Every day the world’s population creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – a figure that is difficult to comprehend.

Until the advent of the internet, most data was organised in databases and other structures. Now we generate vast amounts of ‘unstructured’ data from all our digital interactions - such as online shopping, social media posts, text messages, emails and videos uploaded to sites like YouTube. Our smartphones, tablets and even kitchen appliances generate and transmit data. Sensors and cameras that are present in the spaces we travel through are also collecting information. These huge datasets are known as ‘big data’.

From unstructured data to urban big data

By 2030, over 90% of the UK population will live in urban areas. Urban big data can tell us a great deal about the social, economic and environmental challenges facing our cities. It can help us assess options, improve urban management and find solutions that deliver sustainable growth and a fairer society. Data-driven solutions can vastly improve the lives of urban residents by increasing the effectiveness of transport, housing, education and other key public services. Understanding how our cities work is the aim of Urban Informatics – the analysis of data across different contexts to improve understanding and inform action.

However, these datasets are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. The high volumes of data, the format (e.g. images, text), the mixed data origins (e.g. social media, sensors, GPS) and data accessibility or securitisation (e.g. personal data in administrative datasets, commercially sensitive data) mean that we need new tools and approaches to process and analyse them. The UBDC is at the cutting edge of using and promoting these innovative research methods.

Learning more

You can discover more about big data and research on our FAQs page.

Data will continue to transform how we live and work and this will increase demand for workers who know how to gain value from the data available. The UBDC understands the importance of providing opportunities for researchers and practitioners across disciplines and organisational boundaries to acquire new skills to meet this demand. We offer a range of events and training courses, most of which require no prior knowledge.