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Smart Cities: When 1 + 1 = 3, the value of data analytics

In Episode 21 of the Blue Door Podcast we look at the topic of Smart Cities. I met up online with Geoff Wappett, head of O2 Motion, who has been speaking with councils, businesses and other organisations to understand the benefits of Smart Cities – expediting movements of vehicles, people and things, sustainability and environmental opportunities and much, much more.


So how can Smart Cities help make better decisions for people, places and technology?


Listen to the Blue Door Podcast, Episode 21: ‘Smart Cities: When 1 + 1 = 3, the value of data analytics’


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I started by asking Geoff about the role of data, and the insights it can provide in specific Smart City use cases. He believes that there are opportunities for data to deliver a series of quick wins for city planners, and suggested potholes as a simple and accessible example.


As a keen cyclist, potholes are the bane of Geoff’s daily routine, and cause damage to cars costing millions of pounds annually for insurance providers. Combining a number of data sources can help alleviate the problem, however. For example, O2 Motion’s aggregated and anonymised mobile use data can help us to understand the flow and movement of people and traffic across the UK. So we know the sorts of journeys people are making, and how busy certain roads are compared with other roads. That can help planners prioritise maintenance for the most used roads.


Data like this can be supported with IoT devices on fleet vehicles, for example, that that can actually detect the smoothness or the roughness of the road surface quality. Combine the two layers of data, and pothole repairs can be automatically identified and then repairs scheduled according to genuine priority, rather than in response to individual complaints by local residents.


Although O2 Motion data is aggregated and anonymised in line with GDPR and privacy guidelines, it is nevertheless enabling almost real time insights that can support efficiencies for councils, businesses and citizens alike. And it’s so much more cost effective and actionable than the data collected from roadside surveys and questionnaires. Apart from being near real time, the data is also being collected 24/7, and can distinguish effectively between pedestrian, bicycle, car and goods vehicle journeys.


The benefits for the Smart City are numerous and varied. Air quality can be monitored and improved through efficient routing of different types of traffic. Retailers can use footfall data to identify optimum locations for stores, signage and advertising. Councils can schedule refuse collection and cleaning according to need, rather than at the same day and time each week.


However valuable the data, it’s important to recognise that it’s only one link in the chain. O2 Motion alone captures between 10 and 12 billion network events each day, and so the Smart City planners of the future will need to be highly skilled data analysts, who understand the challenges they are facing, as well as the source of the data that might address them. At O2, for example, we’re constantly building up use cases that can help educate new and existing clients about how to get the best out of the data available.


Geoff and I continued our discussion about the data that will underpin the planning and infrastructure of tomorrow’s Smart City, including:

  • The skills required of the analysts of the data collected
  • More Smart City use cases for population movement data, and data collected by IoT sensors
  • How data can support retailers with the regeneration of the high street
  • How the insights from collected data has the potential to improve council services, reduce cost and improve efficiency.


You can listen to the full discussion by streaming, downloading or subscribing to the podcast here Link.


If you’re excited by the possibilities of the Smart City you might want to watch a panel discussion on the subject from our Blue Door Expo. You can watch it on our YouTube channel here.


And we included highlights from the discussion in Episode 12 of the Blue Door Podcast, which you can access here.


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