The GovLab Selected Readings on Urban Analytics (Updated and Expanded)

As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. In this edition, we explore the literature on Urban Analytics. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email biblio@thegovlab.org.

Data and its uses for Governance

Urban Analytics places better information in the hands of citizens as well as government officials to empower people to make more informed choices. Today, we are able to gather real-time information about traffic, pollution, noise, and environmental and safety conditions by culling data from a range of tools: from the low-cost sensors in mobile phones to more robust monitoring tools installed in our environment. With data collected and combined from the built, natural and human environments, we can develop more robust predictive models and use those models to make policy smarter.

With the computing power to transmit and store the data from these sensors, and the tools to translate raw data into meaningful visualizations, we can identify problems as they happen, design new strategies for city management, and target the application of scarce resources where they are most needed.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Amini, L., E. Bouillet, F. Calabrese, L. Gasparini, and O. Verscheure. “Challenges and Results in City-scale Sensing.” In IEEE Sensors, 59–61, 2011. http://bit.ly/1doodZm.

  • This paper examines “how city requirements map to research challenges in machine learning, optimization, control, visualization, and semantic analysis.”
  • The authors raises several research challenges including how to extract accurate information when the data is noisy and sparse; how to represent findings from digital pervasive technologies; and how people interact with one another and their environment.

Batty, M., K. W. Axhausen, F. Giannotti, A. Pozdnoukhov, A. Bazzani, M. Wachowicz, G. Ouzounis, and Y. Portugali. “Smart Cities of the Future.The European Physical Journal Special Topics 214, no. 1 (November 1, 2012): 481–518. http://bit.ly/HefbjZ.

  • This paper explores the goals and research challenges involved in the development of smart cities that merge ICT with traditional infrastructures through digital technologies.
  • The authors put forth several research objectives, including: 1) to explore the notion of the city as a laboratory for innovation; 2) to develop technologies that ensure equity, fairness and realize a better quality of city life; and 3) to develop technologies that ensure informed participation and create shared knowledge for democratic city governance.
  • The paper also examines several contemporary smart city initiatives, expected paradigm shifts in the field, benefits, risks and impacts.

Budde, Paul. “Smart Cities of Tomorrow.” In Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures, edited by Stamatina Th Rassia and Panos M. Pardalos, 9–20. Energy Systems. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014. http://bit.ly/17MqPZW.

  • This paper examines the components and strategies involved in the creation of smart cities featuring “cohesive and open telecommunication and software architecture.”
  • In their study of smart cities, the authors examine smart and renewable energy; next-generation networks; smart buildings; smart transport; and smart government.
  • They conclude that for the development of smart cities, information and communication technology (ICT) is needed to build more horizontal collaborative structures, useful data must be analyzed in real time and people and/or machines must be able to make instant decisions related to social and urban life.

Cardone, G., L. Foschini, P. Bellavista, A. Corradi, C. Borcea, M. Talasila, and R. Curtmola. “Fostering Participaction in Smart Cities: a Geo-social Crowdsensing Platform.” IEEE Communications
Magazine 51, no. 6 (2013): 112–119. http://bit.ly/17iJ0vZ.

  • This article examines “how and to what extent the power of collective although imprecise intelligence can be employed in smart cities.”
  • To tackle problems of managing the crowdsensing process, this article proposes a “crowdsensing platform with three main original technical aspects: an innovative geo-social model to profile users along different variables, such as time, location, social interaction, service usage, and human activities; a matching algorithm to autonomously choose people to involve in participActions and to quantify the performance of their sensing; and a new Android-based platform to collect sensing data from smart phones, automatically or with user help, and to deliver sensing/actuation tasks to users.”

Chen, Chien-Chu. “The Trend towards ‘Smart Cities.’” International Journal of Automation and Smart Technology. June 1, 2014. http://bit.ly/1jOOaAg.

  • In this study, Chen explores the ambitions, prevalence and outcomes of a variety of smart cities, organized into five categories:
    • Transportation-focused smart cities
    • Energy-focused smart cities
    • Building-focused smart cities
    • Water-resources-focused smart cities
    • Governance-focused smart cities
  • The study finds that the “Asia Pacific region accounts for the largest share of all smart city development plans worldwide, with 51% of the global total. Smart city development plans in the Asia Pacific region tend to be energy-focused smart city initiatives, aimed at easing the pressure on energy resources that will be caused by continuing rapid urbanization in the future.”
  • North America, on the other hand is generally more geared toward energy-focused smart city development plans. “In North America, there has been a major drive to introduce smart meters and smart electric power grids, integrating the electric power sector with information and communications technology (ICT) and replacing obsolete electric power infrastructure, so as to make cities’ electric power systems more reliable (which in turn can help to boost private-sector investment, stimulate the growth of the ‘green energy’ industry, and create more job opportunities).”
  • Looking to Taiwan as an example, Chen argues that, “Cities in different parts of the world face different problems and challenges when it comes to urban development, making it necessary to utilize technology applications from different fields to solve the unique problems that each individual city has to overcome; the emphasis here is on the development of customized solutions for smart city development.”

Domingo, A., B. Bellalta, M. Palacin, M. Oliver and E. Almirall. “Public Open Sensor Data: Revolutionizing Smart Cities.” Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE 32, No. 4. Winter 2013. http://bit.ly/1iH6ekU.

  • In this article, the authors explore the “enormous amount of information collected by sensor devices” that allows for “the automation of several real-time services to improve city management by using intelligent traffic-light patterns during rush hour, reducing water consumption in parks, or efficiently routing garbage collection trucks throughout the city.”
  • They argue that, “To achieve the goal of sharing and open data to the public, some technical expertise on the part of citizens will be required. A real environment – or platform – will be needed to achieve this goal.” They go on to introduce a variety of “technical challenges and considerations involved in building an Open Sensor Data platform,” including:
    • Scalability
    • Reliability
    • Low latency
    • Standardized formats
    • Standardized connectivity
  • The authors conclude that, despite incredible advancements in urban analytics and open sensing in recent years, “Today, we can only imagine the revolution in Open Data as an introduction to a real-time world mashup with temperature, humidity, CO2 emission, transport, tourism attractions, events, water and gas consumption, politics decisions, emergencies, etc., and all of this interacting with us to help improve the future decisions we make in our public and private lives.”

Harrison, C., B. Eckman, R. Hamilton, P. Hartswick, J. Kalagnanam, J. Paraszczak, and P. Williams. “Foundations for Smarter Cities.” IBM Journal of Research and Development 54, no. 4 (2010): 1–16. http://bit.ly/1iha6CR.

  • This paper describes the information technology (IT) foundation and principles for Smarter Cities.
  • The authors introduce three foundational concepts of smarter cities: instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.
  • They also describe some of the major needs of contemporary cities, and concludes that Creating the Smarter City implies capturing and accelerating flows of information both vertically and horizontally.

Hernández-Muñoz, José M., Jesús Bernat Vercher, Luis Muñoz, José A. Galache, Mirko Presser, Luis A. Hernández Gómez, and Jan Pettersson. “Smart Cities at the Forefront of the Future Internet.” In The Future Internet, edited by John Domingue, Alex Galis, Anastasius Gavras, Theodore Zahariadis, Dave Lambert, Frances Cleary, Petros Daras, et al., 447–462. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6656. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. http://bit.ly/HhNbMX.

  • This paper explores how the “Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Services (IoS), can become building blocks to progress towards a unified urban-scale ICT platform transforming a Smart City into an open innovation platform.”
  • The authors examine the SmartSantander project to argue that, “the different stakeholders involved in the smart city business is so big that many non-technical constraints must be considered (users, public administrations, vendors, etc.).”
  • The authors also discuss the need for infrastructures at the, for instance, European level for realistic large-scale experimentally-driven research.

Hoon-Lee, Jung, Marguerite Gong Hancock, Mei-Chih Hu. “Towards an effective framework for building smart cities: Lessons from Seoul and San Francisco.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Ocotober 3, 2013. http://bit.ly/1rzID5v.

  • In this study, the authors aim to “shed light on the process of building an effective smart city by integrating various practical perspectives with a consideration of smart city characteristics taken from the literature.”
  • They propose a conceptual framework based on case studies from Seoul and San Francisco built around the following dimensions:
    • Urban openness
    • Service innovation
    • Partnerships formation
    • Urban proactiveness
    • Smart city infrastructure integration
    • Smart city governance
  • The authors conclude with a summary of research findings featuring “8 stylized facts”:
    • Movement towards more interactive services engaging citizens;
    • Open data movement facilitates open innovation;
    • Diversifying service development: exploit or explore?
    • How to accelerate adoption: top-down public driven vs. bottom-up market driven partnerships;
    • Advanced intelligent technology supports new value-added smart city services;
    • Smart city services combined with robust incentive systems empower engagement;
    • Multiple device & network accessibility can create network effects for smart city services;
    • Centralized leadership implementing a comprehensive strategy boosts smart initiatives.

Kamel Boulos, Maged N. and Najeeb M. Al-Shorbaji. “On the Internet of Things, smart cities and the WHO Healthy Cities.” International Journal of Health Geographics 13, No. 10. 2014. http://bit.ly/Tkt9GA.

  • In this article, the authors give a “brief overview of the Internet of Things (IoT) for cities, offering examples of IoT-powered 21st century smart cities, including the experience of the Spanish city of Barcelona in implementing its own IoT-driven services to improve the quality of life of its people through measures that promote an eco-friendly, sustainable environment.”
  • The authors argue that one of the central needs for harnessing the power of the IoT and urban analytics is for cities to “involve and engage its stakeholders from a very early stage (city officials at all levels, as well as citizens), and to secure their support by raising awareness and educating them about smart city technologies, the associated benefits, and the likely challenges that will need to be overcome (such as privacy issues).”
  • They conclude that, “The Internet of Things is rapidly gaining a central place as key enabler of the smarter cities of today and the future. Such cities also stand better chances of becoming healthier cities.”

Keller, Sallie Ann, Steven E. Koonin, and Stephanie Shipp. “Big Data and City Living – What Can It Do for Us?Significance 9, no. 4 (2012): 4–7. http://bit.ly/166W3NP.

  • This article provides a short introduction to Big Data, its importance, and the ways in which it is transforming cities. After an overview of the social benefits of big data in an urban context, the article examines its challenges, such as privacy concerns and institutional barriers.
  • The authors recommend that new approaches to making data available for research are needed that do not violate the privacy of entities included in the datasets. They believe that balancing privacy and accessibility issues will require new government regulations and incentives.

Kitchin, Rob. “The Real-Time City? Big Data and Smart Urbanism.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, July 3, 2013. http://bit.ly/1aamZj2.

  • This paper focuses on “how cities are being instrumented with digital devices and infrastructure that produce ‘big data’ which enable real-time analysis of city life, new modes of technocratic urban governance, and a re-imagining of cities.”
  • The authors provide “a number of projects that seek to produce a real-time analysis of the city and provides a critical reflection on the implications of big data and smart urbanism.”

Mostashari, A., F. Arnold, M. Maurer, and J. Wade. “Citizens as Sensors: The Cognitive City Paradigm.” In 2011 8th International Conference Expo on Emerging Technologies for a Smarter World (CEWIT), 1–5, 2011. http://bit.ly/1fYe9an.

  • This paper argues that. “implementing sensor networks are a necessary but not sufficient approach to improving urban living.”
  • The authors introduce the concept of the “Cognitive City” – a city that can not only operate more efficiently due to networked architecture, but can also learn to improve its service conditions, by planning, deciding and acting on perceived conditions.
  • Based on this conceptualization of a smart city as a cognitive city, the authors propose “an architectural process approach that allows city decision-makers and service providers to integrate cognition into urban processes.”

Oliver, M., M. Palacin, A. Domingo, and V. Valls. “Sensor Information Fueling Open Data.” In Computer Software and Applications Conference Workshops (COMPSACW), 2012 IEEE 36th Annual, 116–121, 2012. http://bit.ly/HjV4jS.

  • This paper introduces the concept of sensor networks as a key component in the smart cities framework, and shows how real-time data provided by different city network sensors enrich Open Data portals and require a new architecture to deal with massive amounts of continuously flowing information.
  • The authors’ main conclusion is that by providing a framework to build new applications and services using public static and dynamic data that promote innovation, a real-time open sensor network data platform can have several positive effects for citizens.

Perera, Charith, Arkady Zaslavsky, Peter Christen and Dimitrios Georgakopoulos. “Sensing as a service model for smart cities supported by Internet of Things.” Transactions on Emerging Telecommunications Technologies 25, Issue 1. January 2014. http://bit.ly/1qJLDP9.

  • This paper looks into the “enormous pressure towards efficient city management” that has “triggered various Smart City initiatives by both government and private sector businesses to invest in information and communication technologies to find sustainable solutions to the growing issues.”
  • The authors explore the parallel advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT), which “envisions to connect billions of sensors to the Internet and expects to use them for efficient and effective resource management in Smart Cities.”
  • The paper proposes the sensing as a service model “as a solution based on IoT infrastructure.” The sensing as a service model consists of four conceptual layers: “(i) sensors and sensor owners; (ii) sensor publishers (SPs); (iii) extended service providers (ESPs); and (iv) sensor data consumers. They go on to describe how this model would work in the areas of waste management, smart agriculture and environmental management.

Privacy, Big Data, and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement. Edited by Julia Lane, Victoria Stodden, Stefan Bender, and Helen Nissenbaum; Cambridge University Press, 2014. http://bit.ly/UoGRca.

  • This book focuses on the legal, practical, and statistical approaches for maximizing the use of massive datasets while minimizing information risk.
  • “Big data” is more than a straightforward change in technology.  It poses deep challenges to our traditions of notice and consent as tools for managing privacy.  Because our new tools of data science can make it all but impossible to guarantee anonymity in the future, the authors question whether it possible to truly give informed consent, when we cannot, by definition, know what the risks are from revealing personal data either for individuals or for society as a whole.
  • Based on their experience building large data collections, authors discuss some of the best practical ways to provide access while protecting confidentiality.  What have we learned about effective engineered controls?  About effective access policies?  About designing data systems that reinforce – rather than counter – access policies?  They also explore the business, legal, and technical standards necessary for a new deal on data.
  • Since the data generating process or the data collection process is not necessarily well understood for big data streams, authors discuss what statistics can tell us about how to make greatest scientific use of this data. They also explore the shortcomings of current disclosure limitation approaches and whether we can quantify the extent of privacy loss.

Schaffers, Hans, Nicos Komninos, Marc Pallot, Brigitte Trousse, Michael Nilsson, and Alvaro Oliveira. “Smart Cities and the Future Internet: Towards Cooperation Frameworks for Open Innovation.” In The Future Internet, edited by John Domingue, Alex Galis, Anastasius Gavras, Theodore Zahariadis, Dave Lambert, Frances Cleary, Petros Daras, et al., 431–446. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6656. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. http://bit.ly/16ytKoT.

  • This paper “explores ‘smart cities’ as environments of open and user-driven innovation for experimenting and validating Future Internet-enabled services.”
  • The authors examine several smart city projects to illustrate the central role of users in defining smart services and the importance of participation. They argue that, “Two different layers of collaboration can be distinguished. The first layer is collaboration within the innovation process. The second layer concerns collaboration at the territorial level, driven by urban and regional development policies aiming at strengthening the urban innovation systems through creating effective conditions for sustainable innovation.”

Suciu, G., A. Vulpe, S. Halunga, O. Fratu, G. Todoran, and V. Suciu. “Smart Cities Built on Resilient Cloud Computing and Secure Internet of Things.” In 2013 19th International Conference on Control Systems and Computer Science (CSCS), 513–518, 2013. http://bit.ly/16wfNgv.

  • This paper proposes “a new platform for using cloud computing capacities for provision and support of ubiquitous connectivity and real-time applications and services for smart cities’ needs.”
  • The authors present a “framework for data procured from highly distributed, heterogeneous, decentralized, real and virtual devices (sensors, actuators, smart devices) that can be automatically managed, analyzed and controlled by distributed cloud-based services.”

Townsend, Anthony. Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

  • In this book, Townsend illustrates how “cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity.”
  • He also considers “the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings” of the many stakeholders involved in the development of smart cities, and poses a new civics to guide these efforts.
  • He argues that smart cities are not made smart by various, soon-to-be-obsolete technologies built into its infrastructure, but how citizens use these ever-changing technologies to be “human-centered, inclusive and resilient.”

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Did we miss anything? Please submit reading recommendations to biblio@thegovlab.org or in the comments below.

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