Urban Code will feature leading thinkers in academia, industry and government from around the world for a series of talks that explore multiple dimensions relating to ‘big urban data’.

Over the past decade digital technologies have begun to blanket our cities, forming the backbone of a large, intelligent infrastructure. Broadband fiber-optic and wireless telecommunications grids are supporting mobile phones, smartphones and tablets that are increasingly affordable.

At the same time, open databases—especially from the government—that people can study and contribute to are revealing all kinds of information, whilst public kiosks and displays are helping both the literate and illiterate gain access to it. Add to this a relentlessly growing network of sensors and digital-control technologies, all tied together by cheap, powerful computers, and our cities are quickly becoming “computers in open air.”

As a direct consequence of the their operation, these systems, networks, and devices generate vast quantities of data that are increasingly becoming available in real time. This provides profound new opportunities for exploring the city: how it operates, how urban dwellers make use of the space and how we can ultimately better design cities.

What insights can big urban data provide into ‘wicked urban problems’, and can it ultimately help us address them in a pragmatic manner?

The Urban Code is divided into key sessions that tackle how big urban data is impacting the various facets of urban living: mobility, resource management, energy consumption, environmental impacts and society at large. In each section discussants will deliver Pecha Kucha presentations, followed by a panel discussion that reflects on the broader theme raised by the topic at hand.


Thursday 15th 2012


5-6:30pm ON TOPIC

Big urban data offers real opportunities for civic empowerment, operational efficiencies, and investment for our urban environments, which house a majority of the world’s population and businesses. ON TOPIC will introduce big urban data from a variety of panelist perspectives—from policy to industry, academia to practice—and will look at how this proliferation of information is impacting the city and its citizens.

Friday 16th 2012

8:45-9am WELCOME

9-10:30am ON MOBILITY

As city dwellers move about within the urban environment, sensors and digital networks interplay to support their movement—electronic road pricing gantries, loop detectors and smart cards for public transportation support our travels around town and around the world. In this session, we investigate how the data from transportation is being harnessed by various cities, companies, and city dwellers. What opportunities does data provide to improve the experience of urban mobility, and how does it change our expectation of “getting around”?

10:30-11am BREAK

11-12:30pm ON COMMUNITY

Data is more than simply a reflection of who we are; it has become a tool for engaging and empowering people. It represents the connections between people. Individuals, as a result, are gaining greater agency over their communities and civic political processes, and engaging others in new and profound ways. The analysis of big urban data is also providing new insights into the structure of society itself. Join us as we attempt to make sense of these profound new changes, and investigate what it means for the people who are creating and using this data.

12:30-1:30pm LUNCH

1:30-3pm ON SYSTEMS

New sensor technologies and networking capabilities are all enriching research into energy and the environmental consequence of urbanization. Pervasive sensing has boomed in recent years, but what does that mean for research on the environmental impacts of urbanization? What insights can big urban data provide into the way we manage resources, consume energy and pollute our environment? Can big urban data ultimately help us to solve these ‘wicked urban problems’ for the betterment of our environments?

3-4:30pm ON PRAXIS

Big urban data is currently the hottest trend in technology. However, questions about how this data can impact the operation and planning of cities have not been conclusively answered. How are cities making use of this new source of information and how is big urban data currently impacting cities around the world, and how is it enabling a new generation of civically engaged citizens? Join us in discussion with city representatives from around the world as we get a better picture of how data meets policy making, and when bits meet bricks and citizens.

4:30-4:45pm BREAK

4.45-5:30pm ONWARDS

We have spent the past day and a half considering where we are and how far we’ve come in understanding the way data plays a role in the operation, planning, and experience of the world’s urban environments. As we reflect on these insights, we ask, what’s next? What problems remain priorities and what conversations are deserving of reconsideration? The concluding panel provides us with insight, and charge as we move onward from our conversations in Cambridge.