07/17/2013 12:43 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

Big Data: Making Cities Smarter

As I wrote in Too Big To Ignore, Big Data is leading a revolution of sorts. Like any new technology in an era of social media, education and communication can be, well, challenging. One common myth among many businesspeople is that Big Data is the sole purview of big companies--e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter, and others. In fact, many small businesses are harnessing the power of Big Data, and even the public sector is getting involved.

Over the next few years, we'll see major changes in many facets of life. For one, we'll hear more and more about smart cities, a subject about which Paul Doherty knows a great deal. Doherty is the President and CEO of the digit group, inc. and will be speaking about Big Data in the public sector at StampedeCon in St. Louis, MO on July 30th of 2013.

Big Data is just one of the seismic shifts taking place as we speak. In fact, we are living in an era of rapid technological advances. SmartPhones, near field communication (NFC), the Internet of Things, sensors, machine-to-machine (M2M) learning, and wearable technology are changing how we interact with just about everything--and, importantly, how everything interacts with us.

Doherty notes that our current environment is creating opportunities through designing better, more efficient buildings and machines. This will lead to better performance, service and sustainability. "Think of buildings as having digital DNA. The knowledge behind the urban intelligence of Big Data latently resides with today's built environment and IT professional," Doherty says.

For more on Doherty's presentation "From Smart Buildings to Smart Cities: An Industry in the Midst of Big Data", click here. Paul also authored an interesting white paper on the topic.

Big Data: Not Just Big Brother

To be sure, most of the recent press around the government and Big Data has been negative (read: PRISM.) Still, by some estimates, Big Data may save taxpayers nearly half a trillion dollars. Beyond administrative costs, Big Data presents previously unprecedented opportunities. Examples run the gamut. Better healthcare and smarter cities are just the tip of the iceberg, and I'm hardly the only one who feels this way.

In the words of Harvard Professor Stephen Goldsmith, "Powerful new data analysis tools coupled with shrinking city budgets presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change how government operates." Anticipated savings will stem from the federal, state, and municipal levels. Progressive politicians like Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, current Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom, and current San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee‎ are leading the charge.

"Big Data is everywhere. Harnessing the power of Big Data will help design smarter cities in the future. The real opportunity for Big Data lies not only in the early adoption use cases, but in places we haven't thought of yet," says Gary Stiehr, Organizer of StampedeCon.

Click here to register for StampedeCon and here to view the agenda.