Using data to deliver safer, healthier cities

Paul New

When it comes to data, the ultimate question that demands an answer is: How can it be utilised? When it comes to urban safety, data can be harnessed to develop proactive approaches to tackling issues such as crime and health.

Technology has led to substantial efficiency improvements in crime prevention, health and infrastructure management in urban environments. An analysis of the progress in utilising data in these areas reveals the potential of technology to revolutionise urban safety.

The revolutionary climate for urban safety is already evident in the strides made in developing digital platforms to tackle crime.

Traditionally, data has been used in a reactive manner to analyse trends in crime. The difficulty in utilising data in this sphere has been finding ways to employ it to proactively prevent crime, before it occurs.

If we look to some of the emerging capabilities of crime prevention technology, there is a strong emphasis placed on geo-analysis of the location and frequency of crimes, so as to better allocate police resources. Predictive technology such as this promotes higher levels of efficiency in law enforcement.

As the spread of urbanisation continues, the efficiency of policing practices is becoming all the more important as our cities cannot afford to be wasting in-demand resources.

This issue of using data analysis to ensure effective resource allocation also extends to the healthcare sector. Interestingly, using data to overcome issues within health can also encompass other social reform schemes.

In a recent big data research initiative undertaken by US healthcare provider Meriter, a direct correlation between the incidence of chronic disease and low-income levels was observed.

This initiative drew on both internal and external data, including medical records, amount of green space in neighbourhoods covered by the study and access to grocery stores.

When it comes to healthcare, data opens up the possibility of developing solutions to the underlying problems, as opposed to merely treating symptoms.

In the health sector, data analytics and tech have also become integral in the urban infrastructure management process.

Infrastructure deterioration is the bane of any city that has made costly property development investments only to see those funds wasted due to a lack of maintenance and upkeep.

The extent of this wastage is evidenced in the number of slums existing worldwide; these slums being the consequence of poor infrastructure management.

Data utilisation can help prevent such problems, delivering timely reminders regarding maintenance and general predictions regarding the life cycle of infrastructure.

Overall, the efficiencies achievable through employing technology for urban infrastructure management can make it highly cost effective.

As more sophisticated analysis systems continued to be developed, the traditional, reactive methods of addressing urban safety will hopefully be relegated to the past, replaced with data-driven, proactive approaches.

Paul New is the CEO of Facilities Management Innovations.

Tags: data, big data

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