NYC smart city data visualization
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About one in every 38 people living in the US resides in New York City. Naturally, getting the pulse of a city which is home to more than 8.5 million people can get a little tricky. No, the problem is not a lack of data. In fact, New York City is flooded with data. The problem is that data by itself is of little value. It can only have an impact when disparate datasets are joined in a manner that preempts and predicts problems and facilitates decision-making.

For example, if indicators like the short term and long term trends in home ownership rates over time and how they relate to the increase or decrease in burglaries are known, it can help the city understand how to distribute police resources currently and in the future.

With this vision, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Operations has deployed today a new location intelligence solution for data-driven decision making across city agencies. Built by Vizzuality on a platform created by location data service provider CARTO, this inter-agency data platform can easily be called one of New York City’s largest urban infrastructure projects.

NYC smart city data visualization
Data synchronization capabilities implement directly into a secure CARTO platform, which then associates the geospatial database to the front-end dashboard

The visualization tool rests on top of NYC’s 1,400 open data sources (including datasets from the New York Police Department and the Department of Transportation), and collates information in near real-time using CARTO’s back-end geospatial database.

Seamless integration of data flows

David Gonzales, CTO of Vizzuality, tells Geospatial World, “The NYC Mayor’s Office had a number of major requirements that had to be taken into consideration during the development of this dashboard. The system had to integrate seamlessly with their current data management flows without requiring any changes to them, and the data management had to be easy enough for different departments to integrate it effortlessly.” The integrated data is explored through a series of individual indicators, statistical measures on current conditions and data trends.

It was also important to the Mayor’s Office that the platform is fully responsive on any device or operating system. To allow for prioritization and organization of resources, the city employees need to access information quickly — no matter where they might be. Gonzales adds, “This requirement has been realized and Hyperakt’s design allows people to see and understand very quickly what’s happening in the city. Notifications were also a requirement, so we made it easy to set up alerts that get emailed to a nominated city employee anytime an indicator changes or passes a set threshold.”

NYC smart city data visualization
Indicators provide a high-level overview across multiple sectors, while highlighting specific areas
of interest

These indicators provide a comprehensive overview across multiple sectors, while highlighting specific areas of interest to the officials. The dashboard also provides temporal graphs to denote trends for city and borough level measurements in individual performance indicators — aiding City Hall staffers’ decision-making process.

Future of data-driven smart city management

Gonzales points to the next steps for an aspiring smart city that will add more context to the data already being collected and involve the citizens more:

Context-aware: It’s not just city data that are analyzed, but the relationship with other data (environmental, cultural, socio-economic) globally and locally.

Citizen-centered: In a similar train of thought to the above point, contextual sentiment data would be added on top. For example, what worries citizens? How do they perceive the issues? This can be done through social media analysis but also by feedback channels.

Transparent and open: Ideally citizens would have access to the data and would also be able to contribute to it actively or passively (through their daily actions that can be measured via their phones or other sensors).

For now, this new hub is all set to help define the future of data-driven smart city management, and further position NYC — which won the Best Smart City Award at Global Smart Cities Awards 2016 — as a leader in smart city technology.