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Arup & Alibaba combine efforts to plan future cities with dynamic data

Jerman Cheung Jerman Cheung East Asia Press Office,Hong Kong
17 September 2020

Arup and Alibaba Cloud Research Centre jointly launched a whitepaper today at the Apsara Conference, revealing a new vison for planning future cities in the digital age.

The whitepaper, titled Empowering Future Urban Planning & Design with Dynamic Data, explores how the urban planning and design industry can make the best use of data and digital technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and turn people-oriented development into a reality.

Urban planning and design schemes affect millions of people and billion dollars of construction investments. However, often the data sets available to urban planners and designers are only hour traffic records, decennial census data and survey responses from a thousandth of the population. Educated estimates and creative imagination often fill the vacuum in planning techniques.

When we plan cities, we are always hungry for data on how people actually use them. Now for the first time, we can really understand individuals’ choices and collective behaviours to make better decisions in our city planning. ” Will Cavendish, Arup Will Cavendish Director

The whitepaper envisions that physical and digital infrastructures will be deeply integrated in future cities, which will grow and fulfil people’s needs by better allocation of resources. Dynamic data becomes a new resource for urban development, driving the change of planning techniques and processes. To realise the vision, Arup and Alibaba Cloud jointly put forth four propositions to guide the transformation of the planning practice:

  • Planning-operation alignment: Through Activity Information Modelling (AIM), the actual operation data of the city is integrated; appropriate planning mechanisms and performance indicators are also derived.
  • Agile planning: This allows the planning process to be much more flexible and responsive to what dynamic data tell us about the real needs of the population, and to how these change over time.
  • Crowd-sourced planning: Urban data generated from multiple sources are collected to inform better planning decisions, and protect data security and privacy with the ‘urban data trust’.
  • Digital master planning: It provides a framework to realise management, integration and application of massive urban data, and serves as a blueprint for digital infrastructure development.

Based on these four propositions, the report further explores the use of dynamic data in three planning endeavours that are of high demand in recent years. They are campus planning, urban regeneration and the new form of statutory plan in China called the territory spatial planning.

Collaboration is the key. With Alibaba’s digital know-how and Arup’s expertise in city making, a jointly developed digital master plan is essential so that we can align better with the needs of people. ” Song Liu Vice President of Alibaba Group