Architecture that Sense vs SmartCity

Architecture that senses and responds es_and_responds
Carlo Ratti, director at MIT SENSEable City Lab, started his talk by demonstrating some of real-world example of what is called real-time control system where the object of interest will be sensed and actuated reciprocally. He then argued that the idea of such system could also be applied to city as well.
The important of city come form the facts that although it only consumes 2% of the land on the earth but 50% of world’s population are living in the city, demanding 75% of world’s power consumption.
With an enabling of small sensors those are embedded in many objects around us, it can be thought as if we can communicate with our surrounding environment.
He then gave a concrete example of sensing system. During 2006 in the day of final round soccer’s world cup between Italy and France, he and his research team used cellular network data of mobile phone call to create visualization plotted onto 3D geographical map where the higher the concentration the redder and taller overlay image will become on top of the map. The demo did show an interesting pattern of how people react to event through out the match.
Another example is the tracking of 3,000 trashes by installing GPS sensor that send data back to the server to see where exactly these objects go.
Look at the side of actuator. In Spain, the team has created an exhibition where a novel architecture for exhibition is created using controlled actuator of water curtain that create dropping pattern from the water-filled roof top. The architecture will sense human presence and open up water curtain for people to get in and out. He was surprised to see how people, especially children, discovered creative way to interact with the architecture. The light can also be projected on to water curtain inspiring his next work about the possibility to control visual of each single pixel in the air.
Hence, next example of actuator system is the flying illuminated helicopter creating pixels cloud that can be programmed to form a shape or movement. It can convey meaningful message as well as creating aesthetic presentation. A professional ballet dancer was used as an input model for these artificial fire flyers to follow.
The last example project is aimed to be one of the iconic structures for Olympic 2012. What he proposed is the high- rise architecture that resemble cloud shape where digital display is installed so that images can be displayed on the cloud. This is the concept that shifts paradigm from physical to digital conversion to digital to physical one.
His research shows many novel initiatives with potential implication to people and society based on the concept of
digital sensing and responding. Some of the key ideas like digital city visualization was among the very first pioneer project in the field while some like water curtain programming can be considered as a derivative work in term of creativity.
Rather than visualizing data from sensors, I expected some meaningful data analysis result that could produce some valuable information in the aspect that no one has ever think of before. It is no wonder that this TED talk can only get just an average popularity on the Internet. The reason why I decided to summarize this one is due to the title and profile of speaker.
Another ironic experiment is the installation of GPS sensors with communication capability to send data back to server. Since the whole point of doing the project is to create awareness of where trashes travel after we dump it. The sensor equipment itself must also incur a very high budget cost which in the end become waste by its own.
However, this is not to say that their works are little of economic or academic value, but there is still a huge room for improvement. For an example, illuminated helicopter that represents flying pixels has been achieved by Japanese researcher using totally different technique. In Japan, the researcher used high power laser to produce oxidization in the air to create plasma illumination. Though it’s not safe to come into physical contact directly, this technique can be reprogrammed to create a fine-grain holographic in the air compare to coarse-grain helicopter pixel.
Relation to my research
I’m doing research on sensor data analytic in smart city targeting an application of children safety surveillance during school commute. The basic idea of using data from sensor collected from city to gain deeper insight into what happening is a common area where this TED Talk has in common with me.
The similarity ended there. Their research focus are more on the visualization and tangible interaction using physical actuator. My research ultimate goal is to find an efficient method in intelligence situation awareness so to prevent crime or accident those may happen to young children.
Big Data analysis in my research requires not just how to deal with large amount of sensor data from a city but also how to interpret or extract useful information that was not possible before.
One of the crucial thing that I learned from his research is the importance of data visualization planning. Without clear picture of what benefits a graphical model may bring to the table, the research effort may look like a piece of art than a contribution to the academic community.