LIRNEasia joins the Sri Lanka smart cities discussion

Posted on September 16, 2015  /  0 Comments

Our intervention in the most widely read English daily in Sri Lanka emphasizes the “smart” in smart cities.

A middle option focuses on citizens moving through time and space in the city as the primary sensors. They generate the big data that when analyzed constitute the feedback that is the essence of a smart city. Experimentation and learning are integral to this low-cost approach. It is especially appropriate for the organically developed, congested cities in developing countries where the costs of installing and maintaining city-owned sensors would be quite high.

Big data have always been there, but it is only recently that analysis has become tractable. Over the past decades more data have been “datafied.” Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier coined this neologism to describe very large data sets that include, but are not limited to, schema-less (unstructured, but processable) data. Until recently constraints of computer memory, retrieval and processing limited the use of these data to entities who could afford to use supercomputers. Hardware and memory have declined in price and improved in functionality and open-source software has been developed, democratizing big data analytics. This has enabled non-profit entities such as LIRNEasia to mobilize local data scientists to undertake research that can contribute to smart-city developments. This work has attracted attention from many including the UN organization dealing with big data and has been covered by newspapers in the region.

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