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City Science Summit Shanghai 2018

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City Science

Arnaud Grignard

by Margaret Church

June 19, 2018

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This May the MIT Media Lab City Science team traveled to Shanghai, China for the City Science Summit (CSS) and meetings with representatives from the City Science Network.  CSS 2018 was a collaboration between Tongji University and the City Science group, and was hosted on the Jiading campus of Tongji University. The event included 20 talks from Media Lab scientists, members of the network, and supporting companies, and there were more than 2,000 guests in the audience and more than 1.5 million livestream views. The audience included mayors, designers, entrepreneurs, and academics interested in the future of cities and evidence-based planning.

The City Science Summit was held during the opening week of the World Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expo (WIEE), as part of the Future Thinkers Forum—an event dedicated to exploring options for an advanced, creative, and cooperative plan for both China and the rest of the world. WIEE, a year-long event, is focused on the following goals: promoting innovation, science, and education; accelerating the construction of a science and innovation center; building cooperation; and encouraging entrepreneurship. 

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Keynote talks were given by Professor Yongqi Lou, dean of the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University; Zhiqiang Wu, vice president of Tongji University and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering; Bin Li, founder and chairman of Weilai Automobile; Ningning Li, senior director of Industrial Design at Xiaomi Ecochain; and Kent Larson, director of the City Science research group at the MIT Media Lab.

The rest of the talks were organized around five key themes: Insight, Transformation, Prediction and Experience, Consensus, and Deploy. Kent Larson introduced the themes in his opening talk and updated the audience on the group's current research and mission to enable dynamic, evolving places that respond to the complexities of life.  Larson stated that new strategies must be found to create the places where people live and work, and to ensure that the mobility systems that connect them meet the profound challenges of the future.

Urban designers will make use of powerful new data collection and analytic tools to achieve a fine-grained understanding of human behavior.  During the Insight discussions, researchers discussed how data records and access to information about live/work relationships, mobility patterns, community values, and human interaction can allow scientists to create more accurate and user-friendly visualizations to inform the development of proposed interventions. Insight included talks from Ronan Doorley, a post-doctoral associate from the MIT Media Lab; Nan Cao, a professor on the Tongji University Smart Data Viz team; and Marc Pons, the director of the Andorra Innovation Living Lab.  

In Transformation, researchers discussed the rapid change that cities will undergo as emerging systems are integrated into the urban fabric and cities replace heavy infrastructure with agile distributed systems for mobility, energy, food, live/work spaces, and urban design. Transformation included talks by Phil Tinn, a PhD researcher in the City Science group; Jörg Noennig, director of City Science Lab Hamburg; Holger Prang, a professor at HCU Hamburg;  and Antti Tuomela, CEO of Aalto University Properties.

Experience and Prediction included talks from Jarmo Suominen, a professor at Aalto University and Tongji University; Arnaud Grignard, a research scientist in the City Science group; Xiaohua Sun, dean of the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University; and Ke Ma Vice, a researcher at City Science Lab Shanghai and Tongji University. They focused on new simulation tools that will predict the impact of proposed interventions on how people interact with their environment, move through the city, consume resources, and exchange ideas. Interactive physical models with AI recommendation engines will enable rapid scenario testing and real-time simulation to allow a broader group of stakeholders to engage in a creative, iterative decision-making process.

The Consensus discussions emphasized the importance of inclusive decision-making between stakeholders for many of the challenges affecting urban centers. This section included talks by Ariel Noyman, a PhD researcher in the City Science group, who discussed revising urban decision-making through the City Scope Platform; Markus ElKatsha, a researcher City Science, who talked about the need for a platform or tools that facilitate consensus in the context of rapidly urbanizing parts of the world; and Ryan Zhang, a PhD researcher in City Science, who discussed how AI systems can improve consensus-building through computational support.

The final theme, Deploy, reviewed a future where communities will be empowered to quickly respond to changing economic and social conditions, and to optimize for social, cultural, and environmental benefits, deploying tech and software solutions to encourage pro-social behaviors. Deploy included talks from Yasushi Sakai, a PhD researcher in the City Science group;  Luis Alonso, a research scientist in City Science; and Yunsheng Su, the executive director of SustainX Design Research Center at Tongji University.

City Science Pavilion

In addition to the talks during the opening event, the Media Lab City Science group and the Tongji University College of Design and Innovation designed an exhibition space to demonstrate the collaborative research of the City Science Network. The exhibit included three CityScope displays—an interactive, evidence-based, urban decision-making tool that enables stakeholder interaction through data-enabled simulation and visualization.  The CityScope display in the pavilion included visualizations from three different cities that use the platform for various spatial design and urban planning challenges. The tool is being used for a range of problems, from simulations that quantify the impact of disruptive interventions in cities to communicable collaboration applications. The tables showcased work underway at the City Science Lab Andorra in collaboration with Actuatech, City Science Lab Helsinki at Aalto University, and City Science Lab Shanghai at Tongji University.

The Pavilion also highlighted the Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV), a low-cost, agile, shared-use autonomous tricyle that can be an electrically assisted vehicle for passenger commuting or last-mile logistics for package delivery in congested urban environments. Also highlighted were several video reels  of the group's work, including robotic architecture, sensorized environments, artificial intelligence, and more. Two students from Taipei Tech, Luke Jiang and Justin Chang-Qi-Zhang, joined the City Science team in Shanghai to help with the construction and presentation of the PEV.

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City Science Network Meeting

After the Jiading events, the team traveled back to central Shanghai to meet with the City Science Network members at the Tongji City Science Lab. CS Members  from Espoo and Helsinki, Shanghai, Qingdao, Andorra, Taipei, and Hamburg met to discuss current research, methods for coding and sharing, and future research directions. The meeting strengthened the links between members of the City Science Network, a team of global researchers striving to create more equitable, diverse, and innovative cities.  

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Each network city collaborates with the MIT Media team on a set list of goals to better understand potential urban interventions.  More information on current City Science Network projects can be found at the following links: 

At CSL@Andorra, the MIT team works with ActuaTech tackling the challenge of turning Andorra into an “Internationally Recognized Intelligent Country.” The Andorra Living Lab project combines different research topics (tourism, innovation, energy and environment, mobility, and dynamic urban planning) for the future urban challenges of the country.

At CSL@Hamburg, City Science is working with Hafencity University to develop CityScope for the neighborhood of Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany. The goal is to create an interactive stakeholder engagement tool that also serves as the platform for joint research of modules for city simulation. Researchers are developing modules for walkability, neighborhood connectivity, energy efficiency, and economic activity, among others.

At CSL@Aalto in Helsinki, the team is co-developing a version of the MIT CityScope platform for urban analysis, efficient resource utilization, and spatial programming for campus development, using Otaniemi as a testbed.

At CSL@Shanghai at Tongji University Shanghai, the team is developing a CityScope tool to understand and predict use cases for the Living Line, a street on the Tongji campus to be redeveloped and designed according to new data-enabled urban prediction.

At CSL@Taipei, researchers are developing, testing, and deploying the latest version of the PEV (Persuasive Electric Vehicle).  

CSL@Toronto is the newest member of the City Science Network.  There the team will work with Ryerson University to better understand and visualize their datasets for prediction and analysis.

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City Science Network projects vary greatly based on datasets and goals of each location.  To learn more about becoming a part of the network, contact Maggie Church: mdchurch@media.mit.edu

Other Events: MIT Alumni Event and Future Thinkers Workshop

Kent Larson presented work from the Media Lab City Science Group to the MIT Club of Shanghai at a popular co-working space downtown.  Kent presented on current work in the group covering three main focus areas: live/work space, robotic furniture, and sensorized environments; mobility solutions; and urban planning tools and data-enabled decision making. He also recapped the recent event in Tongji, and discussed how the group is currently working in China.

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Markus ElKatsha presented the Group’s work at the Innovation and Capital event hosted by the Pavilion sponsor, FYZ, outlining the way that cities were organized in the past, how we can learn from that modeling, and how we can move to a more equitable future using new tools to understand urbanization. Other presenters spoke about their work in innovation and entrepreneurship. 

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Goals and Next Steps

At CSS Shanghai, the MIT team hoped to build a clear and understandable process for various stakeholders, ranging from community members to decision-makers and professionals,  to understand the importance and potential of data-driven or evidence-based urban planning and mobility tools and systems. The themes of this process were presented at the summit to a worldwide audience and attracted attention from government leaders, sponsors, and stakeholders around the globe. In addition, the summit strengthened the group’s work and relationships with Tongji University and shined a light on the work being done at the College of Design and Innovation, demonstrating that Tongji University is having a positive impact on Chinese urban planning and city design.  The team also met with members of the City Science Network to further establish the importance of co-innovation and collaboration. Teams from different parts of the world were able to meet, learn, and share each other's work.

CSS 2018 was the second summit hosted by the MIT Media Lab City Science group.  This summit built on the success of the summit in Andorra in 2016, and the connections and research discussions of the Shanghai summit will allow for more research and collaboration between the international teams.  At the close of the week, the team announced the next City Science Summit which will be hosted in Hamburg, Germany in fall 2019, with HCU Hafencity University.

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Event Organizers
This event was put together by Tongji University College of Design and Innovation and the MIT Media Lab City Science group.  The key event contacts were Yan (Ryan) Zhang, a PhD researcher at MIT and the research liaison for the MIT-Tongji collaboration, Maggie Church from MIT for coordination and event management, and Ke (Suta) Ma, a researcher and liaison from Tongji University.  The team worked with Zaojiu and FYZ to develop and build the pavilion, and with the administration of Tongji University for event logistics and administration. 

Thank you to all of our friends and collaborators who helped to make this incredible event possible.  We look forward to our continued work, new ideas, and exciting research directions!

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Kent Larson presents at the City Science Summit and introduces the group's research and the five themes for the event

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Marc Pons presents in the Insight section of the event

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Phil Tinn presents in the Transformation section

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Jorg Noenning and Holger Prang present in the Transformation section

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Antti Tuomela presents in the Transformation section

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Ningning Li, Senior Director of Industrial Design, Xiaomi Ecochain, keynotes the City Science Summit

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Bin Li, Founder and Chairman of Weilai Automotive, keynotes the City Science Summit

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Jarmo Suominen presents in the Prediction and Experience section

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Arnaud Grignard presents in the Prediction and Experience section

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Xiaohua Sun presents in the Prediction and Experience section

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Ariel Noyman presents on Consensus at the City Science Summit

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Markus ElKatsha presents in the Consensus section

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Yasushi Sakai presents in the Deploy section

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Luis Alonso Pastor presents in the Deploy section

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Yunsheng Su presents in the Deploy section at the City Science Summit

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City Science Summit speakers and organizers on stage at the close of the event

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Nan Cao present in the Insight theme at the City Science Summit

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Zhiqiang Wu, Vice President of Tongji University, Member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, introduces Tongji's research at the summit

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