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Mar 16, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

What future smart cities can learn from ski resorts

According to journalist Aarian Marshall, ski resorts could be a well-established source of inspiration for future smart cities.

Ski Smart City


The "smart city" concept is still rather an abstract idea. Alphabet’s project to create a vast system for monitoring the movements of citizens in Toronto – in a bid to optimise waste management, the cost of housing and even urban furniture – still needs a year’s worth of field study before it gets off the ground, reports Sidewalk Labs.

But ski resorts have been “smart” for a long time. Their actions and expertise could be used as a model for smart cities, according to the article by Aarian Marshall in Wired.


Collecting data about clients and their online searches 


Ski resorts are already experts in tracking skiers and snowboarders. The most sophisticated resorts adjust their prices according to consumer online searches and demand, just like Uber and Lyft. There are even specialist data analysts working in winter sports industry, confirmed Vail Resorts, which owns 15 ski resorts across the United States, Canada and Australia. These experts can make predictive models using data about the weather and the previous years’ clients. 

Kirsten Lynch, marketing director for Vail Resorts, explains that the company has access to all of its clients’ data. The information collected concerns the number of days spent skiing, the number of years they have skied, the resorts visited and even the distance skied. The system also finds out their age, gender, geographical origin, purchases and rentals, and whether or not they have taken skiing lessons. This data collection process, developed over the last ten years, enables the company to make more personalised offers.


A huge undertaking for cities 


Data analysis also helps improve ski resort logistics. Resort operator Powdr used it to alter the shuttle bus timetables on its different sites, according to the days of the week and the season. Since 2015, Vail Resorts’ experts have analysed the signals emitted by visitors’ mobile phones when queuing – for a chairlift, for example – in order to calculate the predicted waiting time. This system has also been adopted by the London Underground. 

Though a city is undeniably a much larger and more complex space than a ski resort – especially because there are no precise entry and exit points – Aarian Marshall is convinced that these avant-garde systems are a valuable source of inspiration for future smart cities. 


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