Smart cities and Tech Evolution - XXX Awareness Infrastructure - Soft Infrastructures

The soft-web of tweets over New York City.

The perception of "lateness" of various types of transportation in New York derived from the analyses of messages on social media. Credit: Derek Doran et al. Wright State University, Daytona, OH, US

Each one of us is a sensor of sort. And we normally exploit our “sensorship” when we talk or send messages one another by relating what we saw/touched/smelled… and so on. Today, a good portion of our talking and message exchange takes place in digital form and this communication can be analysed to retrieve information. Just the fact that we communicate is a data telling where we are and whom we are communicated with. 

Besides, some of our “communications” is in public domain, like posting a tweet (6,000 per second), publishin a blog (32 per second), placing a photo on Instagram (614 per second), sharing content on Facebook (56,000 per second) …

Applications can look into this huge flow of messages and extract data.

A growing number of apps are mining this content and derive data that measure the “pulse” of a city.  Municipalities can exploit these data and share them with the citizenship creating “awareness”.

Research is ongoing to better exploit “human sensing”. In some instances, particulalry when we want to understand “feelings” of the citizenship, human sensors can provide better data.

Hard facts like the number and location of crime in a city can be retrieved from data published by police departments. Looking at social media we can derive information on the feeling of citizens about a specific area of a city being safe or not. This clearly relates to the crime rate but goes beyond that. Illumination on the street may greatly affect perception of the citizenship. It is important both to fight crime and to improve the perception of safety to the citizenship.

Mining social media, as well as capturing data from sensors about people location, movement and so on is fraught with privacy issues that need to be taken into account. This in turns is tied to the trust citizens have on their city, municipality and institutions. Technologies can help but it is not a silver bullet. Perception is crucial.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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