Navigant Research Blog

While Big Data Grabs Headlines, Small Data Is What Cities Need

— May 17, 2016

Bangkok SkylineSuppliers in the smart city industry offer a range of data solutions for city managers to better detect and respond to breakdowns and inefficiencies in the delivery of city services. The onset of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been touted as potential solutions to the biggest challenges facing cities today. However, what cities really need is small data—in other words, clear, specific, and actionable insights filtered from the vast amounts of raw or big data being created. For example, massive amounts of traffic data is only useful if it can be used to affect how services are delivered. Useful small data would alert city officials to inform public transit riders of delays and suggest alternative routes for more efficient travel. Getting even more specific, smaller data can help city and operations managers understand how their service delivery may be affected (i.e., an incoming shipment of cargo or goods will arrive 3 hours later than expected).

Creating more actionable insights for city managers is an opportunity for business analytics in all sectors. Government agencies need clear messages and response plans to improve operations, reduce costs, and better serve their citizens. When combined with easily understandable data visualizations, the increased use of statistical analysis, simulation, and optimization can help in the process to deliver actionable data insights.

Data and predictive analytics are currently able to provide some of the following benefits in each key sector:

  • Energy: Smart meters and other smart grid technologies are enabling a more dynamic and detailed understanding of energy generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption. As the energy system of the city becomes more complex, real-time data across these systems is vital in order to manage the grid and create effective energy markets.
  • Water: Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry face the challenges posed by rising costs of operations, maintenance requirements, global urbanization, climate change, and other pressures on supply and distribution. In the process, the industry is expected to become increasingly information-focused, drawing on real-time data from the pumping station to the meter. Communications networks in particular can help to improve water management by discovering leaks and providing alerts if the water is unsafe for drinking.
  • Mobility: Real-time data collected from sensors, cameras, and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transportation for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users. Data analytics can also be used to detect and predict the likelihood of traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns based on congestion and speed patterns. This data enables managers to be much more proactive, as they can use predictive analytics to identify potential congestion issues, adapt bus routes, and dynamically manage the availability of city parking.
  • Buildings: New capabilities go beyond basic management dashboards to the analysis of a wide range of building-related energy and operational data. Predictive analytics are being used to anticipate future conditions based on past performance and avoid unforeseen facility management issues.

As demonstrated from the examples above, data is already helping cities become more efficient and improve in the delivery of city services. Being able to more accurately and quickly gain actionable insights from large data sets will be crucial for the future growth of smart city technology. For more information on big data, the IoT, and predictive analytics, keep an eye out for Navigant Research’s upcoming global report on Smart Cities, expected to be published in Q2 2016.

 

Multi-modal Apps of the Future Pay Customers to Reduce Congestion

— April 15, 2016

CarsharingPreviously independent modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, train, bus, taxi, ridesharing services, and personal vehicle usage are becoming increasingly integrated. Multi-modal programs that allow city residents to plan trips using a variety of transport options is one of the major trends in the evolution of the smart city mobility market. Application services such as CarFreeAtoZ and TripGo allow users to plan a trip with up to five mobility options and combinations (train, bus, car, bicycling, and bike-share). Other services such as the GoLA app (powered by Xerox) integrate planning options to include carsharing (Zipcar) and ridesharing (Lyft) services.

Multi-modal apps allow customers to choose the most efficient routes possible to save on commute times. Most apps also include information on the carbon emissions of the trip combinations and options, allowing users to make more informed decisions about how their trip may affect the environment.

New Apps with Big Potential

A prototype transportation app called NextCity looks to not only help users plan their commutes, but also help them get discounts on transportation options that help to reduce vehicle congestion. Users will be offered incentives to change their transportation route based on traffic conditions. For example, the app might offer a discount on the ferry or train if there is construction or an accident on a typical driving route.

NextCity is unlike some of the startups in this space that lack the infrastructure connections and financial backings to make a significant impact. The app is a project of San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS), a subsidiary of Cubic Corporation. CTS is a leading integrator of transportation payment and information solutions and already powers major payment systems such as London’s Oyster card, Chicago’s Ventra card, and San Francisco’s Clipper card. The baseline of public transportation data available to CTS, combined with the current operation of public transit payment systems, enables the company to not only help with route planning, but also integrate and adapt payment systems. The company’s goal is to develop the NextCity app as quickly as possible to create a single-account system covering payment for all modes of transportation (including bikes and bike-share, ridesharing, tolling, parking, etc.).

While many route planning apps are helpful to users and are increasing in adoption, adding a financial incentive to users is expected to significantly increase participation among city commuters. It’s one thing to be informed of alternative transportation options—it’s something else entirely to be paid to use them.

 

Electric Scooter Sharing Programs Improving Mobility in Major Cities

— February 24, 2016

e-bike, settingThe iconic city of Paris, France will be implementing an electric scooter (e-scooter) sharing program in an effort to reduce the heavy traffic congestion and air pollution plaguing the city. Slated to begin in the summer of 2016, the rental program will consist of around 1,000 e-scooters from the German manufacturer GOVECS and will be managed by EV rental firm Cityscoot. The e-scooters have a top speed of 28 mph and an electric range of 65 miles. An interesting feature on the Cityscoot scooters is a keyless ignition; subscribers receive a text message with a code on their smartphone that unlocks the e-scooter.

Cities Looking For Alternatives

Paris is hoping that offering alternatives to personal vehicle use will result in fewer incidents similar to last summer, in which driving bans had to be instituted and pollution levels in the city of lights briefly surpassed those of Shanghai. Many other city governments in Europe are also looking for ways to improve mobility in their cities, as Barcelona, Spain was the first to introduce an e-scooter sharing program back in 2013. Should the Paris project prove successful, London, England is expected to be the next target for Cityscoot.

The trend is not limited to Europe, however. Slowly but surely e-scooters are becoming more popular in highly populated U.S. cities. Scoot Networks is a smartphone-activated e-scooter sharing company located in San Francisco, California. The company has been expanding its supply quickly due to high demand and now has close to 400 e-scooters for use in the Bay Area at over 35 locations. Each scooter has an electric range of 25 miles and a top speed of 30 mph.

According to Navigant Research, the global market for e-scooters is expected to grow from about 4.1 million annual unit sales to just under 4.5 million by 2024. If e-scooter sharing programs can prove to be successful in early adopter cities such as Barcelona, Paris, and San Francisco, other major cities are likely to follow suit and the market could grow more quickly than expected.

E-Scooter Sales by Region, China and Rest of World: 2015-2024

Ryan Scooter Blog

 (Source: Navigant Research)

 

Panasonic-Denver Partnership Highlights Cultural Considerations in Smart City Projects

— February 22, 2016

Bangkok SkylineIn January 2016, Japan-based Panasonic and the city of Denver, Colorado announced a partnership to transform the mountain municipality into a smart city, with a focus on improvements to transportation, energy efficiency, water conservation, and public safety, among other services. The focus project of the public-private partnership is the creation of a greenfield community southwest of the Denver International Airport called Peña Station NEXT.

Using Panasonic’s CityNOW approach, the new community in Denver is being modeled on the successful development of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town in Japan. Fujisawa is 31 miles west of Tokyo and as has a comprehensive smart city implementation across multiple applications, including smart street lights and  rooftop solar panels that power homes during the day while fuel cells and batteries are utilized at night. The community is also in walking distance to public transportation, and electric cars and bicycles are widely available for rent.

This is a significant example of how companies like Panasonic are trying to take best practices from smart city projects in Japan to North America and other markets. Other Japanese giants have also been working with North American and European cities on a range of pilots and demonstrator programs, but the Panasonic-Denver collaboration is one of the most significant commercial projects to date.

Cultural Challenges

However, the translation of experiences in Japan to the United States raises some interesting challenges. According to the Denver Post, Denver’s smart city initiatives will have several different applications compared to what took place in Fujisawa, primarily in order to account for cultural and social differences between the two countries. Camera monitors with facial recognition spike much higher privacy concerns in the United States compared to Japan; as a result, the Denver project is expected to be much less intrusive. Instead of shared cars and bicycles, the Peña Station NEXT community is likely to use shuttles with parking garages and parking lots to accommodate some personal vehicle usage. In addition, far-reaching liability concerns in the United States mean that automated street lights are also unlikely, with dimming ability being a more realistic approach. While many of the same essential technologies that were tested in Fujisawa (i.e., cameras, smart street lights) are being applied in Denver, precisely how they are going to be used is being augmented for cultural considerations.

Through the partnership with Panasonic, Denver looks to improve its greenhouse gas emissions per capita, as the city’s sprawling infrastructure all too often encourages driving as the primary means of transportation. According to a 2011 World Bank report, Denver ranks far below other more densely populated cities with 23.7 tons of CO2 emissions per person. It’s a high figure, especially when compared to other locations like New York City (8.7), San Francisco (10.1), and Boston (13.3). The American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Denver County has some of the highest rates in the country of commuters driving to work from surrounding counties.

While there are several common themes that go into making a city smart (such as digital technology, sustainability, mobility, and financing), how these factors are implemented changes drastically by jurisdiction. Initiatives that helped Japanese cities become smarter are likely to have relevance in other countries such as the United States, but some differences in implementation are needed for project success.

 

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