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Intelligent City Chapter for Atlas of Cities

ICMy chapter on Intelligent Cities will appear in the Atlas of Cities (Princeton University Press) edited by Paul L. Knox (Virginia Tech).

A city, like any organization, thrives or fails depending on its ability to process signals from its environment. Cities have long been subject to shocks because the information systems designed to signal impending events in their internal or external environments were inadequate. The management of infrastructures, processes, and events within a city has traditionally been inefficient or ineffective because of an inability to harness data toward real-time decision-making. This has led to significant wastage of scarce resources and squandering of opportunities. Furthermore, until recently most citizens have been passive recipients of plans and programs devised by their elected officials. As the population in cities has exploded, the leveraging of the collective intelligence of diverse citizens toward the betterment of the city has remained elusive as a result of poorly designed participatory platforms—for example, the town hall meetings that are often used to solicit input but impose significant barriers on the participation of citizens. Urban planners and designers have historically focused on innovating for citizens rather than with citizens, or, better, providing citizens with the resources and capabilities to innovate for themselves.

Today, following advances in communication and computational technologies, cities are harnessing data and information with a view to becoming more “intelligent.” The adoption of mobile technologies and the diffusion of Internet connectivity has made information accessible to most individuals, even the poorest of the poor. Cities are embedding a wide assortment of technologies within their physical and social spheres so as to enable real-time processing of data to further the goal of smarter decision-making. In addition, cities are liberating data that was previously withheld from the public. Open data programs exist in many major cities through which data on a wide variety of operations and governance mechanisms are being made available. Citizens, in turn, are playing a more active role in shaping the future of their environments. Citizens are not only creating mobile apps that promote smarter ways of traversing the city and conducting various functions, but are also building online participatory platforms so as to source problems and solutions from their fellow dwellers and better manage public goods.

My chapter contains seven spreads that cover key elements of intelligent cities:

  1. Liberating Data
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Sustainability
  4. Mobility
  5. Entrepreneurship
  6. Quality of Life
  7. Living Labs

The core city that I focused on is London and the secondary cities are Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Boston, and Amsterdam.

Designing, Planning, and Managing Resilient Cities

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To what disruptions must cities be resilient? How can cities, as complex systems, be resilient? Building a capacity for resilience might be a daunting task when one considers the multitude of components, processes, and interactions that take place within and beyond a city’s physical, logical (e.g. legal), and virtual (cyberspace) boundaries. Planning for resilience to the impacts of stressors within cities requires an evaluation of the vulnerable components of cities, an understanding of the key processes, procedures, and interactions that organize these components and develop the capacity to address various structuring of components and their interactions with the ultimate goal of achieving resilience.

I have co-authored a paper with Trevor Flanery (Urban Affairs and Planning, College of Architecture and Urban StudiesVirginia Tech) that provides a deeper look at resilience in cities, proposes a conceptual resilience framework, and includes a discussion and analysis of the framework. We propose a framework that serves as a holistic approach to designing, planning, and managing for resilience by including an evaluation of cultural and process dynamics within cities as well as their physical elements.

The paper will appear in Cities.

TechniCity – MOOC – A Vision for Smart Cities

coursera_logoWhile at Ohio State University, I recorded lectures for the TechniCity MOOC. This course is being offered by two of my colleagues, Jennifer Evans-Cowley, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Administration, City and Regional Planning Section, Ohio State University and Tom Sanchez, Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech. Check it out!

Designing and Planning for Smart(er) Cities – Practicing Planner

aicpsignatureYou can find my article on smart cities in the current issue of Practicing Planner.

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Abstract: Within the past 24 months the concept of smart (and intelligent) cities has been become popular in the media. For instance, Scientific American ran a special issue on smart cities (September 2011). Industry players such as IBM and Siemens have specific programs and practices dedicated to advancing the cause of building smart cities. Despite its intuitive appeal, we have limited knowledge within the design, planning, and policy fields about the dimensions of the concept of smart cities, and limited practical experience regarding the barriers and potential opportunities. The term smart city is still new and appears to mean different things within different fields. In some ways the term is both complex and vague. Some experts use the term smart city to highlight advances in sustainability and greening of the city, while others use the term to portray infusion of information via technologies to better the lives of citizens. Even others consider the presence of high-level citizen engagement in the design and governance of the space as a key attribute of smarter cities. Therefore, no consensus exists within the academy on the characteristics of smart cities and how they fit within existing conceptual frameworks, such as sustainability and policy informatics. Although there is not yet consensus on a definition, I posit the following definition: A smart city is livable, resilient, sustainable, and designed through open and collaborative governance. The objective of this paper is to provide a preliminary conceptual framework for researchers, policymakers, and planners to apply in their design and development of smart cities. In light of the growing popular appeal of smart cities, I hope this essay will serve as a call to action for planners who must confront the day-to-day challenge of designing, developing, and retrofitting cities to make them smarter.

To access the article, please click here.

My Research Mind – A Little Messy

I have been doing some reflection on my research interests and the connections between the various scientific domains in which I work. I will be on a panel, Working on Mars while Living on Earth - Balancing Demands across Disciplinary Boundaries, with Sandeep Purao (Penn State University), Ajay Vinze (Arizona State University), and Steve Sawyer (Syracuse University) at the 22nd Workshop on Information Systems and Technology where I will share some of my lessons learnt in doing interdisciplinary research and holding academic appointments in various disciplinary units from business schools to information schools and urban studies to public administration.

For a sneak preview here is a graphical description of my research spheres.

Below is a graphical description of my research trajectory mapped across various dimensions.

Recent Visit to IIT-Kanpur – A Summary

Core Team Members (from left to right) Mr. Rahul Yadav, Prof. K.K. Bajpai, Prof. Onkar Dikshit, Prof. Sudhir Misra, Dr. Ralph Hall, Dr. Michael Garvin, Ms. Yehyun An, Dr. Kevin C. Desouza, and Prof. Mukesh Sharma

Ralph Hall has provided a nice summary of our recent visit to IIT Kanpur. I enjoyed my time in Kanpur and look forward to seeing this partnership flourish. To read more about the trip, please click here.

Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative

I will be traveling to India to meet with researchers at IIT Kanpur as part of our project on Sustainable Infrastructure Development that was funded through the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. The project was developed while I was the Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech along with Ralph Hall and Michael Garvin. I will be presenting a talk on Designing Smart and Resilient Cities while at IIT-Kanpur.

Conference on Community Resilience – Davos, Switzerland

I am headed to Davos for the 3rd Annual Conference on Community Resilience. I am co-chairing the conference along with John R. Harrald and Jim Bohland, both from Virginia Tech. This conference was organized while I was a Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. I will chair a session on Citizen Engagement & Technology Deployment in Disaster Mitigation Preparedness Response and Recovery. Panelist include:

  • Maggie Cowell, Assistant Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, School of Public & International Affairs, Virginia Tech
  • Liesel Ritchie, Assistant Director for Research, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado
  • Georg Frerks, Professor of Disaster Studies, Wageningen University
  • Isabel Ramos, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Information Systems, Minho University

Getting Serious About Resilience in Planning – in Planetizen

I co-authored an article for Planetizen with three students (Trevor Flanery, Jaimy Alex, and Eric Park) who were working at the Metropolitan Institute this summer.

Resilience is a term much bandied about these days in the planning and development professions. Buildings, plans, economies and even cities are expected to be resilient to unforeseen externalities in a world of rapidly changing technologies, climates, and cultures. With this in mind, we at the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech would like to engage you, the planning and development community, in a discussion of what exactly it means to be resilient in a planning context, whether this is a laudable goal, and, if so, how we can achieve it. To read more, please click here.