About Michael Batty

I chair CASA at UCL which I set up in 1995. I am Bartlett Professor In UCL.

Mobility, Transit and Big Data


Yesterday I gave a talk on data-driven models to the Hong Kong Poly U Department of Land Surveying and Geomatics, and today I give a similar talk at at 2-30pm in Geography at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. When I got to the Poly U yesterday – and I have been there a few times before – as early as 2001 in fact – I was amazed at the incredible building that had gone up in the last couple of years. The design school is housed  in one of Zaha Hadid’s remarkable buildings that flows like sculpture and this was all the more resonant to me because of her passing away so recently. The talks I am giving pale in insignificance besides this wonderful building, that in fact could not have been developed at all with out the sort off digital technologies and indeed the big data that these lectures are all about.

The talks are about what everyone is calling ‘big data’, that is data that is far too large to fit into an Excel spreadsheet and requires some special skills to manage and massage it. I don’t have these skills but my post docs do. The talks will focus on how big data is the corollary to the smart city and vice versa but then goes on to summarise our work with land use transport models for England and Wales for the Future Cities Catapult where the models are now quite big and the data is bigger than we have been accustomed to simulating all in one piece and then also our work with Oyster Card data on the London Tube where the records are pretty large – files of billion plus transactions. I will post the PDF here for the recent CUHK here . The Poly U PDF is here.

Cities, Environment and Sustainability


Hegel once said that ‘everything is connected to everything else’ and in our world of cities, this seems ever resonant with the problems that we face. Danny Hillis and Neri Oxman have called this the Age of Entanglement and in this workshop, myself, Susan Hanson from Clark University and Billie Turner from ASU as well as colleagues from the Chinese University,  Hong Kong University and the Baptist University explore how we develop themes that are wide and diverse and seemingly far apart but in fact are close in that we cannot explore one without the other. The title of the workshop centred around environment and sustainability and how cities are at this interface is a superb example of entanglement. Drill down here for the topics that will be/have been presented at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Monday 11th April 2016.

Cities and regions in Britain through hierarchical percolation


Our paper in Royal Society Open Science is published this week (April 6th 2016). This is one of the major themes in our ERC Project Mechanicity which has sought to explore how we can define and classify cities according to their size and performance using their underlying networks for the bonds that ties their parts together. There are many implications from this way of looking at things where we adopt the perspective of percolation theory for questions of globalisation, segregation, resilience and inequality. You can get the paper here – it is open source – and there is some detailed Supplementary Information that is pretty important for viewing the results.

The paper says:

“Urban systems present hierarchical structures at many different scales. These are observed as administrative regional delimitations which are the outcome of complex geographical, political and historical processes which leave almost indelible footprints on infrastructure such as the street network. In this work, we uncover a set of hierarchies in Britain at different scales using percolation theory on the street network and on its intersections which are the primary points of interaction and urban agglomeration. At the larger scales, the observed hierarchical structures can be interpreted as regional fractures of Britain, observed in various forms, from natural boundaries, such as National Parks, to regional divisions based on social class and wealth such as the well-known North– South divide. At smaller scales, cities are generated through recursive percolations on each of the emerging regional clusters. We examine the evolution of the morphology of the system as a whole, by measuring the fractal dimension of the clusters at each distance threshold in the percolation. We observe that this reaches a maximum plateau at a specific distance. The clusters defined at this distance threshold are in excellent correspondence with the boundaries of cities recovered from satellite images, and from previous methods
using population density.”

We have developed quite a few explorations of cities using these ideas and we posted a somewhat oblique comment on how these results related to different electoral voting in the General Election last May. There is an early paper on this that is a complement to this one in the Arxiv.

Last but not least, I have given various presentations on our percolation and allometric city size work but here is a recent powerpoint that contains more information to some extent – or at least different information that relates to our work on the UK with some hints of how we might apply it elsewhere – as in Europe for example.