortening journey times by re-routing from crowded areas.
Public sector organisations, be they in health, care, transport, education or many other areas, must therefore look to implement platforms that deliver the right kind of insights from data analytics.
For example, it could mean structuring Enterprise Resource Management platforms to provide a single-view of data, allowing for quick identification of problem areas before they impact on project delivery. That said, this kind of approach is only the start.
Public sector bodies and their private sector partners will need to have an open mind-set when it comes to Smart Cities. Uber’s recent decision to anonymise and release transport data highlights the openness of approach that will support the growth and evolution of Smart Cities. Designing approaches that integrate with other organisations involved in projects will also be important. For example, health organisations will benefit from Smart Cities data on transport and the environment to provide solutions that take into account varied factors driving health issues such as diet, pollution and exercise.
Smart Cities could then target polluted hot spots with healthcare initiatives, as well as recommending increased provision of electric or petrol hybrid buses at the expense of diesel vehicles.
Smart Cities and digital adoption
Successful Smart Cities will therefore rely on industries adapting to new modes of working. However, high expectations should be tempered by the current challenges to technology adoption in key sectors. Construction is integral to the growth, expansion and development of cities and is playing catch-up in the implementation of its own digital revolution. Until recently the sector was held back due to a disconnect between the digital revolution’s possibilities and day-to-day building activities which can often be far removed from technology.
To provide new impetus to digital adoption, new government standards are being phased in that aim to increase collaboration between construction project partners, mandating they share data to reduce waste and inefficiency. The technology platforms required will encompass a range of different data sets, such as lengthy and detailed inventories of site materials, curating the information or data so that it is relevant to all stakeholders when they need to access it. This could include architects, construction companies, sub-contractors and so on.
If this approach is successfully adopted across the construction sector, it provides a blueprint for other sectors as they seek to improve collaboration and data sharing.
This approach to accessing data has exciting potential applications. For example, large and varied data sets can be analysed quickly with business intelligence tools such as SAP BI Suite or Qlik Sense, and the Internet of Things can monitor thousands of items of equipment remotely, allowing resources to be monitored to reduce waste and inefficiencies.
Smart Cities faster
These developments ultimately point towards the growing importance of dynamic software platforms for both public and private sector organisations. Bigger and more complex data sets, captured by innovations like the Internet of Things and wearables, need to be turned into insights to solve problems and track performance, rather than languishing in a silo. A truly joined-up data infrastructure is the only way for organisations to track performance and implement useful data analytics programs.
Smart Cities will need public and private sector organisations to unlock data in more complex ways than ever before.
For stakeholders who are only treading water when it comes to the necessary technology platforms, the pressure is on to set a course and support the growth of Smart Cities.
Article by Mark Perkins, Consultant at CACI.
You can find out more about how business analytics can help smart cities by contacting Mark Perkins at [email protected].
To hear more about CACI and the work they are doing around Smart Cities, join us at Smart Cities and Communities: Achieving Smart Urban Growth on March 22nd at The Studio, Manchester.