Tag Archives: mobility

Senseable lab: from the Copenhagen wheel to PURBA

Most of you should remember of the Green Wheel, by MIT Mobile Experience Lab and Smart Cities Group, a smart mobility system in a wheel, that collects energy while riding the bicycle and releases it when needed.  Additionally it provides remote monitoring. The Copenhagen wheel (presented at COP15 Copenhagen) is a further evolution, developed by the peer MIT SENSEable Lab in cooperation with Ducati. It transforms ordinary bicycles into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. In fact it can map pollution levels (carbon monoxide, NOx), noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity, traffic congestion, and document road conditions in real-time. Controlled through a smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel it allows to lock the bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you, capture your effort level and those of your surroundings if you agree to share those information with your friend community, or city administration, that will get granular data in real life traffic condition.

New applications keep on being developed by the Senseable Lab, directed by Carlo Ratti, in order to build a real-time city: “ The increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years is allowing a new approach to the study of the built  environment. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed – alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure.” The lab has produced: 200+ scientific papers, 35+ real-world projects, 25+ exhibitions, 100+ conference keynote addresses, numerous awards and representation in the global media.

The Senseable Lab is defined by the anthropologist Luca Simone as a “transdisciplinary” research group that “studies the interface between cities, people and technologies and investigates how the ubiquity of digital devices and the telecommunications networks that augment our cities are impacting urban living”.

Recently the MIT Senseable Lab organized  the First Workshop on Pervasive Urban Applications (PURBA) that took  place in conjunction with the 9th International Conference on Pervasive Computing in San Francisco, CA, USA on June 12-15, 2011, bringing  together researchers and practitioners to discuss and explore the research challenges and opportunities in applying the pervasive computing paradigm to urban spaces. It promoted “multi-disciplinary contributions that reveal interesting aspects about urban life and exploit the digital traces to create novel urban applications that benefit citizens, urban planners, and policy makers”. In my understanding the proposed scenario was the following:

  • Digital networks and operations has produced an unprecedented wealth of information about URBAN LIFE.
  • Handheld electronics, location devices, telecommunications networks, and a wide assortment of tags and sensors are constantly producing a rich stream of data reflecting various aspects of urban life.
  • For urban planners and designers, these accumulations of digital traces are valuable sources of data in capturing the pulse of the city in an astonishing degree of temporal and spatial detail.
  • We move toward achieving an augmented, fine-grained understanding of how the city functions – socially, economically and yes, even psychologically (“the city as a social archipelago”).

Many Papers were submitted to the PURBA best student paper award, the following ones were elected for final selection:


Smarter Moves: How Information Communications Technology can promote Sustainable Mobility

I’ve read in the Jeremy Green blog (how ICT can help to make personal transport more sustainable) about the Sustainable Development Commission report Smarter Moves: How Information Communications Technology can promote Sustainable Mobility. Jeremy chaired the event related to the document, contributed to it and further discusses the topic in his blog.

The report looks at how ICT could transform the way we choose to travel, and so make both our travel and our lifestyles more sustainable. It concludes that a concerted Government and business focus on ICT solutions could help provide answers to some of our most pressing transport problems.

The study is related to UK where transport currently accounts for 29% of total GHG emissions. It is also the only major sector where there is still an upward trend in CO2 emissions. Almost 70% of UK transport emissions come from road transport, with more than half of this from cars. Neverless it explanation of how more effective use of ICT could reduce emissions, as well as curb congestion, accidents and noise levels, is surely applicable in most countries. ICT can also  improve health and air quality by reducing the need to travel; making public transport easier and more pleasant to use, and helping people to drive more efficiently. Ensuring adherence to speed limits – particularly through the use of intelligent speed adaptation – would have significant safety benefits, and better use of parking controls, tolls and road pricing could improve transport network efficiency. Eco-driving technology can help motorists spend less at the pumps and reduce their emissions; better information can make using public transport easier, and videoconferencing technology can help business travellers avoid some journeys altogether. It can help provide a better work-life balance, ensure that we have more time with our families and as well as more productive working time.

I think that it’s a valuable reading and as a sample I’m copying here this great figure from the SDC report and the final recommendations.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Government to form a cross-departmental team to engage with business on developing opportunities for ICT-enabled mobility, including creating a UK network of high quality video conference facilities
  • Department for Transport to work with UK businesses and the National Business Travel Network to increase the number of organisations allowing and promoting home working
  • Further investment in public transport to ensure that improvements in sustainability keep pace with or exceed those of private vehicles
  • Public transport providers to make all service information freely available to third parties to create travel tools helping people make joined-up door-to-door journeys
  • Government to revise transport funding arrangements to allow local authorities increased flexibility between revenue and capital funding to cover ongoing ICT support and maintenance costs
  • All public sector employees who drive a vehicle as part of their job to be given eco-driver training to help drive safely and fuel efficiently.

note: The Sustainable Development Commission is the Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development, reporting to the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Through advocacy, advice and appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy.