Urban computing

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Urban computing is an emerging field of study that focuses on the use of computing technology in public environments such as cities, parks, forests and suburbs. It also studies the interaction between humans and such environments, which is becoming increasingly common as access to computing devices extends beyond home and office. This is a multidisciplinary field connected by artists, architects, urban planners, geographers, social scientists & interaction designers. [1]

The term was coined and first used in 2003 by Eric Paulos and introduced in his paper on Familiar Strangers [2] and a related workshop he co-organized to introduced the concept titled "UbiComp in the Urban Frontier" at the 2004 UbiComp Conference.

A data and computing perspective of urban computing[edit]

Urbanization’s rapid progress has modernized many people’s lives, but also engendered big issues, such as traffic congestion, energy consumption, and pollution. Tackling these challenges can seem nearly impossible years ago given the complex and dynamic settings of cities. Nowadays, sensing technologies and large-scale computing infrastructures have produced a variety of big data in urban spaces, e.g., human mobility, air quality, traffic patterns, and geographical data. The big data implies rich knowledge about a city and can help tackle these challenges when used correctly. Motivated by this opportunity, a recent understanding of urban computing was proposed by Yu Zheng in a special issue on Urban Computing at ACM Transaction on Intelligent Systems and Technology, emphasizing more on using computing technology and data science to solve urban challenges:

Urban computing is a process of acquisition, integration, and analysis of big and heterogeneous data generated by a diversity of sources in urban spaces, such as sensors, devices, vehicles, buildings, and human, to tackle the major issues that cities face, e.g., air pollution, increased energy consumption and traffic congestion. Urban computing connects unobtrusive and ubiquitous sensing technologies, advanced data management and analytics models, and novel visualization methods, to create win-win-win solutions that improve urban environment, human life quality, and city operation systems. Urban computing also helps us understand the nature of urban phenomena and even predict the future of cities. Urban computing is an interdisciplinary field fusing the computing science with traditional fields, like transportation, civil engineering, economy, ecology, and sociology, in the context of urban spaces.[3]

Towards this direction, a series of research and real systems for urban computing have been done since 2008. Examples of urban computing include Urban Air and CityNoise.


  1. ^ Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism Eric Paulos, R.J. Honicky, and Ben Hooker Handbook of Research on Urban Informatics: The Practice and Promise of the Real-Time City. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, IGI Global. Edited by Marcus Foth, IGI Global, 2008
  2. ^ Eric Paulos and Elizabeth Goodman. 2004. The familiar stranger: anxiety, comfort, and play in public places. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '04). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 223-230. DOI=10.1145/985692.985721 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/985692.985721
  3. ^ Yu Zheng, Licia Capra, Ouri Wolfson, and Hai Yang. 2014. Urban computing: Concepts, methodologies, and applications. ACM Trans. Intell. Syst. Technol. 5, 3, Article 38 (September 2014), 55 pages. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2629592