June 18, 2015 - Comments Off on Creating Data Cities

Creating Data Cities

Last night’s Leeds Data Thing event around how we can use data to make cities more sustainable provided some great insights and discussions.

Is it possible to use data from social media to see how cohesive a city is? In other words, can we see how different groups and communities interact with each other? It’s a fascinating area to look at because those relationships could be the key to unlocking economic growth.

At least that’s the ultimate goal. It’s easy to get excited about what’s possible when you’ve worked with as much data as we have down the years – but this is very real.

You can get insight from Twitter data but you have to be very careful that you don’t create a biased sample. Say we analysed a conversation from the Leeds community today. It would be a totally different conversation tomorrow.

Our work for some of UK’s biggest companies is based on innovation in maths, and this is an extension of it. Usually we’re analysing a ‘thing’ – an advert or a campaign – but for analysing whole cities we need to adopt a totally new method.

Peter Laflin presenting Whisper data at Leeds ODI

We need a method that uses new analytical technology, which allows us to cut through a lot of irrelevant ‘noise’ so we can work with the data that really matters.

Now we can see into the heart of cities, and understand how their communities exist. Each city has its own communities – so for example we know that Leeds has a community for students, healthcare, football and music (among many others).

How do these communities interact with each other, if at all? Are they cohesive? Should they be?

We know from our work that the student community of Leeds is disconnected. The risk to the city is fairly obvious. If they don’t feel connected, graduates will leave – taking their skills with them, to benefit some other economy, and Leeds misses out.

Our analysis can identify these areas, and provide cities with a platform to grow. All from social data.

The crucial part is that our analytical method can be applied to other cities – any cities, UK or abroad. It gives them what we call a unique DNA barcode, so as a city administrator you can track what your city needs and what it doesn’t need.

We have included the slides from last nights event below but if you’d like more information about this area of our work, please get in touch.