How Happy Is London?

Author:  David Fearne, Technical Director for UK & Ireland at Arrow ECS

There is no doubt that big data analytics has the potential to revolutionise the way we do business – enabling faster and more informed decision making that can have a huge impact on financial performance. Gain an insight into the things that are driving cost, risk and value into your business, and you can truly stay one stop ahead of the competition in today’s digital world.

In my experience though, the majority of organisations are completely daunted by the volumes and varieties of data that they’re faced with today and simply don’t know where to start in extracting business value from it. Instead, the trend is towards storing everything in the vague hope that one day it will prove useful and there’s a distinct lack of any real strategy. Looking at some of the solutions that are currently in the market, there’s also an issue around ROI, because although the analytics look very pretty, much of what is generated holds little meaning.

Showcasing the power of analytics

As a global provider of technology solutions and services, it’s Arrow’s role to help guide our channel partners and their customers in making strategic decisions about future IT investments. As part of our commitment to innovation and technology, we wanted to showcase the power of large-scale data analytics in helping to drive business intelligence. What’s more, we wanted to ensure that within 30 seconds, anybody with responsibility for business data could understand and appreciate how they could apply analytics within their own organisation.

Arrow’s City office in the heart of London gave us the context for the data analytics we would use. We knew that everyone who visited the centre would have already interacted with London in some way – through the roads, the public transport network, the weather and daily events. With a large video wall to make a big impact, and based on huge amounts of data and complex indexation of different metrics, we decided to answer the simple question of “How happy is London today?”.

The ‘How Happy Is London?’ project collects, processes and continually refreshes around 2.6 billion different units of data from unconnected sources every day – all of which are freely available in the public domain. Data sources range from Transport for London alerts on possible disruptions, to weather updates from the Met Office, along with the use of sentiment words in conjunction with ‘London’ on Twitter.

The final output is a happiness indicator, which is refreshed from new data every 60 seconds - creating an up to the minute picture of the city’s mood. The data is digitally represented on the ‘How Happy Is London?’ website as a series of images of people and places in the capital, with the overall happiness indicator fluctuating between ‘business as usual’, through ‘happy’ and ‘life’s good’, up to ‘on top of the world’.

Why is this relevant to my business?

Everyone knows London and everyone understands the concept of happiness, so choosing to measure the happiness of London is a topic that everyone can relate to - especially when the results are represented in a visually exciting way. With the competitive edge becoming ever thinner, organisations need more powerful tools to make better, quicker, and more accurate and consistent decisions. Our partners and their customers look at what we’ve done with ‘How Happy Is London?’ and see in real time how ‘big data’ can be used to help make important decisions more quickly. Relating this to business-critical metrics that are relevant in their own environment, they can clearly understand how things such as what their customers are saying on social media can help them to make better business decisions, when viewed in line with operational and financial information. Overcoming the fear factor around big data, we’re able to get our partners thinking, for example, about how Twitter data can be analysed alongside information relating to weather and location to help improve customer service and retention.

Watch this short video to find out more about this project:

Discover how happy London is for yourself at or visit Arrow’s London office to see this real example of BI at work. Book your appointment by emailing

I’ve also written a White Paper on the subject which you can download here

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