How big data and tiny changes can fix city life

With cities populations rapidly increasingly, it’s becoming obvious that we need to fundamentally rethink the way in which we traverse cities, making cities functional and liveable for the many not the few. Ford is one of the companies at the forefront of these dynamic changes.

“The vision Henry Ford had 100 years ago was if you provide people with freedom of movement, it’d drive the future of progress,” said Ford’s Sarah-Jayne Williams, Smart Mobility Director of the European arm. Today Ford is rethinking what the freedom of movement might look like in our every growing cities.

At the end of 2018 Ford held the City of Tomorrow Symposium in Valencia, Cologne and London. In Valencia, panellists comprised of city planners, policy makers, investors, future mobility experts and innovators gathered to discuss transformations that may create the cities of the future.

The Spanish city was an apt choice to host the first event, having recently invested in improving bike usage, increasing bus service standards and expanding the reach of the city’s Metro system.

The conclusion of these discussions: small changes have massive effects. Fixing city life is not necessarily about huge works of innovation and recreation, it’s about making what already exists better.

Changes can be as even simple as removing unnecessary stressors from people’s journeys, noise or light pollution for example. Being bombarded with sound or bright lights can add to pre-existing stresses in the city. It stands to reason that reducing these stressors, could, over time, make a real difference to people’s quality of life.

Bigger changes are also possible – but the key here is plenty of consultation, and that decisions are supported by rigorous big data. Architect Tomas Llorente Aguado has helped analyse the use of buses in Collado Villalba by installing monitoring software on local buses. Rather than assuming that passengers on a certain route need regular, fast buses, Aguado’s data can show where resources should be better deployed. “We can adapt the efficiency to the needs of the citizens,” he says.