What does real-time mean?

A smart city is facilitated and monitored by pervasive computing and its economy and governance being driven by innovation and technologies. Efficiency and better decision making are empowered by big data and real-time data streaming.

Big data can prove invaluable not only to governance and the economy but also the public. We make decisions every day, from whether to take the bus or subway on our commute, to choosing which restaurant for lunch or dinner. We are making decisions every day; we judge the situation and make up or change our minds based on the information in hand. If more data and information, or even big data are at hand when we make our everyday decisions, better judgement and efficiency can be achieved. And the link missing here points to real-time data streaming and analytics.

The most common application of real-time data analytics relates to transport, where vehicle movements and road traffic on a transport network are captured by a network of cameras. Such transport and traffic data are utilized and developed into mobile applications. That is why when a traffic congestion on a particular highway occurs, one knows to avoid the affected bus routes and may opt for the subway. On the other hand some governments are putting real-time data analytics to use. In the same example, the transport data captured will be transferred continuously to a central control hub to monitor traffic flows. Better decision making such as the adjustment of traffic light sequences can be made according to real-time situations. The automatic monitoring of traffic speeds is possible too with the constant real-time streaming of vehicle movements.

The more recent attempt to tap into real-time big data streaming is to direct all of these big data streaming and analytics into a single hub. For example, London communicates real-time data to citizens through “city dashboards”, where information about the weather, air pollution, public transport delays, public bike availability, river level, electricity demand, the stock market, twitter trends in the city, look at traffic camera feeds and even the happiness level is instantly accessible. The information is presented via visualisations that aid the general public’s interpretation and monitoring of the city for their own ends.

Such centres, applications and dashboards harnessing the real-time data analytics provide an innovative lens for every individual to make sense of the city in the here-and-now.

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