NYC ‘quantified community’ may break new data-gathering ground

Wed, 2014-04-30 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Most cities looking to add data-gathering technologies to their operations face the challenge of making the new equipment work with, or alongside, what they’ve got. Comprises are sometimes necessary.

That’s why urban planners and data experts are salivating over the huge, mixed-use Hudson Yards development under construction in New York City. The Manhattan borough project affords a rare opportunity to incorporate and integrate advanced data-gathering tools from the ground up. And the development team plans to do just that, deploying instrumentation that will closely monitor the 65,000 people expected to move through the skyscrapers, residences, retails areas and open spaces of Hudson Yards each day.  

Commenting on the project in a Fast Company Co.Exist article,  Constantine Kontokosta, deputy director at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, says, “It really started from the question: If we could know anything about the city, what would we want to know and how could we do a better job at measuring the pace of life?”

Details about how the data-gathering works for this “quantified community” remain somewhat undefined at this stage. For instance, it’s uncertain how Hudson Yards residents, workers and visitors will supply and interact with data. What is known is that much of the stream of data will come from building systems or smart “Internet of things” devices and appliances. Smartphone apps are another likely source. Data experts intend to gather specific types of information that will aid managing sustainability elements such as trash, recycling and composting systems.

In a separate New York Times article, Steven E. Koonin, director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress, noted that Hudson Yards provides a unique chance to bring together data that measures the environment, physical systems and human behavior. “The real gold will be in combining the data science and the social sciences,” he says.