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OLD CITIES, NEW BIG DATA

Big datasets have been used by authorities and public bodies for centuries, whether in the form of the national census, maps, surveys or public records. What is new is the sheer volume, speed, diversity, scope and resolution afforded by ‘big data’, a term that describes the wealth of information now available thanks to a combination of ubiquitous computing and sophisticated data analytics. To optimists, this avalanche of information, if harnessed, provides valuable insights for everyone from company executives to consumers and from governments to citizens.

Urban planning and city services have always been a fundamental part of this story, with integrated data systems bringing a ‘second electrification’ to the world’s metropolises. As case studies of big data’s urban applications emerge around the world, what are we learning about the kinds of contexts which are proving most receptive to it? More specifically, how relevant is the age of a city in determining its interest in, and ability to use, big data? This briefing explores how both old and new cities have distinct advantages and disadvantages in their ability to use big data effectively, assessing how they deploy the tools, the lessons they can learn from each other, and their common challenges.

Claudio Silva receives IEEE’s 2014 Visualization Technical Achievement Award

Claudio Silva

On November 11, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) presented its 2014 Visualization and Technical Achievement Award to Claudio T. Silva, Head of Disciplines at CUSP and professor of Computer Science and Engineering at NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering.

The award, one of the highest honors given by the IEEE Computer Science Society’s Technical Committee on Visualization and Graphics (VGTC), recognizes Silva’s seminal advances to geometric computing for visualization and contributions to the development of the VisTrails data exploration system. The committee also cited Silva’s participation in various multidisciplinary projects.

VisTrails systematically maintains provenance for the data exploration process by capturing all the steps researchers follow in the course of an experiment—much like document-tracking applications in Microsoft Word and Google Docs track changes to a document. Tracking provenance is essential because that information allows a researcher to accurately reproduce his or her own results or the results of others, even if they involve hundreds of parameters and complex data sets.

“Consider that when a researcher is engaged in an exploratory process, working with simulations, data analysis, and visualization, for example, very little is repeated during the analysis process; change is the norm, and new workflows are constantly being generated,” Silva explained. “VisTrails manages these rapidly evolving workflows. To make a simple analogy, using it is like having someone in the lab watching over your shoulder and taking concise notes.”

“Clauio Silva has blazed a trail of innovation in visualization that has strongly influenced many researchers, including myself,” said Amitabh Varshney, director of the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee and a professor of computer science and the director of the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Maryland. “One of the reasons his work has had such a significant impact is because it combines elegant foundational research with real-world applications. This award is a well-deserved recognition of Claudio’s illustrious accomplishments and stunning impact.”

2014 AT&T Transit Tech Developer Day at CUSP

November 22, 2014 – November 22, 2014

2 MetroTech Center

View MapMap and Directions | Register

Description:

The 2014 AT&T Transit Tech Developer Day App is an opportunity to launch the development of your 2014 MTA App Quest entry. This day will allow you to:

  1. Hear from MTA experts about this year’s App Quest and the new datasets and API released for 2014.
  2. Work on the early stage of your concept with access to industry and data experts.
  3. Sign up for in-person or virtual mentoring sessions with experts from the MTA and its partners, including AT&T and New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).
  4. Build your team or join a team through a Teammate Match session.

——————————————–
Event Program:

Time Activity Location
8:30 AM Doors Open for Check-In/Registration  
Breakfast Available Pantry
9:00 AM Announcements Lecture Hall
9:05 AM Event Kickoff and Welcome Lecture Hall
9:12 AM About 2014 MTA AT&T App Quest Lecture Hall
9:30 AM Highlight:  New Datasets and GTFS Lecture Hall
9:50 AM Highlight:  Accessibility Track Lecture Hall
10:10 AM Highlight:  Beacon Q&A Lecture Hall
10:20 AM Overview:  Prizes Lecture Hall
10:25 AM Teammate Match (note:  teams may also start work) Lecture Hall
11:00 AM All teams at work Town Hall East
& West
12:00 PM LUNCH & Presentation Schedule Signups Pantry
1:00 PM Office Hours Open

  • MTA Team (Room 820)
  • Prof. Kaan Ozbay, NYU (Room 810)
  • Alex Muro, Lead Developer, AVAIL (Albany Visualization And Informatics Lab, University of Albany, SUNY (Room 818, by Skype)
  • Richard Murby, Developer Evangelist, ChallengePost (Room 827)
Rooms 810, 818, 820, 827
TBA CONCEPT PITCHES Lecture Hall
5:15 PM Winners Announced Lecture Hall

Register

A Secret Urban Observatory Is Snapping 9,000 Images A Day Of New York City

Astronomers have long built observatories to capture the night sky and beyond. Now researchers at NYU are borrowing astronomy’s methods and turning their cameras towards Manhattan’s famous skyline.

NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress has been running what’s likely the world’s first “urban observatory” of its kind for about a year. From atop a tall building in downtown Brooklyn (NYU won’t say its address, due to security concerns), two cameras–one regular one and one that captures infrared wavelengths–take panoramic images of lower and midtown Manhattan. One photo is snapped every 10 seconds. That’s 8,640 images a day, or more than 3 million since the project began (or about 50 terabytes of data).

Taking photos of the skyline is nothing new; hordes of tourists do so everyday. And satellites and drones can already capture aerial vantage points. What’s unique about the observatory is the sheer, steady volume of imagery combined with an unchanging vista that offers a slice of the city, rather than only a bird’s-eye view.

NYU CUSP Unveils First-of-its-Kind ‘Urban Observatory’ in Downtown Brooklyn

New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress (CUSP) today unveiled its Urban Observatory, a project that will persistently observe and analyze New York City in an effort to better understand the “pulse of the city” in various states, such as mobility, energy use, communications and economics. The data gathered from the Urban Observatory will ultimately be used to improve various aspects of urban life, including energy efficiency, detecting releases of hazardous material, tracking pollution plumes, aiding in post-blackout restoration of electrical power, and more.

“This technology comes at an opportune time when about 80% of the U.S. population and 50% of the global population live in cities, said Dr. Steven Koonin, NYU CUSP’s founding director. “We’ll take these large data sets and turn them into solutions for city-wide problems, helping us to better understand our urban environment and improve the quality of life for citizens around the world.”

The CUSP Urban Observatory, which is still in its demonstration phase, uses an 8 megapixel camera situated atop a building in Downtown Brooklyn to quantify the dynamics of New York City by capturing one panoramic, long-distance image of Lower and Midtown Manhattan every 10 seconds. These observations differ from those of a satellite due to the fixed urban vantage point, which offer an unchanging perspective, with easy and low cost operations. Techniques adapted from astronomy are used to analyze the images.

Strict protocols have been observed to protect the privacy of those individuals in the field of view – no more than a few pixels cover the closest sources in the scene and images are significantly blurred to ensure that no personal detail is ever captured. Additionally, all analyses have been performed at the aggregate level and any human inspection has been done without the knowledge of the precise location of the source.

CUSP’s Urban Observatory seeks high impact science and applications to enhance public well-being, city operations, and future urban design and combines correlative data including administrative records, original measurements, and current topography. Although the technology is currently being used to solely observe New York City, CUSP hopes to share this with other major cities, such as London, Chicago, and Hong Kong, for similar use and application.

A team of CUSP scientists have been working on this technology for almost two years. Data will be made available for analysis by CUSP personnel and others by proposal.

The upper panel shows a single snapshot of Midtown and the Lower East Side of Manhattan at roughly 11:00AM.  Although difficult to see with the naked eye, the image contains two exhaust plumes generated by one of the buildings in the scene.  The processed image in the bottom panel removes the objects which are constant (like buildings) and keeps only objects which are moving (like the plumes).  With this technique, the Urban Observatory's data processing algorithms are able to extract the location of the faint emission plumes.
The upper panel shows a single snapshot of Midtown and the Lower East Side of Manhattan at roughly 11:00AM. Although difficult to see with the naked eye, the image contains two exhaust plumes generated by one of the buildings in the scene. The processed image in the bottom panel removes the objects which are constant (like buildings) and keeps only objects which are moving (like the plumes). With this technique, the Urban Observatory’s data processing algorithms are able to extract the location of the faint emission plumes.

 

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress

CUSP is an applied science research institute created by New York University with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international technology companies to address the needs of cities. At the heart of its academic program, CUSP will investigate and develop solutions to the challenges that face cities around the world.  This research will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “urban informatics”.  For more news and information on CUSP, please visit http://cusp.nyu.edu/.

 

Contact
Kim Alfred, CUSP
917.392.0859
kim.alfred@nyu.edu

Megan Romano, The Marino Organization
212.889.0808
megan@themarino.org

 

Quantifying the Livable City

By the time Constantine Kontokosta got involved with New York City’s Hudson Yards development, it was already on track to be historically big and ambitious.

Over the course of the next decade, developers from New York’s Related Companies and Canada-based Oxford Properties Group are building the largest real-estate development in United States history: a 28-acre neighborhood on Manhattan’s far West Side over a Long Island Rail Road yard, with some 17 million square feet of new commercial, residential, and retail space.

Hudson Yards is also being planned as an innovative model of efficiency. Its waste management systems, for example, will utilize a vast vacuum-tube system to collect garbage from each building into a central terminal, meaning no loud garbage trucks traversing the streets by night. Onsite power generation will prevent blackouts like those during Hurricane Sandy, and buildings will be connected through a micro-grid that allows them to share power with each other.

They’re Tracking When You Turn Off the Lights

Four percent of Manhattanites go to bed before 7:30 p.m. on weeknights. Only 6% turn off the lights after midnight.

For more fine-grained data on what makes New York City tick, ask researcher Steven Koonin. Hidden on a Brooklyn rooftop, his wide-angle infrared camera peers at windows of thousands of buildings across the East River. The camera detects 800 gradations of light, a sensitivity that lets his software determine what time households turn in, what kind of light bulbs they use, and even what pollutants their buildings emit.

He has also mounted sound sensors in Brooklyn on streetlight poles and building facades to gauge the volume of house parties and car horns.

Mr. Koonin, a former undersecretary of science in the Obama administration who directs New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, is at the forefront of an academic movement to quantify urban life.

Tech companies have used the technologies and techniques collectively known as big data to make business decisions and shape their customers’ experience. Now researchers are bringing big data into the public sphere, aiming to improve quality of life, save money, and understand cities in ways that weren’t possible only a few years ago.

Meet the Man Who Turned NYC Into His Own Lab

In the mornings, Steven Koonin often dons a light blue shirt and khaki suit jacket, walks out of his apartment above Manhattan’s chic Washington Square park and heads for the subway. As he beelines down the sidewalk, the West Village buildings burp up black clouds of smoke as their boilers are fired on. At Sixth Avenue, an express bus screeches to the curb and blocks the pedestrian crosswalk. And as Koonin sits in the subway, he notices some of the signs are badly placed. “Can we fix this?” he wonders. He gets off at Brooklyn’s Jay Street-Metrotech station and rides an elevator to the 19th floor of a commanding building perched high above his native city. Then he gets to work.

Koonin is the director of New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), which is to say, he is the big data guru of New York City. He’s been given a lot of cash, millions of data points and a broad mandate by the city of New York: make it better. No big data project of this scale has been attempted before, and that’s because the tools never existed, until now. “There’s an enormous amount of data out there,” Koonin says with the vestiges of a Brooklyn accent. “If we can use the data to understand what’s going on in cities, we can improve them in a rational way.”

What NYU CUSP is like, according to recent grad Aliya Merali

Aliya Merali had been working in a plasma physics lab at Princeton, but she told us, “I wanted to work on problems where I felt like I would immediately be able to impact the quality of life of people around me.”

That’s why she decided to join the first class at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, the still new program that’s projected to take over much of Downtown Brooklyn’s old MTA building over the next few years.

Merali spoke to us last week, not long after graduation. CUSP emphasizes a practical orientation to student work, so students finish the program in internships with city agencies. Merali and two other students opted to take internships with the NYPD, where they worked primarily on data that came from 911 call centers.

NYU’S CENTER FOR URBAN SCIENCE & PROGRESS GRADUATES INAUGURAL CLASS

NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Kyle Kimball today celebrated the graduation of CUSP’s inaugural class of students during a ceremony held at NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts.

The CUSP program, created as part of the City of New York’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative, is graduating a class of 23 students who have successfully completed a Master of Science program in Applied Urban Science and Informatics. These graduates will now transition into various careers where they will use their education to analyze large-scale data, from a variety of sources, in an effort to understand and address real-world challenges in the urban context, while critically transforming the City’s capacity for applied sciences and engineering and increasing its global competitiveness.

“We are very proud to celebrate the graduation of our first class of students,” said CUSP Director Steve Koonin. “These graduates will move on to work for private technology firms, public sector agencies, and in entrepreneurship and new venture creation. We truly believe that the education they have received at CUSP, combined with their desire to have an impact on the cities in which they live, will enable them to thrive as urban scientists who will help cities around the world become more productive, livable, equitable, and resilient.”

“On behalf of Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York, I commend the graduates of the inaugural CUSP class and the many academic and private sector technology partners who have built this extraordinary program,” said Kyle Kimball, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “This commencement follows through on the promise of the City’s Applied Sciences initiative to create a new cohort of homegrown talent dedicated to tackling the prominent urban challenges of our time, while powering and diversifying the City’s economy. Today’s graduates have already helped cement New York City as a global center of commerce and culture by using our streets as a living laboratory and, as they create new companies and hire New Yorkers to staff them, the great work being done here will create meaningful, lasting economic opportunity across the City.”

CUSP’s inaugural class entered the program with degrees from 24 universities around the world and came with training in more than 20 different academic disciplines – some from the core disciplines like Mathematics, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering and Physics; others with strong preparation in the social sciences such as Sociology, Political Science, and Urban Studies & Planning.

During CUSP’s intensive, one-year, three-semester M.S. program, students study courses in the science of cities, urban informatics, and information and communication technology in cities. They selected from multiple policy domains to gain breadth and depth in the application of big data analytics to urban problems.  The program also contains a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation leadership, and students are given the option to study technology entrepreneurship or “change leadership” in an existing organization.  The core of the one-year curriculum is a two-semester project – the Urban Science Intensive – during which students, working closely with mentors from CUSP’s Industrial and National Laboratory partners, apply the principles of informatics to address an actual urban problem with a New York City agency to have a direct and meaningful impact on the quality of life in cities.

CUSP was designated in 2012 as part of the City’s groundbreaking Applied Sciences NYC initiative, which was created by NYCEDC to expand the City’s top-tier applied sciences and engineering campuses to help spur economic growth and increase the city’s global competitiveness. The initiative offered to provide City-owned land and seed investments of City capital to universities interested in establishing or expanding applied sciences and engineering programs in New York City. CUSP is currently operating at 1 Metrotech Center in Downtown Brooklyn while its permanent home at 370 Jay Street, formerly occupied by the MTA and NYPD, is developed. CUSP’s presence in Downtown Brooklyn was critical to establishing the area as one of the City’s foremost tech hubs.

Collectively, CUSP, along with the Cornell-Tech, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon Applied Sciences projects, are expected to generate more than $33.2 billion in nominal economic activity, over 48,000 permanent and construction jobs, and approximately 1,000 spin-off companies by 2046, fulfilling the initiative’s goal of dramatically transforming the City’s economy for the 21st century.

When all four Applied Sciences NYC projects are fully underway, the number of full-time, graduate engineering students enrolled in New York City Master’s and Ph.D. programs will more than double, ensuring the strength of New York City’s position in a global economy driven by technological fluency and innovation. Using New York City as its laboratory and classroom, CUSP has set out to respond to the City’s challenge by setting the research agenda for “the science of cities,” and educating the next generation of engineers in how to apply this research, bring innovative ideas to a world market, and create a new, fast-growing and indispensable industry.

In its first academic year, CUSP has continued to set the standard for Big Data institutions across the globe. Thus far, the Center has experienced tremendous success, including:

  • Partnering with Related Companies to lay the groundwork for and launch the first “Quantified Community” in New York City’s Hudson Yards;
  • Sponsoring, and contributing to, the most definitive book to date on the intersection of big data, privacy, and the public: “Big Data, Privacy, and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement”;
  • Partnering with King’s College London and the University of Warwick to create CUSP London, an important step in the realization of CUSP’s objective of leading and nurturing a global entrepreneurial innovative ecosystem;
  • And securing top-notch companies, government agencies, educational institutions, and organizations as partners.

Looking to the future, CUSP has nearly completed its selection of graduate students for the Class of 2015, a class that is anticipated to be nearly triple the size of the Class of 2014. NYU also has unveiled its plans to turn the long-dormant 370 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn into a modern, sustainable academic center that will serve as the future home of CUSP.

For more information on CUSP, its programs and initiatives, please visit the Center’s website, www.cusp.nyu.edu.

 

About New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress

CUSP is an applied science research institute created by New York University with a consortium of world-class universities and the foremost international technology companies to address the needs of cities. At the heart of its academic program, CUSP will investigate and develop solutions to the challenges that face cities around the world.  This research will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “urban informatics”.  For more news and information on CUSP, please visit http://cusp.nyu.edu/.

About NYCEDC

New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC’s mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City’s competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City’s many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.