Big Data powers Urban Engines

Wednesday, 21 May, 2014

Fact: By 2050, the global population will have reached nine billion.
Fact: For the first time in human history, the majority of people now live in cities.

Put the two facts together and one gets a future in which urban transport systems are going to be strained to breaking point. Unless city planners can manage the demand for services, there will be chaos. Enter Balaji Prabhakar and Shiva Shivakumar with their Urban Engines, which is offering solutions based on Big Data and behavioural economics. The San Francisco-based company is working with the World Bank to implement its approach for the bus system in Sao Paulo; in Singapore, it’s helping the city to ease train commuters from peak hours to off-peak hours; it’s carried out pilots projects in Bangalore, and it’s being deployed on the train system in Washington, D.C.

How does it work? Urban Engines takes data from commuter transit cards and uses its algorithms to infer how commuters and their trains and buses are behaving. No cameras or sensors needed. No major technology spend required.


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