Smart cities: Bridging physical and digital

October 26, 2012

One of the challenges we face is how to best design and change cities into smart intelligent and sustainable environments. Researchers will explain how new technology can make our cities more habitable, and help the people who live in them understand them better.

Researchers at the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy, University of Leeds, and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, have been developing a range of high-technology ways to see and think about the modern city. An exhibition in Leeds which forms part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science 2012 explains how cities are becoming 'smart' and demonstrates how tools, such as online mapping and modelling, are transforming the urban experience.

Mapping and modelling technologies of this kind can show how major disruptions to public transport affect traffic flow. Computer simulations can help to emulate vehicle movement patterns and help people to plan ways of avoiding the worst delays.

Amy O'Neill at the University of Leeds, organiser of the Smarter Cities exhibition, says: "Today's technology allows us to engage with people in real time. This means that it can be used to provide intelligence about cities, for example, through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. We have been combining data from traditional sources such as government and commercial surveys, data that has been captured from buildings and vehicles using sensor devices, personal data, for example from tweets, and data which has been volunteered by the public, for example on traffic movements."

The exhibition will allow people to engage with the possibilities that this creates. There are now an increasing number of ways of getting real-time information on the cities we live in, often via Smartphone applications. Many of these applications involve engaging with your friends in real time and in new ways. The existence of this data and the innovative ways it can be visualised and used, means that cities are becoming smarter. One of our exhibits, for example, will showcase how the study of twitter data provides us with powerful conclusions about movement and activity patterns in our cities.

Another of the exhibits will be 'Pigeon Sim', a computer model adapted from video gaming. This allows the user to 'fly' across the cityscape, using games controllers to direct their flight and seeing the view on a near-immersive big screen. Amy says: "This is a technology that enhances our perception of the urban environment and is especially good for engaging young people." Pigeon Sim does not use recordings. Instead it is fed by real-time data on anything from water levels in rivers to traffic jams or air pollution.

Amy concludes: "The emphasis will be on exhibits that people can use, not just look at. There will be a lot of hand-held devices that can help people imagine how they might use these resources in their own lives. This technology is also useful for local government, businesses, researchers and other professional stake holders".
For further information contact:

Amy O'Neill
Telephone: 0113 343 7992

ESRC Press Office:
Telephone 01793 413122

Jeanine Woolley
Telephone 01793 413119

Notes for editors

1. Event: Smart Cities: Bridging Physical and Digital
Organiser: Amy O'Neill
Date: 9 and 10 November 2012 (8 November is invitation only and not open to the public)
Venue: Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square LS2 8BH
Audience: General audience
For more information: Smart Cities: Bridging Physical and Digital

2. A short interview with project researcher Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith, Director and Reader in Digital Urban Systems Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL, is available at

3. This event is organised by the University of Leeds Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy, working with colleagues at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London

4. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015.

5. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council and takes place from 3-10 November 2012. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year's Festival of Social Science has over 180 creative and exciting events across the UK to encourage businesses, charities, government agencies, schools and college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events and a full list of the programme are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival.

6. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

Economic & Social Research Council

Related Technology Articles from Brightsurf:

December issue SLAS Technology features 'advances in technology to address COVID-19'
The December issue of SLAS Technology is a special collection featuring the cover article, ''Advances in Technology to Address COVID-19'' by editors Edward Kai-Hua Chow, Ph.D., (National University of Singapore), Pak Kin Wong, Ph.D., (The Pennsylvania State University, PA, USA) and Xianting Ding, Ph.D., (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China).

October issue SLAS Technology now available
The October issue of SLAS Technology features the cover article, 'Role of Digital Microfl-uidics in Enabling Access to Laboratory Automation and Making Biology Programmable' by Varun B.

Robot technology for everyone or only for the average person?
Robot technology is being used more and more in health rehabilitation and in working life.

Novel biomarker technology for cancer diagnostics
A new way of identifying cancer biomarkers has been developed by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Technology innovation for neurology
TU Graz researcher Francesco Greco has developed ultra-light tattoo electrodes that are hardly noticeable on the skin and make long-term measurements of brain activity cheaper and easier.

April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.

Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).

Read More: Technology News and Technology Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to