Cities are not built on a whim, but today a new kind of data is used to sculpt modern metropoli from the bare bones of steel and concrete.
Dubai is one example of how a particular set of information is being used to turn kilometers of sand into a functioning, 21st century city.
Around the world that information is generated by every individual with a phone. Telecommunications companies log the data from users making calls, hooking into a wifi hotspot, and GPS, to build a larger picture of how people use their city.
Effectively, every time a person uses their phone or any other internet-connected device, or even just leaves the GPS on, the information created by that device is hoovered up and added to an anonymized pool.
Du senior executive officer for innovation, Carlos Domingo, says this data can be used by Dubai city officials or companies to plan businesses or infrastructure around fairly basic elements of human behavior: if I have a door on this street instead of that street, will I get more foot traffic?
If we move a bus shelter 100 meters down the road, will it be more useful to a greater number of (perhaps less mobile) people?
Telecommunications data is making cities inherently ‘smarter’, not only by making internet-connected outdoor furniture possible, such as Dubai’s smart palms, but by influencing the very way they are built, from the ground up.