Friday December 6th I presented a TEDxLondon talk in the City 2.0 series. I must admit then when they invited me to present something on cities, I thought they had mistaken me for …. well, it was a surprise, anyway, not thinking of myself as particularly telegenic or a popular lecture circuit type. It was a pretty inspiring event I must say – ten or more speakers all doing either 18 or 6 minutes in The Crystal – a building that looks like a stealth bomber in a place that looks as though … well it is East London and it could be nice area eventually but it is still like something out of a J. G. Ballard novel. The talk may eventually get to YouTube but I can now post it as a PDF here and it complements the short commentary I wrote three years or so ago which contains some of this material which you can get this here too. The other stuff I talked about is our fascinating way of defining cities by pruning the network of connections, developed by our Mechanicity group in CASA led by Elsa, Erez, Pete, Paolo, et al., who are thinking about this problem. We will publish something on this very soon.
There are almost as many perspectives about cities and future cities as there are people thinking about cities, and that is probably most of us. In fact I almost became a media star in the 1970s when I made a program called Mathematics for Modelling for the Open University about retail gravity models. We have posted the video of this program online and what is brilliant about it, are the hairstyles, the clothes, the props, … it is the lapels and the bell bottom trousers that are the height of fashion then never to be repeated. Anyway you can see that here too. In fact back in 1976 when this one was made, most of us were still thinking that the world’s population would explode upwards and we would run out of resources by now and descend into chaos. And we didn’t think that the whole world would be made of cities sometime in the 21st century. This was the time of the Club or Rome and one of dire predictions for western society. China was not rising and Japan was Number One. How it all changes. My talk at TEDx is about this change and what we might expect for cities over the next 50 or 100 years.
We have a new EU FP7 project titled INSIGHT (Innovative Policy Modelling and Governance Tools for Sustainable Post-Crisis Urban Development). This is a research project funded under the ICT Theme of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme. INSIGHT aims to investigate how ICT, with particular focus on data science and complexity theory, can help European cities formulate and evaluate policies to stimulate a balanced economic recovery and a sustainable urban development. Here is a quick summary of the project, which strongly relates to the new Global Systems Science Initiative pioneered for Horizon 2020.
Cities embody the twofold challenge currently facing the European Union: how to improve competitiveness while achieving social cohesion and environmental sustainability. They are fertile ground for science and technology, innovation and cultural activity, but also places where problems such as environmental pollution, unemployment, segregation and poverty are concentrated.
The objectives of the project are the following:
- to investigate how data from multiple distributed sources available in the context of the open data, the big data and the smart city movements, can be managed, analysed and visualised to understand urban development patterns;
- to apply these data mining functionalities to characterise the drivers of the spatial distribution of activities in European cities, focusing on the retail, housing, and public services sectors, and paying special attention to the impact of the current economic crisis;
- to develop enhanced spatial interaction and location models for retail, housing, and public services;
- to integrate the new theoretical models into state-of-the-art urban simulation tools, in order to develop decision support systems able to provide scientific evidence in support of policy options for
post-crisis urban development;
- to develop innovative visualisation tools to enable stakeholder interaction with the new urban
simulation and decision support tools and facilitate the analysis and interpretation of the simulation outcomes;
- to develop methodological procedures for the use of the tools in policy design processes, and
evaluate and demonstrate the capabilities of the tools through four case studies carried out in cooperation with the cities of Barcelona, Madrid, London, and Rotterdam.
The INSIGHT Consortium is composed by the Research Centre for Applied ICTs (CeDInt) and the Transport Research Centre (TRANSyT) at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Nommon Solutions and Technologies, the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London (CASA-UCL), the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e), the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems at the University of the Balearic Islands (IFISC-UIB), and the Barcelona City Council.
We have a chapter in this new book on London 2062 which is a brief summary of our transport work using big data. The chapter is called Smart London but the book covers a wide array of topics. It is online and you can download it free. The hardback is good value too and you can get it here. We think it is print on demand. The book, edited by Sarah Bell and James Paskins, contains a series of short vignettes by researchers in University College London as part of the Grand Challenge in Sustainable Cities initiative and it presents a snapshot of ideas, perspectives, and research pertaining to London in 50 years time, built on our knowledge of the present. One of our co-authors Ed Manley is featured in a short video on our Smart London chapter. Click here.