Connected cities in Australia are in their infancy and we are still learning what all of this might mean for us. One of the most effective ways to quality check our data is to put it to the ‘people’ test. Giving the general public access to data is a time and cost-effective way to scrutinise data. It allows communities to decide whether data is sufficiently accessible, accurate and usable.
A number of city councils have released their data to the community, regardless of concerns around quality. These councils are now actively working to refine how and where they collect information, with many updating their data acquisition infrastructure based on the feedback received.
This is crowd-sourced data auditing at its very best. Once we understand the quality of our data, how we collect it, and how it can be used to meaningfully improve the quality of life in our cities, we can refine how it is gathered and shared.
The ‘people’ test is a learning process. But the more accessible the data is the quicker the transition to meaningful data collection and distribution – data that will help solve city challenges and support more resilient communities.
Tapping into Meaningful Data
So what can data help us achieve? The Dunedin Study follows the lives of over 1,000 babies born in the early 1970s in a hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand.
The study is now in its fifth decade and has supported over 1,150 publications and reports, identifying links between issues like heavy alcohol use and poor reproductive health, and poor credit ratings and cardiovascular health. This empirical data continues to influence policymakers and medical professionals both here and overseas.
Imagine what we could uncover tapping into similar data at a city, state or national level? We could learn more about how we interact with each other and with our cities – how we live, travel, relax and socialise, and track how this changes over time.
Understanding our relationship with the urban environment, and our interaction as communities, is an imperative. According to a 2014 World Bank report, cities are predicted to hold more than two thirds of the global population by 2050.
In Australia, urbanisation is expected to be even more pronounced. The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development predicts that by 2061, 80% of Australia’s population will be living in cities.
If we’re to better respond to our needs, meaningful data is essential to planning, building and operating our cities. So how do we decipher all this data and analyse it usefully? It’s no easy task.
Einstein once said that the definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple. With this in mind, the real question for smart cities is how do we isolate quality data sets and correlate them in a meaningful way to solve our city challenges?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one area beginning to support us in this quest. It will have a significant impact on data analytics and the speed with which we can intelligently assess and correlate data.
We are at an early stage in our data-rich evolution. There will be growing pains, but there is no question that these are exciting times.