Dashboards and big data analytics

Big data analytics has been a hot topic these days. Has it anything to do with city dashboards or personal dashboards? Let’s first recall how a dashboard harnesses big data at work.

Imagine you’re with your own dashboard, take a look at it and you’ll be amazed by what you have at hand: the here and now of the city and your life. You have the real-time happening of the realms of information that matter to you. That is what a dashboard is about: bringing to its users information important to them, with the help of open big data.

In fact, how a dashboard makes use of big data should not be new to us since our life is brimming with if not made of, data, big and small. One’s routine day may start with a refreshing breakfast — the eatery you choose, what you eat and drink — it’s all about data. Enjoying your breakfast, you already contributed your share of several data sets to the eatery, such as the food and drinks you order, the time you have your breakfast, whether you eat alone or with company. The restaurant may collect their own pool of data sets, with the small data you bring alongside those of others’. Through data analytics they can distill from the data pool their customers’ preference of food and drinks and do better table arrangement for the breakfast period, etc.

Such an example of big data analytics may explain to you that data and information matter as much as the meaning you extract from it. In the case of the same restaurant, if you were the only data contributor, the restaurant manager would distill knowledge little more than one customer’s personal preference. And that from a managerial perspective is not a piece of actionable information.

So what does data analytics have to do with dashboards? While a dashboard visualises real-time open big data, all you have are only pieces of data, figures and information. How that matters to you depends on how you distill knowledge and value from the data, that is creating meaning from the information, which allows one to act and make decisions. When you come to think about it, it’s data analytics at a personal level. While meaning and knowledge can be distilled from a dashboard, conversely a dashboard may be established for a particular objective, such as an ESG Dashboard and a supply chain dashboard. Let’s explore the possibilities of a dashboard and see what it will bring to a city.

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.

Privacy concerns raised by big data

Data are being generated at an accelerating rate by people, systems and things. The collection and analytics of big data are benefiting every aspect of life and businesses. Big data is crucial to a smart city, which promotes efficiency and caters to people’s needs with available resources used sustainably with the help of big data. However while big data is considered such an indispensable asset of a smart city, the widespread storage and application of data impose security threats. The use of personal data and information entailed in big data analytics is raising privacy concerns.

Privacy relies on the informed consent given by an individual to the disclosure and use of their private data. However, big data is a resource that can be used and reused, posing threats on privacy issues as individuals are not aware their personal data are used and even collected.

Privacy concerns and security issues are already affecting our life, common privacy crimes including identity theft and unauthorised use of personal data. As we are entering the age of big data and data being part of our life and work, privacy and security should be addressed by concerted efforts not only of the government and the ICT sector but also the public and different sectors.

Government policies and enforcement should be at the forefront. Clear laws and regulations regarding the collection, distribution and application of personal data and information should be introduced. And companies especially those engaged in big data analytics and application should implement policies concerning the access to and usage of big data and security control. On a personal level, individuals should pay close attention to their online activities and cyber security. Certainly keeping oneself updated with the big data revolution is one of the ways of staying alert.

What is big data and how it can improve life quality?

The amount of data being created every day is colossal and almost inconceivable, and it is ever-growing. The amount of big data generated only matters as long as how values are created and insights are drawn from it. In other words, insights can be extracted through big data analytics to afford businesses and policymakers knowledge to better decision-making. Big data however does not only benefit business or governance but also the general public.

The vision of a smart city aims to improve life quality and promotes efficiency, and the outcomes can be less pollution, waste, traffic congestions and energy consumption. In building a smart city, big data and Internet of things are essential and RFID tags serve as one of the application examples. It captures data, tracks and locates objects, which make life more secured for the citizens. For example, elderly members in an elderly centre can wear bracelets with sensors that allow the tracking of the elderly’s positions in case of emergencies. Big data can also help better manage parking vacancies to solve parking problems. By attaching sensors to cars, drivers can be guided to the nearest available car parks. Big data plays a part in improving transport mobility and helps cities define ways to expand their public transport options in the most efficient way possible.

We expect to see more of how big data and Internet of things revolutionise our life in the future.

Smart city and Dashboard

A smart city drives sustainable economic development and high quality of life by tapping into information and communication technology and Internet of things. An urban dashboard can be one of the elements that help construct a smart city. It is a tool that arranges information in a way that is easy to read. Making use of open big data, a dashboard is not a new thing for data analysts. For example, a business dashboard is an information management tool to assess and monitor a business performance while an urban dashboard displays real-time data in an instantly accessible manner.

A smart city is driven by information and data needed to make better-informed decisions. Dashboards are customised according to people’s needs to display important information, otherwise scattered around, in one place. The way an urban dashboard empowers people to gain real-time data for better decision-making and higher efficiency makes it an indispensable tool for people to steer through a smart city.

Amsterdam provides an example of utilising big data to improve transport and mobility. The government makes accessible useful public data on transport and traffic, including parking vacancy, cycle paths, taxi stands and real-time traffic updates, so different kinds of dashboards can be developed utilising the real-time data. The citizens are able to make better decisions on their daily commute with the dashboards. The practice won Amsterdam the World Smart Cities Awards in the field of mobility. Amsterdam serves as a reference how new applications and dashboards making use of big public data can maximise services for its citizens, conducive to building a smart city.