NATSEM Seminar Series

Smart Cities, Big Data and Urban Simulation

Tue 10 November 2015Professor Michael Batty / 11.00am - 12.00pmSeminar Room 1, Building 24 at the University of Canberra


In this talk, I will present a framework for thinking about smart cities that I define as cities whose functions are being augmented with computers and sensors, either fixed or mobile, that generate data in real time concerning the way such cities function. This use of computers for understanding and controlling cities is thus somewhat different from that developed historically where most computation involving simulating urban form and function did not use data that was generated itself from automated functions embedded in the city itself. What is now emerging are many different ways of understanding, predicting, controlling, managing and designing cities, some of which pertain to real time control which merge into longer term strategic thinking about how new data from the smart city can be used for better understanding. Here we will focus on the short term routine use of data generated in real-time which is ‘big’ in the sense that it is available second-by-second and constitutes a stream of information about the way the city is functioning. Much of the smart cities movement pertains to this kind of data, which we will illustrate for automated transit systems in London, namely the rail system in its various guises where both the demand and supply of travel is available in real time. The focus of our argument is not so much on modelling the system from big data but on analytics that are nearer to the data, which show the great heterogeneity of the data set and ways in which we can explore how the systems functions and dysfunctions through manipulation of the data that defines the way the system functions.


Michael Batty is Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London where he is Chair of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). He has worked on computer models of cities and their visualisation since the 1970s and has published several books, such as Cities and Complexity (MIT Press, 2005) which won the Alonso Prize of the Regional Science Association in 2011, and most recently The New Science of Cities (MIT Press, 2013). His blogs cover the science underpinning the technology of cities and his posts and lectures on big data and smart cities are at . His research group is working on simulating long term structural change and dynamics in cities as well as their visualisation. Prior to his current position, he was Professor of City Planning and Dean at the University of Wales at Cardiff and then Director of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and the Royal Society (FRS), was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2004 and the 2013 recipient of the Lauréat Prix International de Géographie Vautrin Lud. This year 2015 he received the Founders Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his work on the science of cities.

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