Tag Archives: urban

big data

Big data, big business

Featured image above: Plume Labs use pigeons to monitor air quality in London. Credit: Plume Labs

Optimising highway networks, mapping crime hotspots and producing virtual reality sporting experiences based on real-life games: these are just a few of the exciting outcomes that new businesses are now achieving with complex data analysis. More and more startups are using readily available data to create products and services that are game changers for their industries.

Big data, for example, is what lies behind Uber’s huge success as a taxi alternative; the company optimises processes by using data analysis to predict peak times, journey time and likely destinations of passengers. Many other companies are now using data to produce technology-based solutions for a range of issues and even designing new ways to collect data.

A weather station and umbrella all in one

Wezzoo, a Paris-based start-up company, has designed a smart umbrella that tells users when it’s going to rain. The ‘oombrella’, as it’s been dubbed, is strikingly iridescent, sturdy in design, and presents a data-based solution to staying dry. It will send a notification to a smart phone 15 minutes before predicted rain and also send a reminder when it’s been left behind on a rainy day.

The oombrella itself is also a mobile weather station, able to detect temperature, atmospheric pressure, light and humidity. “Each oombrella will collect data and share it with the community to make hyperlocal weather data more accurate,” says the company.

Real-time meteorological information from each oombrella is uploaded to Wezzoo’s existing social weather service app. More than 200,000 people already use the app and upload their own weather reports from all over the world, creating a more interactive and collaborative approach to weather observation. This data, as well as information from weather stations is used to create personalised predictions for oombrella users.

‘Pigeon Air Patrol’ monitors pollution

Plume Labs, in collaboration with DigitasLBi and Twitter UK, have literally taken to the skies with their latest air pollution monitoring project, Pigeon Air Patrol. They recently strapped lightweight air-quality sensors to the backs of 10 London-based pigeons to gather data on pollution in the city’s skies. For the duration of the project, the public could tweet their location to @PigeonAir and receive a live update on levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone, the main harmful gases in urban areas. Not only did this innovative project help collect data in new ways, it raised awareness of air pollution in large cities.

“Air pollution is a massive environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone,” says Romain Lacombe, Plume Labs’ CEO.

“Air pollution is an invisible enemy, but we can fight back: actionable information helps limit our exposure, improve our health and well-being, and make our cities breathable.”

Plume’s core focus is tracking and forecasting ambient pollution levels to allow city dwellers to minimise harmful exposure to polluted air. Their free phone app – the Plume Air Report – uses data from environmental monitoring agencies and public authorities to provide individuals with real-time information on air pollution safety levels at their locations. With the use of environmental Artificial Intelligence, the app predicts air pollutant levels for 300 cities and 40 countries with double the accuracy of traditional forecasting methods. “Predictive technologies will help us take back control of our environment,” Lacombe says.

The company, whilst still small, has managed to raise seed funding from French banks. It plans to build a business based on aggregating data, though is also open to developing hardware.

Innovative data collection methods are not only good for science, it seems; they can also be a strong foundation for business.

This article was first published by the Australian National Data Service on 24 May 2016. Read the original article here.

Data driven communities

Featured image above: the AURIN Map implements a geospatial map publicly available online. Credit: Dr Serryn Eagelson, AURIN

Ildefons Cerdà coined the term ‘urbanisation’ during his Eixample (‘expansion’) plan for Barcelona, which almost quadrupled the size of the city in the mid-19th century.

Cerdà’s revolutionary scientific approach calculated the air and light inhabitants needed, occupations of the population and the services they might need. His legacy remains, with Barcelona’s characteristic long wide avenues arranged in a grid pattern around octagonal blocks offering the inhabitants a city in which they can live a longer and healthier life.

Since Cerdà’s time, urban areas have come a long way in how they are planned and improved, but even today disparities are rife in terms of how ‘liveable’ different areas are. “Liveability is something that I’ve been working on most recently,” says Dr Serryn Eagelson, Data, Business and Applications Manager for the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN).

Eagelson describes her work in finding new datasets as a bit like being a gold prospector. “It encompasses walkability, obesity, clean air, clean water – everything that relates to what you need in order to live well.”

In collaboration with more than 60 institutions and data providers, the $24 million AURIN initiative, funded by the Australian Government and led by The University of Melbourne, tackles liveability and urbanisation using a robust research data approach, providing easy access to over 2,000 datasets organised by geographic areas. AURIN highlights the current state of Australia’s cities and towns and offers the data needed to improve them.

“We have provided AURIN Map to give communities the opportunity to have a look at research output,” says Eagelson. Normally hidden away from public eyes, the information in the AURIN Map can be viewed over the internet and gives communities an unprecedented opportunity to visualise and compare the datasets on urban infrastructure they need to lobby councils and government for improvements in their area.

Recently, AURIN has teamed up with PwC Australia – the largest professional services company in the world – to pool skills, tools and data. “We’re also working with PwC in developing new products,” adds Eagelson. “It’s quite complicated but PwC’s knowledge is giving us new insights into how data can be used for economic policy.”

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) also has strong links with AURIN, having undertaken a number of joint projects on topics such as how ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods are, which can then be used to plan things like public transport accessibility (even down to where train station entrances and exits should be located); urban employment clusters, which can aid decision-making on the location of businesses; and disaster management, where the collaborators developed a proof-of-concept intelligent Disaster Decision Support System (iDDSS) to provide critical visual information during natural disasters like floods or bushfires.

“I’m probably most excited by a project releasing the National Health Service Directory – a very rich dataset that we’ve never had access to before,” says Eagelson. “It even includes the languages spoken by people who run those services, and that data’s now being used to look at migrants to Australia, where they move from suburb to suburb, and how their special health needs can be best catered for – so this information has a big public health benefit.”

This article was first published by the Australian National Data Service in May 2016. Read the original article here.

Facing the future

As the world becomes more urbanised, with 70% of people now living in cities, “there is an urgent need to make them more sustainable, more energy efficient, safer and cleaner,” says Dr Marlene Kanga, iOmniscient’s director. “Our products enable this to be done intelligently using video data from different sources to complement text and numerical data.”

The company’s technology can analyse images from anywhere – TV, YouTube, security cameras and personal and public sources – and from that provide real-time responses in complex and crowded environments. The technology can be employed wherever there are cameras.

It pinpoints faces in a crowd, counts people, manages crowds, detects abandoned objects, recognises license plates, and matches drivers to their vehicles. The technology works in more than 120 languages, including Arabic scripts and numerals and can operate indoors or outdoors, even in the harshest climates. It also accepts inputs from audio and chemical sensors.

The system has already been installed in oil and gas plants from Azerbaijan to Mexico, in airports, on railway systems including China’s High Speed Rail network, on campuses such as the University of San Francisco, and in Iraq’s Karbala mosque. As Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient puts it: “We can do everything that any video analysis supplier can do and do it better – and many things that no one else can do.”

Using mobile devices, iOmniscient’s software can also “monitor garbage and vandalism, understand traffic congestion, assess riots and commotions and provide inputs for big data systems analysing information relevant to a city,’’ adds Kanga. “The technology has its own ‘smarts’, with the ability to minimise nuisance alarms, diagnose itself, and determine whether all cameras are working effectively.”

Dr Marlene Kanga
Dr Marlene Kanga

The starting point for this remarkable technology was a single patent acquired in 2001 from the CRC for Sensor Signal and Information Processing. Founders Marlene and Rustom Kanga and Ivy Li then invested extensively in the company to expand its scope and product range. Today, it has 26 patents covering multiple technologies. Sales are mainly made through major systems integrators such as Siemens and Motorola. They also partner with other major technology providers like Microsoft, EMC and Oracle.

The company is working on improving its technology through four engineering centres in Sydney, Toronto, Chennai and Singapore, where they continue to develop robust in-house technology, train postgraduates, and maintain a strong lead in the ownership of its intellectual property.


FAST FORWARD

Name: iOmniscient

HQ: Sydney

R&D: 26 patents covering multiple technologies

Reach: Azerbaijan, Canada, China, India, Iraq, Mexico, USA, Singapore

At a glance: Established in 2001, iOmniscient is one of Australia’s great software export success stories. 95% of sales are overseas and it has offices in Canada, Singapore, India and more.

– Paul Hendy