Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are called to play a key role in the development and evolution of the Cities of the Future. The ubiquity of communication networks, with the widespread use of the Internet and mobile phones, has revolutionized the way that people communicate, access, and share information. Similarly, municipal governments, agencies and companies responsible for managing public services have deployed powerful communication networks that enable remote monitoring and control of the infrastructure under their charge. All this provides the basis for collecting large, varied and rich datasets on the behavior of the cities and its dwellers, opening up enormous possibilities for making the Cities of the Future more livable, sustainable and efficient.
Thus, it is now possible to access scattered information gathered by sensor networks, cameras and other devices to know, with great accuracy and near real time, aspects such as the intensity of traffic on the streets, energy and water consumptions in households, pollen and air pollution levels, ambient humidity and lighting, etc. By deploying advanced platforms that monitor and analyze these and other parameters, it is possible to optimize the management of public services provided to citizens. This is one of the essential ideas behind the new emerging paradigm known as Smart City. The hundreds of initiatives of Smart Cities across the world have shown the enormous benefits of applying ICTs for improving city services in terms of efficiency and sustainability. There are numerous examples of Smart City applications that have proven success in areas such as the traffic light control, regulation of public parking, urban waste collection, irrigation of parks and gardens, street lighting, etc.
To date, most Smart City applications have focused on the optimization of individual services. However, the correlation between the data captured by different sources can bring a new dimension when considering the optimization of the city as a whole. This is not always easy since many times the data are managed by different organizations or companies. Thus, governments are trying to promote the exchange of data from different sources and the use of advanced analytical techniques to get a better insight on the behavior of cities and their dwellers. In addition, there is the idea of promoting open data in order to facilitate transparency in the management of services and the development of third party applications.
Furthermore, in recent years, the idea of analyzing the data derived from the interactions of citizens with ICTs in their daily activities has aroused great interest. Examples of such interactions include using a contactless card for access to public transport, credit card payments, phone calls, activity on Internet and social networks, either at home, at work, or on the move, though a smart phone. The footprint of these activities can provide huge, highly dynamic, volumes of data that, properly processed and analyzed, can provide valuable information on the pulse of the city. These new sources of information, characterized by huge, highly dynamic, diverse, complex and inter-related data sets, fall under the category of what is known as Big Data, whose treatment is not trivial and requires the use of sophisticated techniques of storage, processing and analysis.
Summarizing, the more data are available about the city and its citizens, the more information will have city managers for sound decision-making. Data analytics in the field of cities provides enormous potential for the development of the city of the future. However, it is necessary to promote initiatives to facilitate access to data gathered by multiple agencies and companies and to further investigate in the development of Big Data technologies. Last but not least, is required to promote data openness, without neglecting privacy issues, in order to foster the development of new applications, to promote transparency in the management of public services, and to encourage citizens to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities offered by Smart City initiatives.