Future Cities Digest #7 (10.01.2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#technology #transfer #research #EPFL

In the last few weeks EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale the Lausanne – one of the leading European polytechniques) published a nicely curated review of its key scientific and technological achievements of 2013. From the list of over 35 highlighted projects, interesting ones include a doctoral student developing microphones that monitor road traffic – which he claims are capable of not only determining how much traffic there is, but also how fast vehicles are going & their size, a statistical model of extreme rainfall from the Swiss Val Ferre valley, which could be used around the globe to provide risk analyses for use in insurance, flood mitigation and infrastructure design and a large scale integration of solar windows, said to be the first step in creating a Swiss solar-park for research and development on photovoltaics.

#car #data #sensors #insurance

A few months ago the BBC covered the story of how car insurance firms are currently in a race to convince consumers that letting them monitor their driving behaviour is actually a good thing. And now, a group at Rutgers University published result of their work claiming that they have developed  an algorithm that works out a vehicle’s destination using only its starting location and speed throughout its journey. “With knowledge of the user’s home location, as the insurance companies have, speed data is sufficient to discover driving routes and destinations when trip data is collected over a period of weeks” – said the project leader. To test the algorithm, the group measured the speed characteristics of seven drivers travelling from their homes to 46 different destinations over 240 journeys (also cross-checked by measuring the location of the cars using a GPS device to give ground-truth data) and the results revealed that they were able to predict the final destination to within 500 metres for 20 percent of the journeys. Something to think about next time you opt for a usage-based insurance policy.

#predictive #analytics #BigData #NYT

An interesting conversation about Big Data and industry-focus appeared recently in the New York Times Bits column. The context to the article is, that according to Google Trends, the term “Big Data” has peaked in October reaching an end of its nearly three years climb. The author suggests that this could mean that the term Big Data might be entering into a subsequent phase of its hype cycle, in particular for the conversations in the public domain, so more attention could be now dedicated to think how to best integrate human knowledge, algorithms and diverse data sets, rather than focusing on back-end technologies, such as new types of storage and database frameworks. And some organizations working on Big Data – examples of Kaggle and Palantir given – are for that reason re-focusing to suit specific industries. An insight worth having in mind following the Big Data debate.

#obesity #city #programs #TED

A quite compelling, and well received story on issues of public health (obesity) and city policy was presented last week by Mick Cornett (Oklahoma city major) on TED.com. Cornett started his story by saying that not that long ago the city was considered by the media as one of the US most obese cities – a tag neither the city official nor citizens where happy about. Oklahoma was also one of those US cities which seemed to be more designed to be ‘liveable for cars’ than people. For that reason, the city decided to start a conversation, launch a big campaign and challenge its citizens to loose altogether a million pounds of weight. This included a communal weight loss programme (modelled on gamification), a strong health agenda into any new infrastructural development that were happening, and active encouragement of local companies to participate in the program. As it seems – from the majors standpoint – not only where they able to achieve this ‘collective goal’ – loose the million lbs., become known as one of the most health-orientated cities – but at the same time, revitalize the city’s image and start to attract young people and new families, which is equally as important.

Recent reports & publications out there:

  •  The Future of Wearable Tech – Jan. 2014, PSFK + Intel Labs [highlights: key trends driving the form and function of personal devices, forecast of wearable tech.]
  •  Open data or closed doors? Supporting research in cities – Dec. 2013, Centre For Cities [highlights: city level benefits of opening up of public and private data, 11 case studies on the use of government data by cities]
  •  Internet Monitor Report 2013 – Dec. 2013, Berkman Center, Harvard University [highlights: key debates in the digital environment, case studies on how actors within government, industry, and civil society are dealing with the changing power dynamics of the digital realm]

This week’s artefact from the future:


New Yup (ActivatAR)
“New Yup is an augmented reality sculpture – it has two components: an image zooming into the universe and a rotating wireframe sculpture that moves slowly through and around the moving image. This artefact could allow to carry the universe in your pocket living in a channel on top of the Metrocard, and afford the viewer an alternative to the repressive here-ness of the New York Subway system. This project is aimed at tearing the fabric of one experience of object, site, and definition towards another potential development of a media object.”