By taking advantage of Microsoft technologies, Barcelona has created a pilot Big Data solution that can provide useful insight into petabytes of data anytime and anywhere to improve citizens’ quality of life, uncover investment opportunities, promote public safety and health, and provide a possible smart-city template for other areas.
Gains Scalable Big Data Tools and Near- Real-Time BI
Barcelona now has an affordable Big Data solution that it can use to mash up information from its systems and new public sources, without worrying about running out of server capacity or slowing performance. “By using Windows Azure, HDInsight, and SQL Server 2012, we can collect, analyze, and generate near-real-time BI with Big Data collected from social media feeds, GPS signals, and data from government systems,” says Marco. “As a result, we can better meet the BI needs of all of our departments and citizens today and gain the flexibility to add new data sources in the future.” Not only can the city provide citizens with a more open and transparent government, but also employees can work and manage city data more efficiently.
Delivers Anytime, Anywhere Access and Boosts Efficiency
With the Microsoft solution, employees can access the information they need faster, from any location. Marco explains, “We can significantly boost the productivity of our staff in offices and in the field with our new Big Data solution. People can use Power View, SQL Server PowerPivot, and Windows 8 mobile apps to explore all kinds of data and gain instant access to BI including the bigov dashboard, using any device.” Citizens can also find the services that they need or entertainment that they seek faster through the city’s website and mobile apps it they use the Open Data service.
Improves Quality of Life and Business Opportunities
Delivering the free Open Data services also provides opportunities for companies to create new apps and online services. In addition, being able to make sense of Big Data significantly improves the services the city can provide because staff can better identify the needs of people based on records in government systems, social media, and GPS signals that reveal how people move about the city.
For example, Barcelona can use its increased data insight to improve its public bike rental stations, a program known as ‘bicing.’ As Lluis Sanz Marco says, “One of the problems in the big cities like Barcelona is transportation. We follow the tracking of the buses, but also we follow the tracking of other transportation like bicing.
By processing the data, we know we can gain the insight needed to distribute bicycles in a different way so that people can use them to connect with other forms of transportation such as busses and trains. In addition, we can give people more options for public transportation and so create a more sustainable model.”
With the increased insight, users can also more easily recognize potential investment opportunities. For example, an area with heavy congestion during lunch may need more fast-food restaurants. All of these insights ultimately foster better lifestyles for citizens and economic prosperity.
City personnel can also use the La Mercé BI service to make future festivals better by mining the data from last year’s festival and identifying attendees’ movement patterns and opinions about entertainment venues, sanitation, transportation, restaurants, and even banking. Marco explains, “We’re trying to understand where people might need public busses or bikes around-the-clock or where we need to add more parking by analyzing Big Data with Windows Azure HDInsight. We can also pinpoint which musical groups people would like to see at La Mercé by examining social media comments and the number and type of music downloads.”
Increases Public Safety and Health
By looking at more data from more sources, the city can modify how it staffs and positions police, fire, and medical resources to meet day-to-day requirements and what resources are needed to manage emergencies. City employees can also respond to emergencies faster and gain the ability to immediately increase public transportation services, especially during city festivals, based on the near-real-time insight gained with the new solution. As Marco explains, “We can use Windows Azure and SQL Server 2012 to evaluate city processes and make them more efficient. We can also scrutinize the resiliency of our city in responding to unpredictable situations and streamline our procedures so that we can address problems in the shortest time possible.”
Provides a Model That Can Boost Global Collaboration
With its new Big Data solution, Barcelona can facilitate greater collaboration with citizens, business owners, and tourists. The city is also sharing its solution infrastructure with the City Protocol Society as a possible Big Data BI template that other cities can adopt. If the solution is adopted by the society, other member cities can use the same KPIs to evaluate services, making it possible for people to compare areas around the world using the same tools for calculating metrics about categories such as economy, health, education, culture, entrepreneurship and opportunity, environment and energy, governance, transportation, social capital, and public safety. “Our Windows Azure Big Data and BI solutions are really international projects,” says Marco. “Along with helping our city, they could be the foundation for a smart-city infrastructure proposed by the City Protocol Society. If accepted, other cities could use the framework to improve services and help people around the globe determine where they want to live and invest by drawing comparisons between locations.”