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VISUALIZING BIG DATA FOR BIG CITIES – A TASK EASIER SAID THAN DONE!
30/11/2017

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The Need of Smart Cities for a Sustainable Future 

50% of the global population lives in cities, and it is growing by 2% every year (Source: Worldbank). Large cities are struggling today to generate sustainable economic opportunities for their citizens, meet their infrastructural needs, and, most importantly, provide public safety to them.

Local governments are looking at digital technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT) and green energy to build smart cities for overcoming these challenges. They are installing sensors in their urban systems such as transport, law enforcing agencies, and utilities to connect them and let them talk to each other to solve urban miseries.

For example, in cities, people create 30% of traffic while looking for a parking space. An integrated urban information system available for citizens to use it on their mobile phone can quickly solve this problem. Cities use 70% of the world’s energy; 20% of usage is lighting. Cities can use LED lighting with an algorithm to manage it efficiently to cut energy consumption by 50% to 75% (Source: The Big Benefits Of Smart Cities – Cetusnews).

The opportunities are unlimited for governing a city in a better way and saving millions of dollars for building a new future.

However, sometimes, evolving smart cities fail to meet people’s expectations. There are still leakages in water pipes, terrorists yet attack innocent people, and streets still get congested with a rising number of vehicles, that too, in megacities such as New York and London. Critics call smart cities a digital chaos, not a solution, where authorities make use of cameras and sensors monitoring them every nook and corner of their cities and compromising their privacy without making any significant impact in their lives.

These failures, say terrorist attacks, are sometimes too advanced for current technologies to predict, but most of the times, the letdowns are just missed opportunities to use the power of data. Smart cities are built on data. Connecting the systems and storing data is one part and generating actionable insights from the data is another part.

For smart cities, becoming a chaotic proposition from a futuristic solution depends on how intuitively stakeholders find a pattern and how quickly understand insights to make faster decisions to solve people’s agonies.

Can we let failures to make sense out of data become a curse for smart cities?

Data Visualization Challenges 

Unfortunately, city administrators cannot use much the of data generated by connected devices due to inherent complexities in the data and the lack of a centralized repository based on a sound data governance framework. Moreover, the data that gets analyzed is not of much use as its visualization and rigidity often bewilders stakeholders and ultimately, they get so scared of these systems that they stop using them. The data-driven decision making for a better governance becomes an elusive dream and a catch-22 situation.

  • Lack of ability to handle diverse types of data: The visualization platforms cannot integrate a large volume of static data (e.g., geographic maps) and dynamic data (e.g., sensor data and live social feeds), then process and visualize them. Even, if they do, outputs are more confusion than insight.
  • Lack of ability to visualize spatial and temporal data: Data visualized without spatial and temporal knowledge give zero context and makes the decision-making process more obscure. Current visualization platforms do not visualize data e.g., traffic data or parking situation – which becomes even more relevant once we are dealing with autonomous or semi-autonomous driving or tasks – platforms like Google Earth or city’s 3D virtual imagery give some idea about what is happening – but are surely not the solution – in order for decision makers to make intuitive – sound and informed decisions. The visualization on the 2D screen becomes a clutter or data delusion and surely not the answer.
  • Limited field of view of objects: Multidimensional data like vehicular traffic data – cannot be efficiently probed from different aspects (queries such as “when was traffic data highest” or “How is it related to weather?”) on a flat screen. To understand their different facets and relations with other data, you need to run multiple data queries on different systems multiple times to receive an informed answer. You, often, forget the previous ties or you do not get a complete picture of a situation simultaneously.
  • Lack of real-time data dissemination: Imagine there is a leakage with a pipeline at a locality A. An uninformed engineer goes there and wants to dig a hole into the ground to fix the issue. Currently, he is relying on a 2D static map without any detailed information of equipment installed underneath. If he needs any help – he has to either rely on voice-based instructions by a senior or gain insights from an informed engineer – who surely is going to add unnecessary costs to this leakage. Though the sensor captures all information about the pipeline and availability of smartphones, the current platforms fail to disseminate critical information to remote workers.
  • Lack of Features Enabling Collaboration: The current analysis and visualization platforms do not encourage collaboration as stakeholders from different departments such as water and waste management departments from remote locations cannot see and interact with the same data simultaneously.

These are just a few examples of the feedback we have received from cities and stakeholders within cities.

Today, cities move by data. Government agencies prevent unwanted incidents, warn citizens of any eventualities and protect them using real-time data insights. Any inefficiencies to handle data not only make the smart cities ineffective but also pose severe risks to citizens’ lives.

SMART VISUALIZATION IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD BECOMING A TRULY SMART CITY 

The applications for analytics-infused virtual or augmented reality are as limitless and only limited by our creativity. Today, often, in our democracies, stakeholders describe the same things in different ways creating confusion and blocking the progressive decisions. The immersive data visualization helps create a participatory, more evidence-based, more agile, more democratic decision-making platform. The combination of analytics and AR/VR will allow them to tackle new and existing challenges in a more informed and efficient manner, ultimately saving money, time and maybe even lives.

In the end, the data visualization and analytics are not just about gathering information and generating a report. It is about enabling governments to create a better place for citizens to live and work. Without a well-defined vision and the right platforms, governments will be lost in data and make cities more chaotic than they already are.

With Immersive Data, the innovative, immersive data visualization platform powered artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and cloud computing, Hashplay works collaboratively with city administrators and government organizations to understand their purpose, key objectives, main challenges and immediate priorities to develop a decision-making platform that enables them in the real sense. We understand they are juggling with multiple responsibilities and need real insights to make the right decision. This is all about “Immersive Data.”

Hashplay Inc. is an Advanced Reality software company that has developed the ultimate Visual Data Intelligence Platform – ImmersiveData®. Hashplay’s GPU powered analytics platform brings operational intelligence, business intelligence and situational awareness with real-time data to one place enabling enterprise act fast and fosters collaborative innovation.

ImmersiveData® enables organizations to qualify, unify and visualize both, real-time and legacy data, merge geospatial, CAD, and technical models, along with workflows and operational data to give managers the ability to make better and more informed decisions.

Hashplay serves clients’ needs in Oil & Gas, IoT, smart factory and smart city.

Author: J. P. Mohr / Contributors: I. Nadler, J. Schlueter, A. Pandey

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