Global experts convene in London to explore smart city solutions

Monday, August 13, 2018

How do cities form across the planet and how do we face the challenges of rapid urbanisation? How can data-driven decision-making help city managers, government workers, and policy makers create liveable and resilient cities?

These were just some of the big questions tackled over a two-day PLuS Alliance workshop on ‘Informed Urbanisation,’ which brought together experts on the built environment and urban planning, public policy, and health and air pollution from Arizona State University (ASU), King’s College London, and UNSW Sydney.

The workshop was hosted by King’s College London at the iconic Somerset House, where the group discussed their recent accelerator-funded research project, ‘Planning smart, healthy, accessible cities,’ and delivered presentations on a range of topics. This included a session on the use of crowdsourced data to understand mobility and active transport from ASU graduate Dr Lindsey Conrow, the first PhD candidate to be co-mentored by a global PLuS Alliance team under PLuS Fellows Professor Elizabeth Wentz from ASU and Professor Chris Pettit from UNSW Sydney.

“It’s been a real pleasure hosting the PLuS Alliance ‘Informed Urbanisation’ team in London over the last few days,” said Professor Frank Kelly, PLuS Alliance Fellow and Chair in Environmental Health at King's.

“The award of accelerator funding by the Plus Alliance allows us to build on our existing collaborations among London, Phoenix and Sydney. In particular, applying King’s expertise in air pollution and health to Phoenix, Sydney and Pune, India is a really exciting opportunity.”

It has been great to bring together expertise from across the three universities to study our cities as living laboratories” said Professor Chris Pettit, Chair of Urban Science at UNSW Sydney.

“On behalf of the group, I’d like to thank King’s for hosting us over these very productive two-days. One of the major areas of focus has been exploring how we can use our collective knowledge - from urban mobility to air quality modelling - to develop a framework that we can then apply to the Smart Cities Mission in India. Our aim is to help these communities measure and map the outcomes of their investments in improving the liveability, resilience, productivity and sustainability of their cities.”

Elizabeth Wentz, Dean of Social Sciences and Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU, added that such a framework is vital for “flipping the narrative about cities.”

A lot of the time, cities and urbanisation get pitted as the problem, for example, as the source of congestion and crime. I prefer to think about cities as being the possibility for solutions. People gravitate toward cities, but we also need to be thinking, how do we protect agriculture areas? How do we protect nature?’ Cities are spaces for solutions and we just have to use our ‘Informed Urbanisation’ framework to make them better places to live.”