Our City Clients Get Smart Thinking. Do you?

‘Smart Cities’ is no longer a term used by smart people, instead it is reality and it is happening all over the world. In fact, one of our clients, Bouygues Energies and Services, is one company at the forefront of developing it. 

How great is that? Here we are, one of the big Big Data companies, always looking at how social data can make this world a faster, smarter place – and we end up working with a global company that’s utilising data, social data and the IoT (Internet of Things) to make things smarter, faster, more economical and ultimately – well, better cities.

At Coup everything we do is driven by social data. Social data can contain a wealth of information about the writer’s emotional state and by listening to it, cities can utilise that information to improve livability, to judge the effectiveness of programs, and deploy emergency relief the moment disaster strikes. It is easy to see that social data is the pulse of a community.

Today, only 2% of the planet’s population occupies our cities but by 2050, they’ll host 70% of the world population and will account for 80% of CO2 emissions. Therefore it is time that cities take up a challenge of reconciling urban growth and quality of life to emerge as modern and sustainable. 

According to some stats thrown out there by Forbes this week, it’s thought that in five years time we will be spending $400 billion a year building them – but until now, many people were oblivious to their existence, let alone the amount of money being spent on developing – or re-developing them.

We have already blogged about The Internet of Things, a chance to make technology and ‘things’ work for us by using data, studying and storing function records and assisting us with our every day lives. Well, Smart Cities take all of that knowledge, all of that infinite possibility and make it work for the greater good – reducing traffic pollution, speeding up road systems, and reducing energy consumption. 

Companies like our client Bouygues Energies and Services are working with civil authorities to do just that; on the development of intelligent street lighting and civic building lighting that will switch off when there’s no one around and with many of the UK’s largest Universities to create smart campuses – mini smart-towns within a city.

Working on data-driven systems for transport that can identify where the traffic needs to be funneled and crucially where not, on waste management andrecycling systems, law enforcement and pedestrian ease.

Bernard Marr from Forbes said; “The model most commonly adopted so far is to attract businesses which develop software and hardware applications for the Internet of Things, and encourage them to put their ingenuity to use to smarten the surrounding areas. Public money is often put up as an incentive to do so – an example is Glasgow, Scotland, the government has offered £24 million for technology, which will make the city “smarter, safer and more sustainable”.”

The Bouygues Smart Lights scheme for Westminster City Council involved the installation of dimmable electronic ballasts and communicating nodes into each lantern that then links into a central management system that allows for lighting levels to be adjusted remotely and reports on the performance of each lighting unit. For the council this meant Potential energy savings of up to 50% with improved lighting performance information, long-term maintenance savings, flexibility to adjust lighting level and increased lamp life.

But as we have said, social media also hugely influences smart city technology. The Spanish city of Santander has a huge amount of sensors installed under the asphalt, fixed to street lamps, city buses, buildings, and rubbish bins which measure levels of pollution, noise, humidity, light, and traffic, and allows residents to have up-to-the-minute information straight to their smart phone on road closures, parking availability, bus delays, as well as aspects such as pollen count. The information is accessed through street signs equipped with digital panels. More than this though, they can use the app to report accidents, potholes or broken streetlights directly to city hall. They can also share, vote, and comment on ideas with input being rewarded with incentives and prizes. 

Jesse Berst, the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, said in an article in Wired: “With more than a half-billion tweets sent each day, Twitter is a tremendous source of audience research. But while the volume of messages provides great depth, it also poses a challenge. Who has time to go through the tweets? How do you ensure that all the relevant tweets are counted and accurately categorized? And by the time you finish going through the tweets, are the results still valid?”
“Data analysis tools are already making great strides in this area. For example, IBM has combined natural language capabilities with its data analysis platform to transform online conversations into real-time, instant polls. BehaviorMatrix is trying to get even further into people’s minds by developing tools to quantify actual emotions, like trust, joy and fear. It can already detect more than 50 emotions.”

If our clients like Bouygues Energies and Services are working across Europe on developing smart cities, and our Social and Digital Agency Coup Media is looking at developing more and more tools to listen and track and analyse the conversations, commentary and emotions of a city – what’s next?