The text below is an excerpt from the original article by Giovanna Mingarelli, published May 9, 2014 on The Huffington Post.

For the first time in history more than half the world’s population live in towns and cities. As cities become crucial to the planet’s health, it’s more important than ever to design, build and enrich the places in which we live, work and play.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) City Science Initiative, cities will soon account for nearly 90 per cent of global population growth, they will be responsible for 80 per cent of wealth creation and they will be the source for 60 per cent of total energy consumption.

Therefore access to the right data by which we make decisions surrounding the future health of our cities is crucial. Research in this space falls under many names, including: Smart Cities, Cognitive Cities, Urban Computing and IBM’s Smarter Planet.

In her recent book “The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us,” CBC Radio-Canada’s, Nora Young, examines the impact of the virtual information we generate about ourselves–about our own lives, our communities, our governments, and our cities.

Throughout this process, she explores how a city is nothing more than a system, built of many discrete parts (including its residents). Rather than separating that system by a function such as water, food, waste, transport, education, energy, we must consider them more holistically.

In part, this requires the effective and proper use of existing quantitative data sets provided by the government and other such entities. However, of equal importance is the ability to integrate dynamic data, which has become widespread through the use of GPS-enabled phones and other portable tools.

Read the full article on Huffington Post