What can Open Data offer Cities of the Future?

Eric Hui
What can Open Data offer Cities of the Future?

In our first blog post of the Smart City series, we examined what ‘smart’ means in today’s digital era and where Asia-Pacific is on the road to becoming ‘smart’. We took a moment to understand that each country in the region is developing smart city projects with different goals in mind, whether they are for traffic flow management, energy reductions targets, or to improve citizen touchpoints and provide personalized services.

Central to these goals is data, which plays a fundamental role in the development of a smart city – it is the currency of information, generating insights and delivering intelligence that can help enhance our interaction with the world around us. As a result, governments and private enterprises are looking for ways to share and access larger data pools, and that is why we are seeing the wider emergence of Open Data – something that will have a key role to play in the development and subsequent success of Smart City.

Why Open Data Matters

Open data[1] refers to a data set that broadly is available to everyone. It can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone in much the same way as open-source software – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike.

Some governments, including that of Hong Kong, will disclose open data on official portals so companies or the general public can reference this data for the purposes of research, decision-making or new types of evaluation. In addition to the government’s effort, the private sector is also being encouraged to share data to provide comprehensive pictures of key resources.

As IoT becomes more and more prevalent, the volume of data will grow exponentially. Therefore, it is crucial to enable different parties to connect with each other, share information and generate intelligence to make decisions and deliver value in real-time – interconnection will unlock the potential economic value of innovation.

Unlocking Valuable Insights While Staying Secure

Whilst there is fairly robust consensus that open data is necessary for the development of smart cities, from an analytical perspective the full potential cannot be realized without a proper sympathetic framework.

First of all, open data needs to be secure and without individual particulars, especially as consumers become increasingly aware of issues regarding the use of personal data and how consent to access it should be given.

In my opinion, people should be protected, and the only way to ensure this is to make sure that information cannot be traced to a single individual, something which governments and enterprises have been focused on ensuring. To provide adequate protection in real-time, whilst maximizing the ability to use open data, there must be massive interconnection resources that can allow different parties to feed and consume open data sources with private data exchange.

Once open data is generic and not personalized, it needs to be analyzed by select data tools, and then cross-layered to identify valuable insights in order for it to be used holistically. That’s where interconnection comes into play. It enables the flow, use and analysis of the data whilst also allowing it to be provisioned in ways that can benefit anyone using it.

Changing the Lives of Citizens in Asia-Pacific

Ultimately, what does this mean for citizens in the real world? Well, open data is closely related to our lives – how we plan our day, use public weather information, and navigate the city.

When transport providers share their data then multiple opportunities are created. For example, if we were taking a bus to connect with a rail terminal and the bus we are travelling on is late, interconnection can enable the relevant platform to reserve the next available rail ticket instead.

This can then be expanded by adding more sensors, more technology platforms, and different data sets to the mix. Imagine different hospital departments being able to share patient waiting time info to help speed up patient processing and resource allocation. Now we begin to see the value of open data-driven interconnection.

To find value in data, we look for patterns, trends and extrapolations. Data management and data exchange created under an Interconnection Orientated Architecture (IOA) context aims to address the closeness of data to multiple sites in order to find richness and insight. When delivering Smart Cities, governments are required to have multiple speedy analytic engines and conjoint analysis to find gold in these data sets. Right now we are still in the Bronze Age in this regard.

In its recent Smart City Blueprint[2], the Hong Kong government revealed that it is planning to open up more public and private sector data to facilitate research and innovation via the government one-stop Public Sector Information Portal[3]. This will start with the health, transport and education sectors from 2018, and the government will continue to promote using open data for smart city innovation.

In Singapore, the Smart Nation policy is combining open data sources from buildings, land and the environment to create a new ‘Virtual Singapore’[4] 3D map. By pooling this data together, it aims to identify flood prone areas and traffic patterns to keep citizens better informed.

Australia‘s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program[5] is also focused on harnessing and creating new and open data sources to help stimulate new partnerships and business growth, whilst creating new job opportunities and helping to combat social and safety challenges.

In Japan, the government is working on a collaborative project[6] with the European Union which aims to develop a cloud-based open platform that can form the basis for a smart city data infrastructure.

Our next blog post will delve more deeply into how transportation is adapting in the ‘Smart’ age and

what this means for people everywhere and the way we go about living our lives.


[1] http://opendatahandbook.org/guide/en/what-is-open-data/

[2] https://www.smartcity.gov.hk/doc/HongKongSmartCityBlueprint(EN).pdf

[3] http://data.gov.hk/

[4] https://www.nrf.gov.sg/programmes/virtual-singapore

[5] https://cities.infrastructure.gov.au/smart-cities-program

[6] https://cities-today.com/europe-japan-collaborate-smart-cities/

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Eric Hui Director Business Development - IoT Ecosystems, Asia Pacific
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