Data Platforms - the 'Reality' behind the concept of 'smart cities'

By CIOReview | Friday, June 24, 2016

Governments across the world are seen investing heavily on the construction of ‘smart cities’ – an urban development vision to integrate multiple Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions to manage the assets of a city. An ideal smart city relies on technologies such as sensors, mobile computing, social media, high-speed communication networks in enhancing quality, performance and interactivity of services apart from improving communication between the administration and the residents. In that regard, data platforms play a very important role. It has the capability to drive the implementation of smart cities around the world as well as lead it towards the final stage of accomplishment.

Big Data helps in making cities ‘smart’

Big Data helps in improving efficiency across every aspect of life. As such, the data collected from social media, smartphone usage, patterns and mobile networks have become instrumental in the planning of cities, enabling a form of urban development.  Some of the areas in which they contribute towards the development of smart cities are -

• It can help reduce emissions and bring pollution down. The sensors fitted in the roads will help measure the total traffic and check the overall emissions. The data which is collected can be coordinated with the traffic police, so that traffic can be managed in a convenient way while reducing carbon emissions. 
• Parking problems can be managed better as cars with sensors can re-route to the nearest available parking lots. 
• The environment can be made cooler and greener with less energy consumption.

Key strategies in implementation: 

• To ensure proper utilization of the data generated from the data platforms, it is always wiser to have suitable and effective big data management tools in place.
• The platforms used should offer high performance computing capabilities for proper optimization of the hardware being used. With the prospect of different data-intensive applications being run, it needs to be stable and reliable.
• Data applications for smart cities require having smart networks that connect its components which includes various residents’ equipments such as cars, smart house devices, and smart phones.
• Implementation of an advanced and more sophisticated algorithm to efficiently deal with the generated data.
• The developers of data applications need to include security and privacy policies as an integral part of the design to safeguard sensitive or private information.
• Citizens should also take this as a duty to participate actively by providing information related to different issues they may encounter with smart city applications. This would enable the authorities in taking effective decisions from the collected data.
• As governments play an essential role in building a smart cities, they must also provide advanced systems to manage the collected data used by various government entities.

Challenges that needs to be addressed for using Data Platforms in ‘smart cities’

There are many challenges that need attention of the authorities before data platforms can be implemented in a smart city. As data is generated from almost all sources in a smart city it is imperative to make sure that all the data is properly managed in a structured format. Secondly, it is difficult to create a knowledge base for a smart city based on certain specific data cycle and real-time data. Thirdly, the data quality suffers from the lack of structure as data is captured and stored in distinctive databases.

Furthermore, high levels of security policies and mechanisms would be needed to protect the data against unauthorized use and malicious attacks. High cost is another such challenge that needs to be addressed when using data platforms. Finally, smart city applications need to evolve quickly as the growing volume and variety of data needs to be efficiently handled.

Instances where Data Platforms has been Employed

Songdo International Business district in South Korea is the perfect city to look at, to know how data platforms can be useful. A combined team consisting of Cisco, 3M, Posco E&C and United Technology have left no stone unturned in making it a futuristic city with all the necessary amenities. It is a city where everything is equipped with wireless sensors and microchips enabling tremendous data creation.  All parts of the city are connected with Cisco’s fibre optic broadband making all aspects of life digitally networked and linking residents to businesses and service providers in a hazzle-free way.

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is another city that is being built as a futuristic city laced with all amenities and backed by latest technological advancements. CIOs are thereby putting all their efforts and resources in controlling traffic, managing services like waste disposal, energy generation along with others through the use of sensors and centralized control systems. With the coming up of places like Songdo and Masdar, the entire world will be able to look up at them as a ‘model’ for upcoming projects.


There is hardly any doubt regarding the fact that data platforms can give th smart cities environment upward push. However, building and deploying smart city applications will require addressing aforementioned challenges. With all success factors in place and better understanding of the concepts, building a smart city will not just be possible but definitely enhance it further for better and smarter models and services.