Digging for Data – How Smart Cities are Built

Long before the first vehicles hit the roads, families start to collect keys to their brand- new apartments, and customers spend their first salaries at shopping malls, something else has to happen. Building cities is a lengthy process, that involves a lot of careful planning. On the surface, it might look like it has remained unchanged for centuries – new developments are being created, public organisations and companies settle down, and mayors are shaking hands with construction companies to build transportation facilities and systems to connect them.

However, looking at the changes brought to the biggest cities such as Singapore, Seoul, and London in the past few years, a lot has been going underneath, not only to make these cities bigger, but also to make them smarter. And it doesn’t end with an additional tube service.

Smart city

It is estimated that by the 2050 two-thirds of the population will live in the cities. But mere expansion is not always a solution to the challenges that these cities have been facing for decades such as air pollution, vehicles bringing streets to a standstill, or expensive and scarce housing. New approaches to planning and operational tactics that will fundamentally transform cities’ livability are needed.

“Smart cities” is an umbrella term that tries to capture initiatives of mayors, businesses and other officials striving to make the urbanisation faster, efficient, and human – friendly. Whether is giving smoke alarms to the households, installing smart cameras measuring how many passengers are boarding trains in the peak time, or using AI for development planning, it all counts as making the cities more intelligent.

But, according to Telehouse, a collocation service provider in London that recently has published a whitepaper titled “A tale of 3 smart cities”, although the technology is here for us to use, the transition will never be an overnight success, if the superior level of connectivity is not facilitated simultaneously. Here is a look at how the data revolution and ICT can boost city infrastructure, and how it might affect the life of ordinary citizens.

Datafication in urbanisation

Computer – city sensors like those in trains and on train tracks in Seoul underground system are like fitbits or health apps people are using to monitor their health, but instead of helping to manage illness-related symptoms, they are used to track city’s vital signs. In a similar manner, information flows through TfL that for years has been gathering entry and exit data for network and traffic planning, from the Oyster touchpoints. In both cases, the end goal is to prevent costly breakdowns and provide better, more efficient service to commuters.

But the public transport providers are not alone in embracing the modern practice of civic analytics. Prompted by its success, mayors and city officials across the world are eagerly collecting and processing the information they have at their disposal to both, tackle existing and prevent potential urban life problems. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Public Health in Chicago relies on algorithmic tools created by the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology to flag out establishments that are likely to violate health and food and safety standards.

Accessing city GPS

Both ubiquity of sensors and large data sets are critical to the enablement of smart cities. With the predicted increase IoT devices and sensors, collecting, sharing and crunching data on a large scale to improve livability, workability, and sustainability of cities, is no longer a dream of tomorrow. But city leaders need to react not to miss that opportunity. And their reactions must be smart too.

A lot will depend on integration process itself. Over the last two decades, a large number of highly – connected data centers have emerged, but still, a lot has to be done in order to determine how the technological connectivity will work most effectively. Smart city planners will need to have access to information to help them to understand what type of data, each department and aspect of the city can provide, and requires, in order to determine where connections should be established.


If smart cities are to become reality, telecom providers, and global network operators also have to get involved, to serve the technological requirements of smart cities, such as 5G network, and secure, scalable and highly – connected data centers. Without a new, multi-layered telecommunication infrastructure, business, organization and governmental entities wouldn’t be able to exchange data seamlessly, that might result in hampering the process of cities” smartification”.