Internet of Things and Big Data Will Change the Way We Interact with Cities

As designers, we all want to create places that benefit end users. With the help of emerging technologies, we can now embed digital working methods into the world around us. This means that we can create a public space beneficial to our daily life and use information to bring tangible benefits to people.

What is often lacking is a real understanding of the relationship between people and numbers. Using cameras and sensors connected to the city's existing infrastructure, we can collect anonymous data to track how people interact with the world around them. However, as designers, what value can these big data bring to the space we create for people? Is it about creating virtual copies? Stakeholder engagement? Accurately monitor the operation of the infrastructure?

Or should we use these insights to create an environment that meets people's needs??

Responsive City

By integrating technology into the landscape (embedding sensors and cameras into the infrastructure itself), data can be collected in a non-invasive manner to inform public spaces how to respond to citizens' needs.

A recent competition in Croydon, UK, invited designers to consider how technology could change the public sphere in this major southern London borough. A report called "unhindered" explores how technology can create streets suitable for the future. Using technical and data insight, we not only create responsive design, but also combine the specific human needs that the design responds to.

By using the infrastructure that collects passenger activity data, imagine a high-tech street that can predict when someone wants to sit on a bench and lift it off the sidewalk. It can analyze the movement of bicycles in response to their need to stop somewhere when they enter the store. At the same time, the sidewalk can be widened automatically to accommodate more pedestrians, and led crosswalk will appear during peak walking.

Although this sounds promising, it is clear that the focus is not just on building high-tech streets. This is to build a street that can meet people's needs.

Put into practice

Although the above is an imaginative concept, there are already some examples where the use of data benefits local communities. Focusing on Croydon again, we saw a platform in a project called collaboration in Croydon, which can enable data sharing between public utility companies and local governments, so as to bring new insights and efficiency in the delivery of street works.

What happened? By covering data and promoting dialogue through #connect platform, Thames Water, Southern Gas Network and Croydon Committee worked together in only one street workplace, which brought benefits of £ 680000 and reduced interruption time by nearly 100 days.

Looking ahead

By embedding data collection into the current infrastructure, we can ensure that cities are ready for future needs and put flexibility and adaptability at the center. A good example can be found in the field of transportation.

Sensors can be installed at the edge of the road to monitor the way people interact with the road network, from the speed of drivers on some roads and the movement of cyclists to the non obvious but frequent intersection of pedestrians.

Once these data are collected, we can consider the design of driverless vehicles and the way others use the shared road network.

In a word, using big data is to find solutions for people and actively affect people's way of travel and experience the city. We are not only creating places, but also shaping the way data and digital tools can improve our places of life.

Internet of Things and Big Data Will Change the Way We Interact with Cities 1

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