In the second post of our series about how people everywhere can use data and tools to make the world a better place, we told you about the potential of big data to advance important social goals in areas such as disease surveillance, student curricula, and microcredit. Today, we’re going to focus on the ways in which the consumerization of data can help us live better, more productive lives.
Bloomberg recently published an article that cites numerous examples of cities around the world that have embarked upon so-called “smart city projects.” For example, urban areas from Memphis to Rio de Janeiro are using data and analytics to help lead progress against crime, pollution, and congestion. In fact, cities worldwide are expected to invest up to $108 billion in these types of tools, according to Pike Research.
After flash floods and mudslides killed hundreds of people in 2011, Rio de Janeiro created an operations center that pulls information from 30 agencies to gain a more complete view of the city. This includes feeds from about 400 video cameras placed around the city to help improve its emergency response system and anticipate floods better.
Citizens are also making more extensive use of data tools to help contribute to quality of life improvements in their regions. For instance, cities such as New York have encouraged programmers to develop applications that can benefit their communities. In the NYC BigApps 3.0 Hackathon in November, programmer Eric Rataloff developed an app called “Can I Park Here?” that enables drivers to determine whether they’ve parked in legal parking spaces.
Meanwhile, some telecommunications companies are taking advantage of competitive opportunities while providing customers with useful applications. For example, the vulnerability of GSM network technology in mobile phone systems has made it possible for hackers to hijack phones and illegally send text messages or make calls from them. To help mobile phone users view the security of their phones, carriers such as Germany’s T-Mobile and France’s SFR offer customers the opportunity to view the performance of carriers and rate the security of their carriers.
The data set is expected to increase dramatically next year from the current 32 carriers (mostly in Europe) since the tool enables anyone to participate in gathering the data. The social nature of the application may behoove other carriers to work on improving the security of their networks and even potentially share this or similar applications with their customers.
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