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UNSW Sydney launches City Analytics Lab and a Master program for city planning

UNSW Sydney launches City Analytics Lab and a Master program for city planning

UNSW Sydney recently
launched
a pioneering lab space and introduced a new postgraduate
degree dedicated to improving collaboration in city planning and design. It has
been established to support the envisioning of sustainable, productive,
liveable and resilient cities and provides a unique opportunity to study the
decision-making processes associated with city planning and design.

At
the official launch of the City Analytics Lab, Minister for Infrastructure and
Cities Mr Paul Fletcher said the lab responded to several trends affecting
Australian cities related to population growth and the explosion of data
available through everyday items such as smart phones, sensing devices and
magnetic strips.  

“There
is so much data. Turning the data into useful tools that can usefully assist
decision-makers to make our cities better in the future – that is not an easy
thing. And that is where (this lab) comes in,” Minister Fletcher said.

Housed
within the Faculty of Built Environment at UNSW, the City Analytics Lab
will help government and industry understand technologies and new approaches in
the planning of more liveable, productive, sustainable and resilient cities.

The
City Analytics Lab is a dedicated space designed to support collaborative city
planning and user centred design. It supports both research in city analytics
and teaching of the Master
of City Analytics
programme.

UNSW
Vice-President of External Relations Ms Fiona Docherty said urban planners and
city designers at federal and local levels around Australia could play a role
in contributing to cutting-edge research in city planning.

“Their
work and their decision making will be studied by the academic community of
UNSW and will be adding to the global repository of knowledge around best
practices and lessons learned by implementing policy into practice,” she said.

The Lab
compromises a large decision support theatre, and three dedicated virtual
reality (VR)/ augmented reality (AR) Reality rooms, along with a Tangible
Table sandbox and observation rooms for undertaking experiments.

The
interactive collaboration space with VR and AR technology gives users realistic
and dynamic insights into the relationship between planning and factors such as
transportation, education, health and justice.

Credit: UNSW Sydney

In
addition to launching the lab, Professor Chris Pettit, UNSW Chair of Urban
Sciences, introduced a new Master of City Analytics program to augment the
capabilities of the lab for future city designers and urban planners. The
program is the first of its kind in Australia.

“It’s
all good to do this research and we can play with our technology and sandboxes
here in the basement, but we actually need people to use these tools,” Professor
Pettit said.

“The
Master program will help our students understand what dashboards are, what are
big data, what is open data and how do we actually use it in the real world,”
he added.

The new lab aligns with Fletcher’s announcement
of the second round of funding for the Government’s Smart Cities
and Suburbs program
. An additional A$22 million in grant funding will
support projects that apply innovative technology-based solutions to urban
challenges.

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