How social media can drive smart city supply chain

social media in the city

Every urban politician knows the power of social media in driving votes, whether for good or bad. So, it should come as no surprise that citizen-powered social media is also increasingly becoming a major factor in urban economic efficiencies.

The field of supply chain, as it relates to the production and distribution of a commodity or service, is universal. This remains true across industry segments and the public and private sectors.  And, needless to say, social media is just as ubiquitous, touching virtually every aspect of business and politics. When you also consider the tremendous predictive value social media can have within the process of delivering city services, you can see why Social Supply Chain in cities has become a very interesting area of study.

Since cities have government-owned enterprises similar to those in many private industries, city leaders can model the social supply chain of consumer and B2B industry segments. For example, social supply chain has become prevalent in healthcare because social media monitoring can predict the need for treatments, medications and inoculations based on the “chatter” being heard on Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Two recent examples were the Zika virus and the side effects of the wildfires in California.  In the case of Zika, healthcare providers and payers were able to track the noise on social media to determine increases in mentions of exposure to the virus and the need for serum and medical supplies to dispense them especially for pregnant women in the effected areas.

The wildfires caused widespread citizen exposure to terrible air quality, leading to the need for care ranging from smoke inhalation to related allergies.  By tracking the increase in social media volume on these topics, providers and first responders were able to adjust the supply chain to meet the need. As mentioned above, public health and private providers face the same challenges and require an interoperability of shared supply chains when both are located in the same city.

Urban transit is especially conducive to social supply chain forces.  In some cases, this is related to the meteorological effects on transportation and how sudden shifts in commuter patterns put pressure on urban transit. Transportation officials now regard social, crowdsourced platforms like Waze as an extension of their cities’ transportation data for supply chain. Social media platforms like Spothole permit citizens to report especially dangerous potholes in cities. That, in turn, feeds into the need for repair crews, equipment and asphalt in the urban supply chain.

The field of public safety, emergency preparedness and response has also become very reliant on social supply chain. As we’ve esen with recents floods and hurricanes in the south, this is especially important during power outages where social feeds on mobile technology are among the only viable communication options. Using social supply chain, emergency response teams are able to determine where first responders need to focus their efforts and the equipment needs that will be required for rescues over long periods of time. Many of us have seen city and state governments calling in power repair crews from states hundreds of miles away based on social supply chain insights not only from affected citizens, but from within their own internal social communication feeds.

Recently, social media has been used as the business continuity supply chain during natural disasters. These new platforms track where caretakers for infants, elderly, disabled or critically ill can get food and medication within range of their homes when transport or even walking to the supply is extremely limited.

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