We have written a lot about how Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) data can help create the smart cities of the future – and there are huge benefits to incorporating DAS into city management systems. However, one of the questions we get asked the most is how DAS integrates with existing data collection methods and analysis platforms.
So, in this blog, we want to give a couple of examples of exactly how DAS can sync up with existing smart city projects to provide a crucial extra layer of detail – to help meet the needs of citizens in growing cities and optimise how the investment is directed.
Leading the way in Porto
We will show how DAS can help by looking at some of the smart city projects that are underway today in various locations around the world. These innovative projects are being spearheaded by some of the world’s leading data analytics firms.
For example, Ubiwhere has worked closely with the Portuguese city of Porto to demonstrate the full potential of data collection and collation in cities.
This work is focused on improving citizens’ quality of life by increasing understanding of how the various systems within a city flow and fit together. The ultimate goal is to provide a full, real-time 360º view of a city to enable better decision-making by city authorities – I will come back to how DAS might fit into this picture shortly, but first, let us look at some of the work underway in Porto.
This partnership has resulted in multiple projects exploring various aspects of how data can be used to improve the city. One project focused on providing real-time monitoring of the air quality across the entire city.
Combining data from 75 air quality stations with different data from other solutions such as traffic flow and planned events, Ubiwhere gave Porto empirical information about the environmental conditions in every corner of the city for the first time.
This had a significant impact on decision-making in the city – helping to manage the balance between urban development needs and environmental challenges when deciding on changes to, for instance, multimodal travel planning.
Crucially this data was also made available to the public – supporting a citywide campaign to encourage changes in behaviour, such as increasing the use of public transportation.
Correlating the micro with the macro
It is an impressive project – but it also demonstrates where DAS can offer additional value.
The monitoring in Porto is calibrated to provide a citywide picture – it is looking at the issue of air pollution at the macro-level. However, what if you wanted to test the
impact of micro-level changes to city infrastructure and then see the impact on the macro picture?
One of the key changes that can be made to improve air quality is to keep traffic moving in a city and minimise congestion. And DAS can play a massive role in the real-time dynamic management of traffic systems.
For example, at a junction DAS can be monitoring traffic flows not only at the intersection itself but several miles in each direction. Where DAS detects heavy vehicles or bunches of cars approaching the junction it can dynamically change the signal sequencing at the junction to give them clear passage through, so they never come to a halt at all.
We are obviously talking about hyper-local changes being implemented. But integrating DAS with Ubiwhere’s citywide picture would quickly demonstrate the impact of various traffic management strategies and provide clear evidence on which to base future decisions at the citywide level and drive pollution down even further.
A broader view on citizen wellbeing Ubiwhere has been developing the Urban Platform, a solution created from the company’s vision of providing cities with a holistic view of their urban environment. Made for cities actively looking to contribute back to those who manage it and to their inhabitants, Ubiwhere started designing and developing several solutions for the demanding challenges that smart cities face (reducing environmental emissions, improving the energy and mobility efficiency, reaching sustainability, among others), with the ultimate goal of improving the sustainability and quality of life of their citizens.
Easy, intuitive and comprehensive, the Urban Platform offers a global and integrated view of cities by displaying information of several domains in real-time in a customisable dashboard, namely the citizens’ state of mind about the conditions and initiatives of the city. By correlating this data with environmental measurements, municipalities can take measures to improve the quality of life.
Again, DAS can add an extra layer of detail to this analysis, using sustainable and non-intrusive technology. Combining traffic data and footfall data from DAS-based systems can help highlight how transport ‘pinch points’ affect access to civic amenities very clearly via a map view of the city.
By correlating this information on accessibility with the quality of life feedback data, we can help identify and prioritise areas of investment in infrastructure to relieve pinch points, increase access to amenities and generally keep the city flowing as smoothly as possible.
Seeing the whole picture
These are just a couple of examples, but they highlight how DAS can work with existing smart city systems and data analytics to make the picture of our cities as complete and as interconnected as possible and support better decision making on a whole raft of issues.
Indeed, the work Ubiwhere has undertaken with cities like Porto is fascinating – but in particular, it demonstrates the sheer diversity of the smart city movement. It is important to remember that smart cities are not just about making the trains run on time.
They are about making our ever-growing cities cleaner, more prosperous, and more liveable for citizens. And DAS will play an increasingly important role in realising those ambitions.
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