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Urban mobility in the smart city age: DataSpark

Zafirah Salim | Jan. 6, 2016
In this email interview, Dr. Amy Shi-Nash, Chief Data Science Officer at DataSpark, Singtel, talked about how DataSpark is contributing towards Singapore's smart city vision, especially in the aspect of public transportation; and how the Internet of Things (IoT) have changed the game for smart cities, including data privacy issues.

We are able to map trips across Singapore by noting connections to cell towers associated with a particular MRT station or area of the expressway. When we measure connections to the telecommunication network in this way, we are able to obtain a robust representation of the population's movements throughout the MRT network and expressways. The data that we use are anonymised and aggregated in compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

In what ways do you think the Internet of Things (IoT) have changed the game for smart cities? And since there's a common taboo associated with big data, such as "surveillance" and tracking, how much of a concern is data with IoT in smart cities?

The Internet of Things has brought about an explosion of available data, which can be used to power smart city applications and initiatives. With the right technology and analytics, the growing volume of both sensor data and people-generated data may be analysed to power smart city initiatives and applications. Of particular interest to DataSpark is the fact that a lot of these data may ride on the telco network when machines communicate with each other. If captured, such data would significantly enrich the geo-spatial capabilities of our company.

In Singapore, the PDPA is a data protection law which comprises various rules governing the collection, use, disclosure and care of personal data. In DataSpark, we anonymise and aggregate all insights, as well as ensure that all processes are in compliance with the PDPA. This means that none of our processes make it possible for an individual to be identified. On top of that, customer consent is needed for data to be used in an anonymised, aggregated manner.

We believe that as long as data privacy is built into processes and not simply the end result, IoT can bring rich possibilities to the smart city initiative without compromising privacy.


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