IoT sensors, big data and advanced analytics to ensure optimal growth

IoT sensors, big data and advanced analytics to ensure optimal growth

Movement is a fundamental part of our lives, not just when we’re enjoying the countryside with our family or jogging in the nearby park. For many of us, the practical part of our lives relies much on the services offered by our city.  Many important decisions in our modern society and business life could benefit from the insight into the society’s mobility. 

Traditional methods to solve mobility challenges provide scarce data both geographically and from the perspective of time. Often decision-makers rely on very expensive manual counting or field surveys as data sources to optimize the construction of new infrastructure such as roads and parks within a city.

In this first from a series of posts, we will write about the use of IoT sensors, Big Data and Advanced Analytics, and how they can be used to improve mobility, economic growth and even innovation in a city!

The internet of things (IoT)

Even though the IoT has been much of a buzz word in the past few years, it really is much more than that. The IoT is already transforming our everyday business practices, creating new windows of opportunity for innovation and optimization within different industries. According to IHS, the number of connected IoT devices globally will jump an average of 12% every year. They estimated that during 2017 there were nearly 27 billion IoT devices, while it is expected that there will be 125 billion by 2030. The number of devices that are already operating are generating a massive amount of data, and worldwide data transmissions are expected to increase from 20% annually to 50% per year during the next 15 years. According to the statistics from NKOM, in Norway the data that IoT devices are generating is already increasing around 50% every year. Norway is a country that has moved, and continues to move, into digitalization at a very fast pace. When a country moves into a digital enabled industry and economy in the way that Norway is doing it, new sources start producing data with high volume, velocity, and variety… also known as Big Data.

Big Data

The first documented use of the term "Big Data" appeared in a 1997 paper by scientists at NASA, describing the problem of visualizing very large data sets. Ever since the introduction of the Big Data term in 1997, a few definitions for it have arisen, with the "Triple V" definition being widely accepted (Volume, Velocity, Variety). Nowadays we can use the advances in Big Data technologies to analyze datasets composed of billions of rows (and Terabytes!) in real time. See for example Figure 1. where we show the paths followed by ships in Norway, in Acando we have analyzed a dataset with more than a billion data points with the use of cloud-based infrastructure.

Figure 1. Visualization of AIS data. The dataset represents the location and navigation of ships along the Norwegian coastline. The dataset is composed of over a billion data points.

Big Data has been a source of innovation, and with the right use of this technology by policymakers and business leaders it can continue improving our everyday lives. Making use of Big Data technologies has the potential to accelerate economic growth and sustainable development.

In the present, and with the help of Big Data, society can step up in its focus on evidence-based policy making and monitoring of development progress. It is therefore key to have the expertise of combining different data sources with advanced analytics. With these capabilities, one can tap into the opportunity of creating value for decision makers and society.

Society’s predominant engine of innovation

Cities have been known to be the predominant engine and driver for innovation and wealth creation in a society. On the other hand, they are also society’s main source of crime, pollution and health problems. In the present, the rapid urbanization and city growth raises an important challenge: How do we promote growth and urbanization while keeping crime, pollution, and disease as low as possible?

It has been shown (see Growth, innovation, scaling, and the pace of life in cities) that many diverse properties of cities, from patent production to personal wealth, are power-law functions of population size and correlate to the degree of mobility within the city and its surroundings. Quantities reflecting wealth creation and innovation have an exponent β > 1 (increasing returns). This means that if city A produces X number of patents, city B with double the population size produces more than double the number of patents in the same period, i.e. The larger the city, the more innovation and patents it can create! Quantities reflecting the needs for infrastructure have exponents β < 1 (economies of scale). This effectively means that city B with double the population of city A, does not require double the investment in infrastructure, i.e., it is economically preferable to have larger cities.

One consequence of this power-law functions is that, as population grows, major innovation cycles must be generated at a continually accelerating rate to sustain growth and avoid stagnation or collapse.

Using IoT, Big Data and Advanced Analytics to enable urban growth through smart mobility

Movement, the way a society flows within a city, is a fundamental part of life. The degree of progress of a society correlates directly to the level of mobility as well as the means for it. A way in which a city can grow and be able to get the benefits mentioned above, while reducing the negative impacts of pollution and health problems, is to ensure that populations have the best means to commute to and from work, transport to recreational places, flow through the city’s mobility infrastructure in a frictionless way.

How do we improve in traffic management?, how do we plan for railway constructions or expansions?, where should we place a new shopping center?, when should retailers have marketing campaigns to better attract their segments of interest?, how does a store or distribution center need to be placed in order to have the best reach of customers?, how do diseases spread?, how should a stadium or concert venue be operated during a massive event such as a concert?… We can better answer these questions by using IoT sensors, Big Data and Advanced Analytics.

In a series of upcoming blog posts, we will present ways in which different industry verticals can benefit from the knowledge on how we, as a society, move and modify our mobility patterns depending on several factors. We will also introduce the reader to the variety of data sources that can help us understand human mobility. Among the verticals that can greatly benefit from this knowledge are:

  • Public transportation
  • Health
  • Retail
  • Smart city development
  • Maritime transport

Until then, happy commute!

Arturo Amador

Arturo Amador

Senior Data Scientist


Om bloggeren:
Arturo er en data scientist med en doktorgrad i fysikk fra NTNU. Arturo's tekniske ekspertise ligger innen datadrevet analyse, statistikk, big data, personvern, og kunstig intelligens, slik som deep learning. Arturo har opparbeidet seg erfaring innen mobilitetsanalyse med ansvar for flere prosjekt, blant annet innen kollektiv transport, byplanlegging, turisme og forsking.

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