For the first time in history, more than half of the people in the world live in urban areas. Now more than ever, cities are supporting rapidly increasing populations while struggling to maintain services, operations, and quality of life for their inhabitants.
As cities grow, the task of understanding how they work is becoming a pressing global issue. Currently, about 80 percent of the U.S. and about 50 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, growing at over 1 million people per week. In the face of unprecedented growth, cities are faced with a unique challenge: refurbishing and maintaining existing infrastructures to support their current inhabitants while also planning sufficiently to accommodate future populations. If growth patterns continue at this speed, by 2050, 64 percent of people in the developing world, and 85 percent of people in the developed world, will call an urban area their home.
But while global urbanization seemingly presents myriad challenges, it also offers a potential solution – in the form of data. Thanks to the digital revolution, we now have more information at our disposal than ever before, and the amount of data that urban areas are generating is truly staggering. In New York City alone, the local government creates a terabyte of raw data every day, with information on everything from parking tickets to electricity.