Increasing Connectedness Deals with Overcrowdedness in Cities

July 10, 2017

There are two ongoing trends: increasing urbanization rates and increasing connectedness, or in other words, more data streams. Urbanization leads to overcrowdedness and that negatively affects the city’s livability in different areas, such as mobility, social cohesion, and safety. The efficient use of big data and utilizing the increasing connectedness is the solution to deal with overcrowdedness and increase livability, in order to create a perfect city.


Source: Business Insider


Digital nomads and the rise of the city

The amount of online connected devices is continuously increasing, in fact it is double the number of people on our planet. Figure 1 shows an estimated 20 billion internet-connected devices mid-2017. We have become the so-called digital nomads, since we are less and less bounded to one desk, city, or country, while staying more connected compared to the past. Technology, mostly the internet, enables us to go wherever and whenever we want: one could be working in the morning on a Dutch news article from a very remote Airbnb location in Asia or working all day long in one of the many coffee places in a large, vibrant city, having meetings with people from all continents either in person or via the digital web. We are a node in a global and complex web of data streams, of which trillions are created daily. The growing data and technology can be used to maintain and improve the livability of the city.

Next to the increase in connectedness, there is the rise of the city. According to the United Nations, the 2016 urbanization rate is estimated at 54.5 percent of the world’s population (UnitedNations, 2016). Furthermore, there were 512 cities with at least 1 million habitants. By 2030, the urbanization rate is projected to increase to 60 percent and cities are expected to expand: 662 cities will have at least 1 million residents.


Increasing crowdedness affecting livability

The increasing crowdedness in the city has negative effects on the livability of the city, on areas such as mobility, social cohesion and safety.  First, mobility issues, such as finding a parking space or a place to work, are increasing due to an increase in urbanization rate.

Second, overcrowdedness that also results from immigration and tourism, is likely to decrease the social cohesion as there is a negative relation between diversity and trust (Costa & Kahn, 2003). Third, overcrowdedness, often most visible during festivals and other events, surely has its effects on the society’s safety. Just two of the many examples of such events are the 2010 crowded disaster at a festival in Duisburg (21 deaths from suffocation) and the 2014 Shanghai stampede during the New Year’ s Eve (36 deaths).

All in all, overcrowdedness seems to stand in the way of creating a perfect city. How can data from connected nodes be used to improve the city’s livability, in terms of mobility, social cohesion and safety? The increasing number of connected devices could be a solution.


Using the web of connected devices to improve livability

Generally, it is important to analyze the ‘city’s behavior’ to better understand and predict the dynamics of the cities. There are many parties aiming to solve one or more of the effects of overcrowdedness, of which current and past participants of the Accenture Innovation Awards.


Enhancing Mobility

Connected devices can improve mobility by providing real-time data on movement, which makes it possible to make more thought through decisions on for instance what time, with whom, and how to travel. Besides the well-known Snappcar, Car2go and Zipcar, there are also growing startups that create solutions for other mobility aspects. For example, there is Smart Parking from Parkeagle, a startup (Innovation Awards 2016 participant) that makes parking easy, fast and fundamentally digital by providing on-street parking availability information. Parkeagle guides you to the nearest available parking space, using technologies as smart network, cloud analytics and mobile app technology, reducing search time with a quite important side benefit: less CO2 emission.

Another startup that focuses on mobility is Openr, a current Innovation Awards participant. Openr offers a combination of intercom- and access control, which makes it able to open doors from a smartphone, computer or tablet and share digital keys from wherever you are. Openr provides a solution in the mobility area in the sense that less travel and transport is needed.


Improving Social cohesion

The use of connected devices has its benefits for the social cohesion, since it is easier to digitize your profile and connect to others. Virtask, a second Innovation Awards 2017 participant, developed a software program named Rena. It is a software program (realistic avatar) that helps the registration and integration of asylum seekers. Rena understands every language and can translate 15 languages on the spot. The stored data provides municipalities a lot of information about the refugees. Last, Rena is very helpful with communication and coaching of refugees.

Another start-up that is worth mentioning, is Konnektid (Innovation Awards 2015 participant). It is an online community which makes it possible to learn everything from the people in your neighborhood. Konnektid connects you with these people who can teach you, both online and offline. You can return the favor by sharing the skills that you are passionate about. Their database gives you an overview of the ‘nodes’ in their network. In order to improve the social cohesion, both start-ups show the importance of your personal characteristics, skills and getting in contact with other people who do not necessarily share these characteristics.


Increasing Safety

When it comes to safety, increasing connectedness makes it possible to reach many people at once. Technical University Delft developed a crowd monitoring system on behalf of Amsterdam SAIL, a quinquennial maritime event. During the 2015 event, visitor flow was measured using devices such as counting camera’s, Wi-Fi sensors and GPS. Data on real-time movement is very beneficial, especially when many people come together. This data makes it possible to predict crowdedness, which is useful for both crowd managers as well as visitors: crowd managers can foresee crowded area’s and aware the visitors. In turn, visitors can use this new information when moving.

Another example of a safety solution is NL-Alert. In the Netherlands, the government uses NL-Alert to inform people via a text message, based on geographical location, during life and health-threatening situations. Except for informing purposes, the text message informs what the receiver can do to improve safety. Similar to mobility-related solutions, movement data is crucial in order to solve the overcrowdedness when it is needed the most.


Connectedness increases livability

Summarized, the increasing number of digital nomads in a world where cities are expanding, provides useful data. Big data from connected devices combined with technology provides possibilities for improvement of the livability in the increasing crowdedness in the city, setting the basis for creating the ‘perfect city’. The goal should be to optimally use the (increasing) possibilities of connectedness to improve the city’s livability in terms of mobility, social cohesion and safety. Accenture strongly supports startups and innovators:  the Accenture Innovation Awards’ goal is to create an extensive ecosystem to connect all innovators and to drive innovation together.


Do you know a startup striving towards a perfect city? Connect them with thought leaders by participating in the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017.


Costa, D. L., & Kahn, M. (2003). Civic Engagement and Community Heterogeneity: An Economist’s Perspective. Perspectives on Politics 1, 103-111, on June 23th, 2017

UnitedNations. (2016). The World’s Cities in 2016. Retrieved from /pdf/urbanization/the_worlds_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf, on June 23th, 2017

Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2017). Immigration, Diversity and Social Cohesion. Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Data Hub., on June 23th, 2017

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