Being stuck in traffic is never a pleasant experience. Picture a businessman, who having rushed through his morning, is stuck in a traffic jam due to an unfortunate accident. Immediately, he snaps up his phone and tweets his location to urban planning authorities. The digitized data mining and planning offices process the incoming information, and utilize the computerized network of traffic signals to reroute and decongest traffic in the surrounding areas. The result: A smooth ride to work, just like every other day.
Globally, city planning officials are enroute to realizing this dream using the power of social media. With almost everyone just a smartphone away, data mining is being extensively used to deal with administrative issues. For instance, a city is using the geo-localized digital information from tweets to understand nightlife and accordingly plan public transport routes, shopping complexes, restaurants, and even allocate the required number of law enforcement officials.
By tracking social media usage of citizens, officials can plan ahead to improve the structure and functioning of a city. For instance, it can aid officials to appropriately characterize urban areas as industrial, residential, professional, and entertainment. Social media tracking can also share information about the number of people frequenting each area, on which days, and even what time-helping civic authorities plan and construct better, more efficient waste management systems. They can slot garbage pickups and allocate disposal bins based on the area type and lifestyles of people who live or work there, based on their social media usage.
Another sector of governance that can benefit through this sort of data gathering is transport management in cities. By tracking the movement of people, vehicular traffic and roadblocks, a traffic signal system can be devised that reduces traffic snarls and bottleneck jams. Social media information can be used to plan appropriate parking spaces where required and can also help transport authorities create more transport infrastructure where needed.
A different example of how social media usage can help city planners involves using Foursquare check-in details to rate the socioeconomic level of a neighborhood. With such statistics pouring in every minute, officials can use the data to assign the right amount and type of resources to improve the quality of the neighborhood. For instance, if fewer people frequent a particular area, it will urge officials to investigate possible causes such as safety or hygiene levels there. Based on the factors that are causing a dip in the overall popularity of a place, authorities will be able to deal with the problem, armed with informative data.
With colossal amounts of data streaming in every second through social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others, there is a huge potential for our cities to transform into the highly efficient ones imagined in science fiction.
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