Digital Urban Futures

Data science techniques within environmental and earth sciences drive studies from the molecular to the global scale. Better understanding the history, future and present challenges facing our planet - including our role in that evolution - requires techniques that probe fundamental hypotheses. These can provide new insights into key drivers of change.

Aerial view of a city with virtual lines connecting technology hotspots

Environmental science is a highly multi-disciplinary field. As such, technologies we require are both responsive to developments from specific fields, such as mathematics or computer science, and developed in response to new experimental and/or modelling facilities. More generally these techniques bridge work from both experimental facilities and modelling facilities.

Cities have long been producers and consumers of ‘big data’ whether it be about its population, economy, transport networks, flows of people along with the impacts of climate change on the built and natural environment. Citizens create much of this data, carrying out everyday transactions, mostly without their knowledge or informed consent. Big data can be derived from a variety of data stores: social media, consumer sites, search engines, smartphone apps, smart utility meters, credit card transactions, CCTV, etc. and whilst big data offers many as-yet-unexploited opportunities for smart cities, the risks to individual privacy and freedom also need to be taken seriously.

Cities can benefit hugely from all of this data if they have the methods, tools and techniques to properly interrogate, analyse and interpret this data in meaningful ways. Manchester Urban Institute works closely with colleagues at Manchester’s Data Science Institute to develop these methods to support cities in fully utilising the new opportunities that exist within data science to support cities and urban areas in understanding this emerging area.

The Digital Urban Futures theme is led by Richard Kingston.