Monday, April 29, 2013

Using Big Data to as a Solution for Cities

Over the past several years, big data has become more main stream: proliferating businesses, education, the tech sector, as well as the government. Big data can add value not only in predictive behavior of a group of people, but also through identifying and locating problems. Starting with the mapping of the 1854 cholera outbreak of London, data visualization has become a key part of problem solving in our world.

In a city of just over eight million people, data collection can be found in just about any place. From collecting information from parking meters,  to tracking pedistrians on the streets at night, to identifying a zip code with highest call frequency. These seemingly unimportant metrics can be aggregated to generate meaningful information about residents, crime, infrastructure, and utility useage. This information can be used for city improvement as well as future development and planning.

New York City has taken a unique approach to implementing big data in conjuction with their crime fighting. In an unconventional twist, the New York City Department of Environemental Protection, in conjunction with the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, identified areas where cooking oil was being illegally disposed. By idetentifying areas where pipe clogs had occurring, and cross checking those locations to businesses which utilize a carting service to dispose of grease, they were able to crack down on this harmful business practice and track down approximately 95% of violators.

Although this example may seem trivial, it’s impact on the future of the power of data must not be missed. If cities implement successful data collection and analyst departments, manpower can be preserved, resources can be protected, and services to citizens can be improved. By targeting key problems, such as parking limitations, emergency service shortage, or high utility consumption, city leaders can offer a more comfortable and safe environment for residents. This might also one day attract businesses to the area, improving the local economy all because of successful implementation of big data in a city.


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