How smarter cities will transform the way we live

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Where are our cities headed in the future? What can we expect from the long sought after "smart cities"? Can we really expect anything different?

If big data has anything to do with it, we certainly can. We've already seen tremendous strides over the last 20 years in creating more energy efficiency, cleaner air, better transportation and improved security, but it's only a small fraction of what we can expect to see in the future with big data.

Big data can have such a tremendous influence on cities across the world because of its ability to gather and analyze tremendous amounts of information in mere seconds. Areas that have traditionally been inefficient (think energy, traffic and water management) can now be drastically changed and improved through big data technology.

With the continued decrease in the startup price for big data and the increasing ease with which people unfamiliar with the technology can begin using it, it's getting easier and easier for cities to implement. Cloud computing abilities, like Hadoop in the cloud, are simplifying the entire process. It's not just the big cities that are going to be making these tremendous advancements either. Small cities too, will be able to use the technology to make a difference.

The best thing about smarter cities is that they not only provide more efficiency, but they also decrease the cost of services which allows the cities to cut operating costs while improving other services.

So what are some of the areas that we can expect to see a difference?

1. Energy

Not only is big data helping cities encounter ways to use new energy, but it's also helping them be more efficient with the data they are already using. And it's not just on a city level, but on a local level too, that it's becoming easier to monitor energy use. Cities and residents will be working together to get the best use of energy at the lowest price.

2. Security

With big data it's easier to pinpoint the areas of crime and make the needed adjustments. It's also easier to understand what contributes to the crime and then find ways to combat that. In addition it gives police better tools to fight the crime and it helps prisons and other detention centers do a better job monitoring those who are already within their confines. Big data also improves the security systems that are installed in homes, giving residents greater control and greater protection to keep themselves safe.

3. Transportation

The effects of big data on transportation are two fold -- improving mass transit and providing better public transportation. We're already seeing cities implement big data in both of these areas. Los Angeles recently debuted its new transportation grid, which is powered by big data, and it’s totally changed how people commute. With big data it's much easier to prevent traffic jams, improve overall traffic flow, find alternate routes and keep public transportation on time. It's also easier to identify public transportation needs in real-time, meaning buses and trains can make adjustments as needed during the day and not have to wait weeks or months for changes to be implemented.

4. Better environment

One of the greatest changes that will come about in tomorrow's smart cities because of big data is increased environmental friendliness -- cleaner air, cleaner water and less waste.

With big data companies and cities can greatly reduce the amount of unhealthy air distributed. Water use, both inside and outside the home can be made much more efficient, less wasteful and more inexpensive. Usage can be monitored in real-time helping cities keep tabs on water in order to ensure enough for emergencies and droughts.

Big data is empowering cities to make important advances to improve the world and provide an increased quality of living for everyone.

Gil Allouche is the Vice President of Marketing at Qubole a big data platform

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