Data management’s role in the future of smart cities

Improving the connectivity within British cities is not just an abstract pursuit driven by an obligation to follow a larger trend of digitisation. Building smarter cities has tangible benefits for residents and businesses alike.

By integrating data from organisations across the private, public and non-profit sectors, we can collectively build solutions that improve the reality of living the city life; from optimising public transport routes to creating incentives for people to recycle by tracking citizens’ litter habits.

>See also: What are the most advanced smart cities in the world?

Currently, the UK is struggling to create truly smart cities. Effectively integrating physical, digital and human systems in a built environment is a difficult task, and one which requires robust data management and analysis. Without this, cities around the country will continue the uphill battle to interconnect information and deliver a sustainable, prosperous and efficient living environment for their residents.

The data challenge

Creating a smart city depends on how well organisations can share and analyse the vast amount of data being generated by new technologies. Without the ability to share vital information in real time, businesses operating both in the private and public sector can’t develop the applications that support automation, nor the software solutions that form the ‘smart’ capabilities of a city and its infrastructure.

What’s more, deriving value from data is central to the evolution of smart cities, and delving into bigger-picture information is key to generating insights into how tech systems are performing. From this, organisations can understand where there can be efficiencies gained and where data can be used to drive the development of smart infrastructure.

>See also: What are the best smart city projects

The good news is that there are a host of solutions that organisations can employ to share and analyse data. In fact, London’s newest chief digital officer (CDO) has undertaken an open consultation to gain insights from technology experts about how best to advance the capital’s standing as a smart city and the types of IT that could form the roadmap of success.

To put smart city strategies into practice, here are key pieces of technology that every public and public organisation should be using:

Building the digital infrastructure

The first port of call for IT decision-makers should be two key tech solutions, which form the backbone of data management and analysis.

1) APIs

Sharing data unlocks efficiency and open APIs are the best way to do it. Making your consumers’ data available to other organisations allows for the development of tech solutions that can address gaps in the market and bring benefits to all involved. For example, take Citymapper – the app brings together data from a host of different sources to provide a user-friendly service for people traveling around a city. Other apps such as Dojo, a restaurant finding service, have partnered with Citymapper so users can discover restaurants and simultaneously plan the easiest route. These complementary partnerships are the foundation for any smart city and it is open APIs that make them possible.

>See also: Five IT capabilities to transport smart cities in 2018 

2) Business intelligence

The rapid expansion of IoT means businesses and society will soon be overwhelmed with internet-enabled devices, from everyday appliances like lighting and conditioning in offices to more complex systems such as smart energy grids. These devices will be generating vast amounts of data; IDC predicts the amount of data in the world will hit 163 zettabytes by 2025, which would be a huge increase from the 4.4 zettabytes in 2013.

Whether you are running a business or a public body, you will need to gather, collate, and present this data in a legible way to have a hope of using it to build smart city solutions. Many organisations are failing to make the most of the data they have access to now, let alone what they will have as technologies proliferate. Over the pond, IDC found that only a third of state and local government bodies agree that their data is currently ‘actionable’.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s masterplan

This highlights the need for business intelligence software to help sift through data, make sense of it, and generate valuable business insights. There is no use investing in state-of-the-art technologies if the application is directionless; data is the key to giving organisations the knowledge they need to direct their investments wisely.

Supporting the growth of smart cities is fundamental if we are to cope with future demands from citizens and organisations. With the success of this depending largely on the effective use of data, whether you are a decision-maker in local government or in a large business, it’s time for you to invest in the necessary technology to ensure your data management strategy is a top priority.


Sourced by Guy Tweedale, Regional VP, Rocket Software

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...