(Originally published in Business Voice)
By Paul Kent
Picture a scene where variable wind and speed force, recent rainfall, barometric pressure, tidal and storm surge data about the harbour was collected in advance of a weather system so city officials could accurately predict which emergency resources would be needed, when and where.
Think about the possibilities of collecting real-time data across our often disconnected assortment of systems — water, energy, transportation, public safety — and enabling them to interact for a healthy and sustainable economy and happy and healthy people.
This is not a fantasy.
City officials all over the globe are tapping into the vast amount of existing data in their communities to make decisions based on facts, trends and real-time information to create and deliver value to their citizens. Accessing this data means a city’s unique challenges can be specifically addressed comprehensively and quickly to benefit its citizens and businesses.
John is IBMCanada’s National Executive responsible for the strategy and execution of IBM’s Smarter Cities Global Initiative. His focus is helping municipal and other public sector organizations improve and transform services to enable cities to become more intelligent and respond to their citizens’ ever-increasing expectations.
As the world becomes increasingly “instrumented”, John helps cities by leveraging and linking the growing availability of data, and by using advanced analytics, to help cities see what they have and how they can work with it more efficiently and effectively.
Remember the crime scenario mentioned above?
In 2005, the Memphis Police Department partnered with the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis. Together they created a predictive analytics system to chart and analyze crime patterns. One data mapping pattern revealed that a high percentage of sexual assaults committed at night were correlated with the presence of payphones outside of convenience stores. To reduce the opportunity for this crime, they moved the payphones inside. This action, combined with many others using analytics over the past eight years, has resulted in a drop in serious crime by 30 percent and violent crime by 15 percent.
In Galway, Ireland, officials started collecting data about the sea and coastal zone using their buoys. They gather information about the weather, sea conditions and water quality. They share this information to manage the operations and marketing of the fisheries. It has helped them develop innovative, knowledge-based products and to put the right resources in place to protect the marine environment.
The ultimate goal for cities using data system collaboration is to create efficiency, because efficiency eases the strain on a city’s budget and frees up time and resources to facilitate economic development and drive prosperity.
What is the first step for Halifax in the journey towards becoming a “smarter city”?
You may be surprised to find it is not more technology. The first step we must take is in changing our mindset.
John characterized this next opportunity and revolution as “a profound shift in thinking and a break from the past.”
At the Partnership, we want to stir up our collective will to see things from a new perspective. Let’s encourage one another to be open to what it will take to reshape and grow our municipality in a sustainable, intelligent, and collaborative way. Let’s use the vast amount of data available in our systems, our expert partners — and from our citizens — to create a smarter city.