Big data & analytics

Big data & analytics

The great leap forward – how quantified cities could make us all healthier


Joyeeta Das, CEO of Gyana an AI technology startup specialising in machine learning, data sciences, applied psychology, software engineering, sentiment analysis and applied mathematics – shares her thoughts on how quantified cities could improve healthcare

quantified cities

As Buddha said, ‘Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship’. How I wish all our governments gave us this gift!

More than transport and infrastructure, for me the concept of quantified cities is about public health. This is a major issue – in the UK rising cases of lifestyle-related depression and an increasing number of senior citizens pose problems. In Europe overall mental health is an issue, in the USA it’s obesity. The list is endless.

The causes are complex. Many scientists and doctors will create hypotheses, and urban scientists may test those in curated samples, but in the end it will boil down to IoT and data sciences to verify the truth. When the time comes we want to be ready. Smart- and IoT-oriented cities are a great first step, but I believe that linking them to real-time analytics and quantifying the city is the development that will count.

Right now we have millions of intelligent buildings across the world. For instance, New York’s Hudson Yards is a fantastic quantified community, and thousands of traffic cameras now have inbuilt sensors, but where is the infrastructure tying it all together?

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Even if we do not take many new steps forward, creating a global open- source repository of the data we already have is more than enough to identify patterns in public health. Imagine real-time Twitter trends and then combine them with the relevant pedestrian cameras to identify possible places of contagion. Picture making streets and neighbourhoods ‘responsive’! Envisage correlating traffic patterns with anxiety issues. Visualise the effect of a convention seep through several health parameters. This is great not just for public policy makers, but also for enterprises, citizens, anyone who cares. Having data for quantified cities accessible in real time is the most important step in making this an integral part of our decisions.

What if you knew that 70 per cent of people who live in the same time zone as you and who drive the same routes at the same time slot as you ended up with some form of pulmonary disease by the time they were 40? Would you still make the same choices and decisions? What if you knew the school you were about to pick for your child is surrounded by pockets of increasing obesity and unhealthy food stations? Would you then buy a house in a different catchment area? Imagine going back in time to identify when this started and what kind of events it coincides with! What if you could do all that with a flick of your finger? ­­– Minority Report style! Answering questions like these will raise awareness and cause major changes in economic and social structures, which is exactly how it should be.

Gyana is working towards making the dream of quantified cities possible. We combine the digital footprint of physical and digital things to create cohesive and comprehensive quantified models of cities that are alive and pulsating. Various enterprises already use us. Sometime in the future maybe health policy makers can use us too. At least that is the hope.

About the author

Joyeeta Das is a techie and serial entrepreneur with a background in engineering who has dabbled in both for-profit and non-profit technology companies from a young age. She has traveled and lived across the world and is driven by her passion for using technology to advance human consciousness.

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