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How Big Data Can Help Create Smarter African Cities

Biophilic Design. Web. Artisan Army Ireland. Slideshare. May 2015

Imagine having a smart alarm in your Automated Home that wakes you up at flexible times which is based on city activities such as weather and traffic that can influence your day.

Imagine you have an app on your phone that monitors your sleep and wake routine, number of steps taken in a day, and other health information. The app then automatically sends this info to the nearest hospital in case of an emergency.
Imagine, as an asthmatic patient you are taking a walk to the bus stop but you receive a beep from your phone suggesting a slight detour in your route so as to avoid a polluted street.

Imagine, you and everyone else checks in at a WiFi/ Bluetooth enabled bus stop, an update is then sent to the driver regarding the number of commuters. As a result, he knows he has to increase his speed so as to give the 23 waiting passengers enough time to board the bus.

Imagine while at the bus station, you encountered traffic just as your Automated System indicated but you are not bothered because there is internet and USB port in the bus to charge your phone.

Imagine on getting to your Co-Working Office space, PHCN electricity trips off but you don't stop listening to your music as you settle down. As you're sure the alternate solar power will start up automatically.

Imagine always looking forward to lunch time because the office has a Biophilic Urban Park that'd help reduce the stress of the day and give you enough energy to continue work.

Biophilic Design

Imagine after work that evening you receive another beep about possible rainfall on your way home and that you shouldn't forget your umbrella.

Imagine after getting home, your Automated System turns on the lights and other devices that has been off after you left so as to save energy.

Imagine trying to wash your hands but your tap goes off automatically after 7 seconds so you don't waste water. Imagine having that water being reused to flush your toilet and water your lawns.

Imagine having waste water pass on to a central waste system in the city. That the waste is monitored on the government's system and your bill is based on how much waste you released into the system. Imagine also having that government system monitor the waste pipes and overall system to identify leakages and full soakaways. As this will allow them make swift and specific decisions on which location to visit to either repair or remove waste.

Imagine waking up the following morning and finding out you're vomiting. You visit the hospital and you are diagnosed with cholera. You find out that 45 other people within your community including two people from your Co-working space are in the hospital and have been diagnosed with the same illness.

Imagine while you are being treated, the government contacts the 'Big Data' team and a GIS survey is carried out to identify the locations where the cholera is concentrated based on the patients address records. Imagine the concentration was found to be next to your home and when the team arrived on site to survey the issue, they discover it is as a result of a broken sewage pipe leading to leakage which has contaminated the drinking water.

Okay let's stop imagining because this is already happening !

These innovation in how homes, government, workplace and infrastructure function is what is known as a Smart City.

Wiki defines Big Data as a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. In other words, its large data that can only be analyzed by complex means/ software

Cities like Copenhagen, parts of China, Singapore, Rwanda and many others have began embracing and implementing the concept. The idea of the Mega City (which Lagos has been since 1995) is not 'epp-ing' anyone again. The rating of cities based on Economic value is becoming obsolete. Smart City is becoming the next big thing – a City in which Technology takes centre stage and is helping to provide a community that is people-centered rather than money centered !
This technology relies on Big Data to acquire massive information about the city and utilizes this information to improve an individualized experience to every resident of the city.

The possibilities of Big Data is endless. It can be utilized in healthcare, to homes, to Government in implementing policies, improving services for private and public enterprises, and so forth. The aim of Big Data (however indirect it may seem) is sustainability because it helps to reduce waste, be it in resources or time.

In closing, we know one thing for sure and that is Big Data is coming to Africa too ! If you don't believe it, Google CEO Sundar Pichai believes it ! Mark Zuckerberg believes it ! Jack Ma believe it ! They've all been here recently to invest, so it's just a matter of time…

So yeah, like I stated earlier, it's just a matter of time…

Ezekiel Bassey
Bassey Ezekiel is an Architect with a load of passion for Design and the Environment !