The interconnected agendas of smart cities, big data and open data, on the face of it, provide bold and exciting opportunities for built environment professionals. With a focus at the city level, this research examines the development of data platforms in the UK and internationally, and determines how professionals in the built environment can benefit from these data platforms.

Smart Cities, Big Data and the Built Environment: What's Required?

Main findings

The research identifies four key barriers to the development of big data projects in the built environment:

  • A lack of consistency in the definitions and measurement of built environment big data.
  • A low level of built environment sector business engagement.
  • The lack of interoperability between different varieties of datasets.
  • The present lack of a ‘bottom-up’, demand-focused approach to the smart cities agenda.

Policy and practice implications: what's required?

Through a scoping survey, four key smart city case studies (Bristol, Milton Keynes, Amsterdam and Taipei) and a UK workshop, the research highlights the need for built environment professionals and their professional bodies to act around two key issues:

  • The need to better understand the use and supply of built environment big data.
  • The need to recognise the changing roles of stakeholders.

With a focus on procurement and digital assets, professionals need to become more ‘data savvy’; to identify where big and open data can help inform and improve the operation of their own organisations, as well as those of their clients. Professionals and sector leaders also need to focus on data interoperability, which begins with agreement upon common data standards and a common language for data. Data quality, provenance, validation and security are also going to become increasingly important; highlighting the need for consideration of liability and regulation.

Cities need to develop clear smart city and data strategies to provide greater certainty to stakeholders and improve incentives for companies to share their data. Professional bodies need to act more decisively, championing change and the uptake of data and smart city skills within the built environment sector. Built environment professionals need to better understand the potential impacts of big and open data upon professional advice in their sector. Increased collaboration between all these actors and technology companies should deliver an improved service for citizens.


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