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Smart City generates a lot of data. It's a Big Data case.

mgarrigap's picture
Submitted by mgarrigap on Tue, 2012-04-17 20:59

Several european cities do a new management approach: it's called "Smart City".

At the end of 2009 more people lived in cities than in rural areas for the first time, and the trend is for the urban population to keep growing (

So, we need to manage cities more and better, we need creativity, innovation, ideas to break the mould of urban management today.

A Smart City is a new way to manage cities.

There are a lot of Smart City definitions, Wikipedia explains ( “A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance.”

I prefer to define a Smart City as a city that has a lot of sensors across the city. These sensors generate a lot of data in order to manage the city.

This is in theory, but, in the real world, with these sensors the cities will have a huge data quantity.

This is a "classic" BigData case.

How do you manage these data?
What do you do with them?
Can we earn money with them?

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7 users have voted.


paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Wed, 2012-04-18 20:46

I've always tended to assume that a Smart City (whether the IBM kind, or anyone else's) benefits to some degree from an over-arching plan of some sort. Water sensors, traffic sensors, pollution sensors, public transit sensors etc, all playing by the same rules, and all driving toward a shared set of goals. Those goals, typically, are well aligned to the priorities of the city administration.

But, thinking about it, that's perhaps a flawed assumption on my part? A *private* power company can deploy, monitor, and respond to a network of power sensors. Little - or none - of the data may be shared with the public, the city administration, or anyone else. But it's still a big data problem, and if it leads to efficiency in the management of the city's power utilisation, then it's still a Smart City issue, right?

So... to extend Marc's question a little...

what are the advantages and disadvantages of centrally directed (probably by the city administration) versus fragmented (probably a mix of commercial and public projects) Smart City efforts?

Is one likely to be cheaper? Is one likely to be better? Is one more likely to be delivered? How important is open availability of the data?

I might, philosophically, prefer open data-based Smart City programmes that are intended primarily to deliver social impact... but I can't help wondering if the *real* cost-savings and tangible impacts might be just as likely (or more likely?) to arise from a set of wholly unconnected commercial efforts to better manage their own assets...

Is the city administration the driver of the Smart City, an important partner in delivery of the Smart City, or simply an actor that should do everything possible *not* to get in the way?

1 user has voted.

mgarrigap's picture
Submitted by mgarrigap on Sat, 2012-04-21 16:34

Thanks Paul, you explain it better than me :)

I want to say you my answers to your questions:

I think the extremes aren't good, so totally centralized is bad option because it has a bottleneck (probably the city administration).

But, if it has totally fragmented is, also, bad, given that it generates a lot of little services that are disjointed and incoherent between them.

I think the best option is a mix: a centralized SmartCity initiative but with innovative and specific "free" fragmented initiatives.

At the other hand, the best option (in my opinion) is to open data, I think that a government must open all its data (except this kind of data that is secret, personal data, etc).

There a lot of reasons to open data, the first is an ethical reason: every data generated by public funds must be open to all society.

In addition, if you open data to society then private companies can do services from them.

I have experience in this case: the companies want a specific kind of data, they want dynamic data, so, governments must open their dynamic data.

The Smart City paradigm generates a lot of data, it generates a lot of dynamic data.

So, if governments want that companies reuse their open data, then they must open smart city data.

I think it's clear :)

The problem is how open a very huge data, technicaly is not easy.

0 users have voted.

JochenHummel's picture
Submitted by JochenHummel on Thu, 2012-04-19 14:43

A good way of visualizing City data are 3D models. I co-funded a company which automatically generated a realistic, true to scale 3D model of cities leverage mapping data used normally for car navigation. Like in Second Life people could explore and interact with the virtual city. We used it rather for socalizing, but I think its a great way of storing, updating, and visualizing city data.

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Gianluigi Cuccureddu's picture
Submitted by Gianluigi Cuccureddu on Fri, 2012-04-20 11:01

I suggest an Open Data approach, a collaborative approach together with citizens. Bottom-up.

@Paul: centrally directed can be achieved by crowdsourcing, defining issue etc and asking for citizens/stakeholders to contribute.

Decentrally is to co-create with a team of experts or interested people to co-define the most prominent issues and solve it with open data.

Engagement and involved are key and will boost interest and well-being of a city amongst its people.

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paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Sun, 2012-04-22 17:25


Good point, thanks. One possible issue with placing too much emphasis on crowdsourcing in the context of public policy is that the contributors probably represent a self-selecting, small, and vocal minority.

By taking steps that *appear* open and inclusive, we may actually be *narrowing* the pool of contributors to policy making. It would be interesting to see figures (if anyone has them) on the breadth of engagement with each of these different approaches.

Of course, potential bias or skewing of results should not be used as an excuse *not* to invite more crowd-sourced engagement. Instead, we just need to ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are in place to prevent bad decisions being rammed through by a baying (but small) crowd which may be looking at an issue in the short term.

1 user has voted.

mgarrigap's picture
Submitted by mgarrigap on Sun, 2012-04-22 17:51

Yes, I think the potential skewing is, in fact, real skewing.

Nowadays not all european citizens are digital citizens, and not all digital european citizens are involved to improve our Digital Agenda.

But this is not an excuse to don't hear these ideas, suggestions, reviews.

So, we need to listen them and, at the same time, we must to make them relative.

0 users have voted.

miguel.gonzalez-sancho-bodero's picture
Submitted by miguel.gonzalez... on Fri, 2012-04-20 22:42

I guess you need a combination of the two: 1) some sort of overall designing or planning, or at least some form of control and intervention; 2) bottom-up feedback from different sources, ranging from direct user (citizen) involvement to all sorts of sensors placed in the city environment.

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paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Sun, 2012-04-22 17:30

Yes, I suspect you are correct.

And (probably?) with a balance that shifts over several years from mostly controlled toward mostly bottom-up, as we become more comfortable with the checks and balances in the system...

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mgarrigap's picture
Submitted by mgarrigap on Sun, 2012-04-22 18:02

Yes, the key is that Governments lose their afraid of to trust in their citizenship and in their business sector in order to do, all together, the policies of society.

The Governments must do policies with society, not only for society.

0 users have voted.

Olcoz's picture
Submitted by Olcoz on Wed, 2012-06-06 19:31

We are finishing a decree project to enable openness and reuse of applications developed for Basque Government's Public Sector (If you would like to know a little bit more about it you can check the opinion published at Free Software Foundation Blog, for example, We plan to publish or release these Open Applications (Open Apps) into Public Domain following Open Data mechanisms. To do so we are working on identifying needed Metadata and we have started from standardization proposals currently under development at IEEE and JoinUP.
I am planning to attend next Digital Agenda Assembly and I would like to have the opportunity to introduce the approach of this Decree for Openness and Reuse of Applications and the advantages it will create for Public and Private Sectors.
I would also like to share preliminary thoughts/ideas about how to manage the resulting big amount of information that will appear as soon as Opan Apps will be realeased into the Public Directory and how to manage such a Big Data in order to improve their reusability and their influence in order to start also thinking of a Design for Reuse mathodology to be applied on it in a neas future.

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