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Visualising the Future: Big Data and the Built Environment - Prof Paul Linden

This proposal builds on discussions which took place during meetings convened by the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment. A preliminary analysis has identified a series of key topics and themes running through the discussions. These include the limitations of utilising big data; challenges associated with its visualisation; the role of improved forecasting and new technologies – such as machine learning – for utilising big data; access and ownership of data; and the opportunities for experimentation within city systems. This project will aim to deliver a deeper analysis, focusing on new and emerging research and technological developments.

Chaired by Lord Martin Rees, The Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment has met monthly for the last five years, bringing together thought leaders from research, policy and industry to talk about some of the great sustainability challenges the world faces in the future and research pathways which will help prepare for and address those challenges. Core Forum members representing all six University Schools and over 90 ‘expert witnesses’ and other guests joined meetings aimed at generating new trans-disciplinary research questions related to a series of topics, including sustainable cities, land-use change, risk and resilience and connections between sustainability, health and wellbeing.

Technology and big data will radically change how people live in cities and this led the Forum to explore ways in which ‘smart’ data and smart cities move beyond controlling traffic lights and transport systems to positively impacting the environment and the lives of city residents. The aim of the proposed project is to use the wealth of information generated by the Forum discussions to highlight ‘unknown unknowns’ and explore new research questions concerning the way in which digital technology may shape future cities.

A preliminary analysis has identified a series of key topics and themes running through the discussions.  These include the limitations of utilising big data; challenges associated with its visualisation; the role of improved forecasting and new technologies – such as machine learning – for utilising big data; access and ownership of data; and the opportunities for experimentation within city systems. The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) funding will allow for a deeper analysis, focusing on new and emerging research and technological developments.

Transcriptions and meeting outputs will form the core resource. Key Forum members and witnesses will also be contacted to elaborate on the identified themes through semi-structured interviews. Interviewees will be drawn from academia, policymaking and industry and chosen to provide a variety of perspectives. In parallel, a literature review will also investigate current capacity and future needs regarding big data, with a focus on the transition needed for a Digital Built Britain. The final report will provide a review that presents a discussion on the future role that big data could play in shaping industry and government approaches to sustainability and resilience in cities. The potential for submitting key findings to a journal will also be explored. 

Researchers:


Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP)


Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP)

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Welcome to the Centre for Digital Built Britain.  

The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to deliver a smart digital economy for infrastructure and construction for the future and transform the UK construction industry’s approach to the way we plan, build, maintain and use our social and economic infrastructure.