Smart cities analyze social media to gauge citizen sentiment

IBM has unveiled new analytics software that helps cities measure public opinion on key issues and services such as public transportation and education by tapping into social media.

By understanding the sentiments of people living and working in a city, public sector leaders can make more informed decisions that will in turn lead to improved services for citizens and better use of valuable resources, IBM officials said.

IBM introduced the IBM Social Sentiment Index, based on sophisticated analytics technologies, at the IBM Smarter Cities Forum held in New Delhi, India, Sept. 13. As an example of a universally understood problem for cities, IBM officials described findings on traffic patterns across India’s largest cities – Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai – culled from the index.


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Analysis of publicly available social media showed that the worst congestion is primarily caused by accidents and bad weather (three out of four times) when looking at the three cities together. It also showed variations between the cities analyzed. For example, analysis of social conversation showed residents in Mumbai only half as stressed about traffic as those in Bangalore and New Delhi. But people stuck in rush hour traffic in New Delhi are between five and seven times more negative than those in Bangalore and Mumbai, according to the analysis.

The IBM Social Sentiment Index identifies and measures sentiments shared on Twitter, blogs, message boards and other social media, providing quick insights into consumer conversations about public services issues like education, transportation, emergency response and water management. Representing a new form of market research, social sentiment analyses offer governments and organizations new insights that can help them better understand and respond to consumer trends, according to IBM.

IBM Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities uses advanced analytics and natural language processing technologies to analyze large volumes of public social media data in order to assess and understand citizen opinions. It leverages IBM software and services to integrate city operations through a single dashboard view to help cities improve efficiency. IOC is now augmented with social media analytics capabilities that will help city officials make more informed decisions by looking at unfiltered citizen attitudes and actions, distinguishing between sincerity and sarcasm and even predicting trends as they surface online, IBM officials said.

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