IT Systems and Data Protection

25.06.18

Big Data analytics ‘critical’ to help councils keep up with changing citizen behaviour patterns

The way people are moving across a city is fundamentally and rapidly changing, but some local authorities are not moving quickly enough themselves in order to understand these different movement patterns.

Councils are therefore missing out on critical opportunities to improve their public services and urban planning by adapting to the transforming needs of citizens, whose lives no longer revolve around the traditional 9-5 job and daily commute to the city centre.

These are the findings of Citi Logik, an SME which is working with Vodafone to provide local government with a wealth of anonymised and aggregated data in order to help them understand how a given city has changed in recent years, and what services are no longer working as intended.

Importantly, the company – which last year won a grant from Innovate UK’s ‘First of a Kind’ technology competition to look at transport flows by analysing real-time data from Vodafone’s mobile network – looks at the baseline of data and compares it to the actual data in order to examine what has changed.

Stephen Leece, its managing director, told PSE: “That’s what we focus on: the change, and understanding what the changing dynamics are. Whether something is busy or not is irrelevant – it’s whether it’s fundamentally getting worse or better.”

One of the most common differences across any given city is the fact that people no longer work and play the way they used to. “People are now working in a number of locations, they’re shopping in a number of different places, and they’re spending their time fundamentally differently than five years ago. Therefore, the urban environment is no longer what you imagine it to be,” explained Leece. “What is important is to understand what that behaviour looks like, because you have to change the dynamics of the way the city is set up.”

The process of analysing anonymised data via 3G and 4G networks is entirely GDPR-compliant, but not all local authorities have started taking advantage of this capability to change the ways they plan for the future.

“If you’re going to do something better, faster and cheaper, you have to start with the better. The better is the quality. The faster is that it’s a much more non-intrusive analysis of data using existing infrastructure, which is clearly more efficient and better for society – you’re not putting large amounts of sensors on the streets or anything of that nature,” explained the MD.

“Finally, cheaper is providing something to a local authority that it would not otherwise have been able to afford. Over the last 12 months, supported by Innovate UK, we built a capability that is for public good. It’s on a subscription basis, and it’s affordable based on a price per individual within that population set.”

The company has already worked with a number of government authorities to exploit data for particular services on a project-by-project basis. For example, it recently helped a city to optimise car parking flows, which contribute to roughly 30% of congestion level in an urban area. “If the car parking is not optimised and is too close to the centre, you can create congestion just because of what you believe is actually solving the problem – i.e. car parking,” argued Leece. “That piece of work was basically to help the city understand itself.”

It is now inviting local authorities to harness its services, and Vodafone’s unparalleled wealth of data, on a continual basis in order to benefit the whole spectrum of the public service landscape – including planning, health, transport and environmentalism.

To discuss these issues and find out how you can learn more about smart city technology, join Vodafone and Citi Logik at a live webinar on 9 July. To register, click here.

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