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The autonomous city

Dr Ian Lewis
Department of Computer Science and Technology

We have a broad range of research in the Department of Computer Science and Technology to tackle issues and opportunities arising from the global densification of populations into large urban centres. Our Adaptive Cities Programme is designed to exploit high-volume sensor deployments, collecting and acting upon urban data collected in real- time. The use of the word ‘Adaptive’ (we could have chosen ‘Future’) emphasises that we are collecting the data because we are likely to want to do something about it. For example traffic congestion might be improved by changing the signalling and similar considerations will apply to air quality, waste collection, power distribution and other infrastructure areas.

Our expectation is that this ‘adaptation’ will be most effective if based upon something the city is predicting is going to happen, rather than waiting for an issue to occur and taking action then. Returning to the example of traffic management, the predictive aspect of the real-time sensor analysis enables the city to adjust to what’s coming in a timely fashion, while the large-scale deployment of both the traffic sensors and the control fabric supporting the signalling adjustments means that the optimal adjustment can intelligently be made across a large area of the city. The hypothesis is that these control enhance-ments in both time and space should lead to more effective management of the urban environment i.e. less congestion, better air quality, more efficient waste collection etc.

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