How a Data-Driven Approach Will Improve Urban Design and Livability

By: | November 30th, 2013

The trend toward “extreme urbanization” across the world means that soon 90% of global population growth, 80% of wealth creation and 60% of energy consumption will happen in large cities. In China, for example, 300 million rural and farming inhabitants will move to cities over the next 15 years and this pattern will be repeated across the globe. The need for a “city science methodology” has been taken up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) City Science program at the Media Lab.

The program analyzes cities from six perspectives:

  • Urban analytics and modeling – This involves data analysis of economic activity, urban perceptions, human behavior, mobility patterns, resource consumption and city and regional design and planning. Urban design tools are used and computer simulations created and analyzed to improve all aspects of city life.
  • Incentives and governance – This focuses on improving the delivery of urban services, which at the present time are decidedly poorly managed from national, regional and city perspectives. Through the creation of new and better networks the management of urban systems and services will improve. Expansion in “shared use” assets, variable-rate power and flexible workspaces are being studied.
  • Mobility networks – This focuses on how people move about large cities and seeks to improve multi-modal transit systems for millions of commuters. New urban vehicles such as electric scooters, many automobiles and bike lanes are a few of the areas of focus.
  • Places of living and work – This area focuses on how technology from the internet to smart phones and other wireless devices will provide more personalized services, flexible and collaborative work and employ sensing and algorithms to understand human behavior and activity with respect to lighting, HVAC, health, energy conservation and communication in the home and workplace.
  • Electronic and social networks – This area looks at electronic and social networks as the nervous system of a city. The quality, speed and availability of robust electronic and social networks directly affect the quality of communication, learning, recreation, production and health.
  • Energy networks – This focuses on how smart grids dynamically respond to human and business patterns. Creating compact, efficient micro-grids that run on renewable energy and reusable and upcyclable batteries, for example, and advanced energy storage systems will improve the quality of residential and business life.

We will cover each of these perspectives in future IndustryTap articles.

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys research and writing about cutting edge technologies that hold the promise of improving conditions for all life on planet earth.

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