Here is on of my favorite Jane Jacobs quotes: “Their intricate order – a manifestation of the freedom of countless numbers of people to make and carry out countless plans – is in many ways a wonder" italics mine. She got cities better than anyone.
Here is the NY Times' report of the NYU smart cities project. Big data can be a wonderful thing but I try to digest the Times' report alongside what I read daily happens in Los Angeles' city hall (and many others).
Big and little data on how big money for big transit has paid off for U.S. cities have been around for a long time. But no one in city hall seems to think that this matters. City hall is run by interest groups and I wonder if big data will make the policies we get smart.
But back to Jacobs. The plans that matter most are the plans that people have -- for their businesses, their families, their groups, etc. Markets are known to coordinate an uncountable number of plans. So it is with land markets -- if an only if we allow them to be flexible enough. But our experience has been that big data often gives top-down planners the impression that they know better. As Sam Goldwyn used to say, I have two words, "Im Possible."