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UNSW launches City Analytics Lab, Masters program

By on 2 May, 2018

Federal minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher opens the City Analytics Lab at the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment on May 2, 2018. Image provided by UNSW External Relations.

The new laboratory aims to facilitate information sharing and collaboration among agencies and entities responsible for urban planning and design with a raft of cutting-edge tools and technologies.

The new facility, housed in the basement of the faculty of Built Environment and within the City Futures program, was formally opened by Paul Fletcher, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, and Professor Chris Pettit, Chair of Urban Science this morning.

Defining city analytics, new MA

Professor Pettit used his opening address to define the lab’s core focus, as distinct from related disciplines urban informatics and city science, and the lab’s place within the broader City Futures research program.

“City analytics is really the digital toolkit that comprises the frameworks — not just technology, the frameworks — for looking at cities as systems, and the methods that we can bring to bear to try to make our cities more livable,” he said.

Professor Pettit announced a new Masters program in city analytics, with the purpose of developing competencies in use of digital analytics for urban planning.

“It’s all good to do this research, and play with our tools and our sandboxes here in the basement, but we actually need people to use these tools and understand: what are dashboards, big data, open data — how do we actually use these in the real world?” he said.

$22m Smart Cities and Suburbs round

MP Paul Fletcher formally opened the lab with his address, also announcing a $22 million second round of funding for the federal government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs grant program, which provides funding for technology-focused projects led by local government to tackle policy challenges in management of their LGAs. Mr. Fletcher invited launch attendees to take the opportunity to approach local governments with proposals, which are due by June 2.

Participant feedback during an interactive activity on the RAISE tool.

Following the presentations, launch attendees were taken on a tour of the lab facilities, and given a presentation of the RAISE (Rapid Analytics Interactive Scenario Explorer) tool, followed by an interactive group session. Participants were invited to engage with different public transit placement scenarios and consequent impact on liveability and property values of the surrounding suburbs. Three scenarios were presented, and attendees interacted with each, leaving feedback and exploring each on large tabletop touchscreens, demonstrating the ease with which output and feedback from each group could be shared with others as an environment for realtime analysis and collaboration.

UNSW VP of External Relations, Fiona Docherty, Professor Chris Pettit, chair of Urban Science, minister Fletcher and Professor Bruce Watson, Head of School/Deputy Dean Built Environment interact with the RAISE tool in the UNSW City Analytics Lab. Image provided by UNSW External Relations.

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