Robert J. Stimson Seminar: Big Data, Smart Cities and Urban Research Infrastructure

Tuesday 5th May 2015
5:15pm - 7:00pm
Yudowitz Seminar Room, Wolfson Medical School Building, University of Glasgow

Advances in information technologies are opening new ways to approach research and policy analysis for cities and regions.

This is being driven in part by what is now referred to as ‘big data’ and also by the emergence of policies that are championing the ‘creative commons’ and ‘open data’. Harnessing the opportunities presented by these innovations is being championed by what is being referred to as ‘smart cities’. This paper overviews these developments and then focuses on how innovations in building new research infrastructures are starting to revolutionise the way urban and regional research might be facilitated through a number of initiatives that are occurring around the world. That includes the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure (AURIN) project, which is taken as an example.

AURIN is a a $24 million initiative by the Australian Government - led by the University of Melbourne but involving universities, research institutions and data agencies across the country - which is developing and operating a new national research infrastructure that facilitates access to a wide range of types of data at multiple levels of scale sourced from multiple sources with the on-line capability to integrate those data and interrogate data using open source spatial and statistical analysis and modelling e-research tools with visualization. An important feature of the AURIN e-research infrastructure is the capability to enable merit-based securitized access to unit record data and its integration with spatial objective data with the researcher not being able to download the individual data but conduct interrogation on-line and receive the results of those interrogations thus ensuring protection of privacy. The paper presents some of the applications that can be undertaken using the AURIN e-infrastructure capabilities. That includes: harvesting spatial data and conducting econometric analysis and modelling; applying customised tools open source developed such as a Walkability tool and a Planning What If? Tool; and the integration of survey-based unit record data with spatial objective data.

The paper concludes by discussing some of the impediments faced in this interface between ‘big data’, ‘smart cities’ and research infrastructure initiatives which are challenges that need to be addressed.