How investing in Big Data can transform city services

Council Lead Partners Cisco and GE are attracting increasing attention for their efforts to bring Big Data to the Internet of Things. But while much of the early focus is on what’s good for business, there’s a lot for cities to get excited about, too.

The latest attention comes in a profile from Fortune, which highlighted the vision of both companies. Both believe that Big Data, advanced analytics, and the Internet of Things together can provide a higher level of service at a lower cost.

Uncovering hidden insights
The profile highlighted a recent announcement from Cisco that could have huge implications on everyone from retailers and event managers to system managers and service providers. Cisco Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything is an entire portfolio of analytics products designed to help users get to the insights hey know are buried somewhere in their data.

Cisco says 40% of the people it surveyed say that accessing and interpreting data is the biggest obstacle they face in identifying and making improvements. The analytics portfolio is designed to make that easier.

Over the next decade, Cisco forecasts that more than a third of its Internet of Things opportunity will come from analytics and related consulting services.

Meantime, GE’s analytics business is already worth $1 billion annually. In addition to data collection and visualization and process optimization, it’s getting a lot of attention for its predictive analytics that can help businesses and government agencies minimize downtime. GE Proficy SmartSignal can predict what equipment will fail and why, providing time to fix it before there is a failure.

Delivering a true transformation
The Fortune profile highlights retailers and event planners, which make up only two of Cisco’s eight Connected Analytics products. For retailers, it paints a picture of stores combining cameras with their inventory systems to get a comprehensive view of their customers and what they shop for, which could help them better plan their inventory.

The events package could dramatically change the user experience during ballgames. Stadium managers could easily shift staff and resources between food stands that are busy and empty. Fans, meantime, could follow the action even when they’re away from their seats. Stats on their favorite players would show and update on their mobile devices when they’re in line. (For another example, read a case study from Council Lead Partner IBM on how its Intelligent Operations Center improves the game day experience for Miami Dolphin fans at Florida's Sun Life Stadium.)

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these analytics solutions can benefit cities. An analysis of cameras along roads and in transit centers can give planners new insights into commuting patterns. And the same concept that allows fans to follow game stats could be used to provide real-time information about their commute and even suggest alternatives if a bus or train they will need to take later is running behind schedule or full.

Analytics services are growing fast
Both GE and Cisco see strong growth potential in analytics services. GE is putting together a team of partners that will help it expand beyond the sectors that have received much of its attention so far, sectors like power generation and health care. A new partnership with SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications company, will help it provide useful analytics for manufacturing and shipping.

For Cisco, its analytics portfolio has a variety of smart cities applications. Among other things, it provides analytics for information technology departments, helping them with data management and governance. Another product helps managers see which employees are making use of their organization’s collaboration technology so they can focus attention on those who are not, raising overall productivity.

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Kevin Ebi is a staff writer and social media coordinator for the Council. Follow  @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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