Experts from around the world on how big data can change the future

Scholars, entrepreneurs and thinkers from around the world attended the 2018 World Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expo to discuss how big data can help change the world.
Ti Gong

A series of seminars, exhibitions and interactive events was held during 2018 World Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expo in Jiading. Scholars, experts, entrepreneurs and thinkers discuss challenges and opportunities of the future and how big data can help change the world.

Top scholars, experts, entrepreneurs and thinkers from around the world attended the 2018 World Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expo in Jiading to discuss challenges and opportunities of the future and how big data can help change the world.

At the City Science Summit Shanghai 2018, one of the expo’s parallel sessions, Cao Nan from Tongji University suggested using big data to predict people’s movements, hence to prevent tragedies.

Cao, director of Tongji University Smart Data Viz Team, said many disasters could be avoided if people’s movement was traceable.

Cao suggested installing GPS on taxis so as to monitor people flow through feedback.

With the arrival of the era of big data and artificial intelligence, it becomes more promising to build smart cities. Many of those attending the expo this year studied the feasibility of doing so.

“Urban design is not like playing go, either black or white, each aspect has its own influence. Apart from the government, there is also capital, citizens, etc,” said Wu Zhiqiang, vice president of Tongji University.

Wu is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and was the chief planner of Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Wu and his teammates use artificial intelligence to build models for cities.

“We collect information from more than 13,000 cities around the world and use big data analysis to make predictions for urban operation, such as traffic jams. Urban planning and construction will become more and more smart in the future. Through big data analysis, we can not only learn the history but predict the future,” said Wu.

Kent Larson, director and principal research scientist of City Science research group and MIT Media Lab, thought improvements were necessary as the urban planning process at present is fragmented. “Around 90 percent of human beings will live in cities,” said Larson. “Only driven by big data can we get more democratic solutions to urban design,” he added.

Larson and his colleagues are developing a tool to help redesign cities through the pooling of dynamic data.

Marc Pons, director of Fundacio ActuaTech and City Science Lab Andorra, is involved in a project to learn the traffic trends of Andorra through big data analysis.

“By means of it, we can work out better traffic plans. For example, a more flexible commuter time to greatly relieve traffic congestion,” Pons said.

Some research fellows from MIT Media Lab described their ongoing research programs at the summit.

Ronan Doorley, a postdoctoral resercher with the lab, and his teammates are training a machine simulation system and using mathematical models for urban design.

“We hope to predict external changes through different models and study human social behavior through big data,” Doorley said.

Arnaud Grignard, a research scientist of the media lab, has worked out neighborhood trajectories with his team in the laboratory through programming language.

Yasushi Sakai, a doctoral researcher of MIT Media Lab, thought that all the urban planning processes nowadays come from above and are centralized. An operational process that combines decentralization could be better, according to Sakai.

Sakai and his colleagues carried forward a project about the bicycles lanes in New York City. When a cyclist feels risky at a place he or she just sounds the bell once or twice for a safe riding. Data collected will help mark the risky and safe zones on the map so that urban planners can make improvement.

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Su Yunsheng, director of Tongji University’s technical development department, shared his views on a city of intelligence. Su considered that one thing cannot be ignored when building a smart city is the interaction between people.

“We let cities be smarter through big data analysis. However, smart cities must also take into account the interaction between people,” Su said.

How does art affect people’s life in the contemporary urban environment? The guests at the summit believed that contemporary art and design are no longer confined to the original form and aesthetic category but develop a direct and close relationship with people’s daily life or would rather be part of the life and with major influence to the city.

An urban public space is an open place where urban residents conduct social exchanges and various activities. In the opinion of Ole Bouman, director of Design Society, urban public space is the essence of the urban environment, the carrier of multiculturalism and the source of unique charm. Its overall quality directly affects the comprehensive competitiveness of the city and public satisfaction.

With the rise of urbanization, urban public space is expanding. Some public spaces are occupied by “personal behaviors.” These “personal actions” are mostly artistic creation based on the city’s style, characteristics and spirit.

Urban public space is a platform that gives play to artists and designers. “The interaction between an individual and a public space is a wonderful dialogue. Displaying personal creation at a public space can enrich people’s lives,” said Bouman.

“We shall encourage designers to create more organic public spaces through different designs. With more connections between people, cities can be more vigorous and energetic,” Bouman added.

Independent designer and artist Zhang Zhoujie believed “creative design in a public space should follow the natural law.” There are three ways of creation: The first is human creation based on intuition, sensibility and experience; the second is natural creation based on logic and evolution; the third is computer creation by reason and algorithm, according to Zhang.

Independent artist and curator Zhu Ye thought that streets occupy a pivotal position in the entire urban public space. Streets are the main public area in a city, and the most important “organs” of a city, according to Zhu.

“Hence, we should pay special attention to the artistic design and atmosphere construction of streets in the process of urban construction and development, let public space release the charm of artistic creation, improve the quality of neighborhood and the whole city, so as to improve people’s affinity for the city,” Zhu said.

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