Urban governments have started to adopt big data analytics to improve upon the services and products they deliver to citizens. Across the globe, smart cities use innovative analytics to generate and manage sustainable growth to improve the health, happiness, and prosperity of all citizens.

The Internet of Things (IoT), enabled by the advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); the ubiquitous supply of real-time data; and advanced analytics offer possibilities to manage scarce resources, intelligently cater to the demand for infrastructure and services, and create socio-economic well-being.

A lack of progress in analytics driven urban governance is likely to limit the potential for economic growth and prosperity. For example, traffic congestion is proving to be an important concern for urban productivity and the well-being of citizens. However, there exist innovative solutions to address capacity constraints that limit productivity and efficiency of urban systems.

In New York City, for instance, microwave sensors, video cameras and EZPass readers monitor traffic flows and transmit information wirelessly to the Department of Transportation’s Traffic Management Center. Engineers use this information to identify points of congestion and adjust signal timings. The ‘Midtown in Motion Project’ has improved travel times in a 110 square block section of Manhattan by 10 percent in its first year of operation.

Smart technologies are being used to collect and unify existing scattered data and develop technologies that facilitate the intelligent use of water, electricity, and other resources. Rio de Janeiro, for example, established an operations center which monitors, aggregates, and analyzes data from 30 government agencies. Data from live videos and map overlays help detect crime patterns, which allow the city to better position police units for quick access to crisis zones. In Barcelona, LED lampposts get brighter when they sense pedestrians nearby and automatically dim to conserve energy when the streets are empty. The lampposts also provide free WiFi access and collect data on air quality. This intelligent lighting system has reduced the city’s lighting costs by 30 percent. In Toronto, fire engines are placed not in their designated precincts, but are moved strategically in the vicinity of locations where algorithms have identified higher likelihood of fire.