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Data Integration & Data Science for Urban Life and Smart Cities


Urbanization is one of the great challenges and opportunities of this century. The last decades have witnessed unprecedented population and urbanization growth with the implication that today, for the first time in human history, more than half of world population lives in cities. Furthermore, the last decades have also witnessed unprecedented development of ICT (information and communication technologies), Data Science with its big data and data mining methodologies, IoT (Internet of Things), and AI (artificial intelligence). These have the potential to revolutionize the dynamics and structure of cities and the lives of those who inhabit them.

However, although the smartification of cities implies an integration of the real and virtual worlds, data integration is still scares. The cyberinfrastructure, technologies, and tools used to make the rich set of urban open data available were designed primarily to support the analysis of individual data sets rather than exploring relationships among many data sets. Consequently, urban scientists lack the tools and infrastructure to fully harness urban data for their research.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to, on the one hand, understand the multiple aspects of cities and urbanism, while on the other, to develop state-of-the-art theories, methodologies, data repositories, data analytics, and improved technologies to deal with the complexity of the new urban era.

The proposed TG aims to bring together researchers (faculties and students) studying cities and urbanism, as well as urban planners, municipalities’ and governmental officials, managers in related industries and other stakeholders in order to develop solutions in areas ranging from scalable data infrastructure such as the Array of Things (University of Chicago), supply chain management (University of Twente), the interrelations between buildings characteristics and energy consumption (University of Sheffield), spatial configuration as key to urban dynamics and cognition, and the derived importance of design elements (Tel Aviv University) and understanding the importance of data analytics that all partners share.

Names of the co-chairs

  • Ronit Purian: City Center, Research Center for Cities and Urbanism, Tel Aviv University
  • Charles Catlett: Urban Center for Computation and Data, Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago
  • Darren Robinson: Architectural and Urban Sciences, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
  • Jos van Hillegersberg: Industrial Engineering and BIS (IEBIS), University of Twente
  • Juval Portugali: Department of Geography and Human Environment, Tel Aviv University
  • Umamaheshwaran Rajasekar: Chair, Urban Resilience
    Shaily Gandhi: Manager IT & Geospatial Solutions, CEPT Research & Development Foundation (CRDF)

The objectives

The TG will propose ways in which smartification—extensive use of sensors, crowd-sourced big data and small data, and mechanism design in data collection, analytics and automation—can address current challenges of cities. Urbanization is inextricably tied to global challenges ranging from climate change and sustainable use of energy and natural resources to social justice, personal health and safety, education and wellbeing. The consequences:

  • Most if not all social, cultural, political, environmental and security problems are essentially urban problems. There is therefore great enthusiasm that ICT will enable improvements in the control, planning and governance of cities to make them more efficient, just, sustainable and resilient than ever before, addressing chronic urban problems such as traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and the like.
  • There is a growing science community—spanning nearly every discipline—pursuing research related to these challenges, e.g., driving innovation in the use of sensors in mobile devices as well as embedding intelligent sensing infrastructure in the built environment; hyperspectral remote sensing, i.e., the detection and identification of specific materials in large areas; satellite image analysis and Vegetation Indices (VIs) used to estimate vegetation attributes such as chlorophyll content and the percent of green areas covering Earth’s surface; the phenomenon of urban heat island; and nano-toxicity, i.e., the toxicity of engineered nano-materials.
  • Open data initiatives are already creating new opportunities for collaboration between academia and local government. The experience acquired in developed cities can be shared with other partner cities, in countries with less well-resourced science systems.
  • At the same time, there is also skepticism that over-efficient urban planning and control have the potential to transform urban life into an Orwellian nightmare. Added to this are the ethical and trust implications of increasingly ubiquitous artificial intelligence integrated into personal, home and transport (and other) devices. New opportunities related to embedded systems, expanding data collection, and the Internet of Things to date with leading cities might be re-examined, considering current knowledge about the potential as well as the pitfalls and discontents.

These consequences encompass both great hope and significant trepidation regarding ICT and data in cities. Consequently, we propose a task group to examine how digital life can evolve in ways that tackle social and environmental issues, apply current knowledge in urban contexts, and utilize the state-of-practice and of technologies, focusing in particular on (a) strategies for integrating new data sources and better understanding of spatial configuration elements, to support academic-policy collaboration, (b) techniques and approaches to ethical use of data, and (c) methods for ensuring equitable services in light of increased capacity to automate public infrastructure and services.

The expected outputs will be in the forms of workshops, courses, reports and data products.

Courses: We develop courses that include data management (Smart Cities, AI Ethics) and activities on campus and out of campus (pedestrians vs. vehicles; land use; urban morphology, accessibility to green spaces). To do this well, collaborations emerge between urban stakeholders.

Products: In order to predict and evaluate the impact of urban activity on different ecosystem qualities, a multilayered system should integrate data from different sources. This multilayered system will ideally be used for planning purposes (such as general purpose support system – GPSS) for cities within regional/global supply chains and economic activity.

More information about events and projects will be provided by City Center, TAU Research Center for Cities and Urbanism: