How To Take Advantage of Data From Devices

Municipalities are integrating data-collecting devices throughout cityscapes to gather information and insight into the community

What Happened?

Municipalities are integrating data-collecting devices throughout cityscapes to gather information on the community to support new strategies and decision making. These devices are providing insight on how residents interact with infrastructure and services.


There is a growing number of municipalities using devices to gather information on resident activities and interactions with the city’s amenities and services. Wearable technologies, specifically, are able to track individuals throughout the day and monitor how they use resources around them.

Wearable technologies provide insight into individual behaviors, as well as illustrate trends in community activities. Some government officials believe wearable technologies can help bridge the gap communication gap between residents and public agencies, while residents think the information gathered can be used to improve quality of life in the community, Government Technology reported.

Municipalities can collect key information from wearable technologies that demonstrate how individuals live in the community, as well as how the city functions. With this unique data, decision makers can identify areas of disparity and understand the needs of residents before developing policies and initiatives to solve problems.

Wearables Now

Most cities offer mobile apps connecting users to public transportation information and updates. More recently vehicle-to-pedestrian technology has emerged connecting walkers and bicyclists to vehicles around them. The technology can detected pedestrians and cyclists when they approach and vehicle, and then notify drivers to be cautious and aware, Government Technology reported.

Wearable technology has been integrated into public safety procedures including:

  • Helmet-mounted cameras and sensors that collect data at the site of an emergency and report it back to a central command site
  • Data-transmitting pills measure firefighters’ heat stress and tell command centers if backup is needed
  • Sensory suits detect dangerous gases and liquids to prevent first responder injuries and fatalities

Tech experts predict sensors placed throughout a city will interact with data-collecting devices on individuals – such as smartphones – to create a continual stream of community activity to support more accurate policies.

Leveraging Mobile Devices

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable Lab created the Many Cities app that monitored calls, texts and data traffic in smartphone users in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. The goal of the app was to gather accurate data on populations in well-connected cities that could provide deeper insight than Census information to researchers and policymakers, CityLab reported.

The researchers looked at communication trends unique to the cities and those found in all four locations. The patterns in user behavior could be used to determine how best to manage public events, plan urban designs, and sustain economic growth and business development.

In addition, the city of Richmond has launched a mobile app allowing residents to take pictures of parts of the community that need attending to and submit them directly to public agencies as a complaint. If a resident notices fallen trees, potholes or other problems they can take a picture and send it to the city through the CivicTRAK app, Richmond Confidential reported.

Sensing the City

Gov1 has reported on a variety of projects incorporating sensors into data-collection efforts to more accurately gauge the efficacy of processes and the needs of residents .

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