Category Archives: Smart Cities

Applied Urban Modelling 2018

This conference is the seventh in a by-now very well established meeting held each June in Cambridge UK, which brings together those working on land use transport interaction/integration models (LUTI models) in the narrower sense and more generally on urban simulation models. Although initially set up to continue work on aggregate land use and transportation models, it has broadened to include other kinds of models and this year there are interesting papers on very large scale models such as UrbanSim, PECAS and TRANUS as well as cellular automata models like SLEUTH. The programme is here and those wanting the papers should contact the authors. During the meeting we have had a session dealing with the contributions of Lionel March to urban modelling. I tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago but here is my contribution – the PDF of my talk about my work with Lionel some 44 years ago when we were both at the University of Waterloo in Engineering. Lionel of course set up the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies that morphed into the Martin Centre (at the University of Cambridge’s School of Architecture) in the mid 1970s. Much of what goes on in LUTI modelling can be traced to Lionel and I am not being melodramatic. My talk recounts what we did with probability theory and spatial interaction and how we tried to fashion ideas about priors, posteriors, minimum information and so on. There is much more to say about Lionel’s contributions but readers might be interested in my own thoughts which are in the attached PDF. Enjoy.

The Good City Conference

The Urban Transformations Consortium’s Conference on the theme of the ‘Good City’ was held in Oxford last week from April 18thto 20th. A variety of approaches to cities were presented with panel sessions devoted to healthy cities, shelter and ownership, labour markets and migration, environment and technology and social movements. These were contested with a series of more methodological and philosophic statements focussing around cities: the orderly city, the spontaneous city, the intelligent city, the self-sufficient city, the sustainable city and the imaginative city. Five keynote presentations were the highlights between the working sessions with contributions from different cities around the world: Detroit, Durban, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and London. You can see the program by clicking here.

My own contribution was the last one where I drew from our work in CASA in London with my themes that the city can be read through the generic theme of information – not smart cities, or even intelligent cities or virtual cities but information cities. Thus is an old idea but it is increasingly necessary to think of cities as being the hubs of information flow as we transform headlong from a world dominated by energy to one of information. I had a go at starting my talk by walking through a little fragment of the city and explaining how information technology characterises what we see on the walk, in the past as well as the present, but as a prelude to the future. You can get my talk if you click here and on the image above.

 

Data-Driven Urban Dynamics at ORNL

Visited the Urban Dynamics Institute (UDI) headed up Budhendra Bhaduri (Budhu) which is a rapidly growing effort in data-driven technologies applicable to cities. This group which is based at Oakridge National Labs which began life in the war years as part of the Manhattan Project, focusses on research that is geared to understanding, predicting and resolving key urban problems using large data sets which are spatially extensive. It is one of the few groups around the world doing serious research into the science of cities, albeit data-driven in that the focus is on extracting urban patterns and processes from very large data sets. Traditionally these data sets have been based on imaging from remotely sensed data but are now being extended to social media and all kinds of real-time sensed data dealing with location, mobility, transportation and climate. Many of these projects utilise the powerful computer technologies established at Oak Ridge by the Department of Energy that runs the National Labs. At Oak Ridge, the UDI used the TITAN supercomputer for processing remotely sensed images that require various forms of deep learning in the extraction of pattern. TITAN is the fourth largest supercomputer worldwide (measured by petaflops – floating point operations per second which is greater than 10pb) but it is being replaced by SUMMIT and the lab could well take the top spot, overtaking China again – who knows.

The UDI’s most visible project is Landscan. This is a world-wide data set at very high resolutions – at various grains down to approximately 1 km resolution (30″ X 30″). let me quote from the web page: ” LandScan is the finest resolution global population distribution data available and represents an ambient population (average over 24 hours). The LandScan algorithm, an R&D 100 Award Winner, uses spatial data and imagery analysis technologies and a multi-variable dasymetric modeling approach to disaggregate census counts within an administrative boundary. Since no single population distribution model can account for the differences in spatial data availability, quality, scale, and accuracy as well as the differences in cultural settlement practices, LandScan population distribution models are tailored to match the data conditions and geographical nature of each individual country and region.”

I am a member of the Scientific Advisory Board [myself, Mike Goodchild (UCSB), John Harbor (Purdue), Nigel Davis (Willis),  Karen Seto (Yale), and Luc Vincent (Lyft) were in attendance] and we visited Oak Ridge last week March 27-29 and I gave a talk to the Institute. Bhudu asked me to talk on Cities and AI and although I complained mildly that I didnt know much about AI, I have explored how neural nets can be used in models of design so I decided to talk about this. You can access and read my talk by clicking on this link that will give you the PDF

However the icing on the cake was a visit to see TITAN and the photographs above show a panorama of me along the bank of boxes which are thence arrayed in parallel in 8 rows, a truly massive machine. Also saw one like this at Harwell (Rutherford-Appleton) the other week at STFC !