For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In just a few more decades, 70 percent of the world will live in cities. Enabling those cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and sustainably—while keeping their citizens safe, healthy, prosperous, and well–informed—will be among the most important undertakings of this century. In parallel to this growth, the volume, variety, and production rate of data—much of which is being collected by a variety of sensors—are unprecedented. If properly acquired, integrated, and analyzed, “big data” can take us beyond today’s imperfect and often anecdotal understanding of cities to enable better operations, better planning, and better policy.

Most data currently generated by sensors are used only for the purpose for which they were collected—for example to detect and control anomalies. However, given the breadth of data generated by sensors, there is considerable value in exploring best practices in creating and exploiting sensor network data for future re-use and immediate integration with other data. With the support of The Kavli Foundation and industry sponsors, NYU’s Center for Urban Science + Progress is proud to host focused and engaged discussions on emerging sensing topics with leading voices from across the US.

Sensing the City engaged the local community in exploring overarching challenges and opportunities as urban sensing capabilities and ambitions continue to expand, inviting participants across New York to join sensing luminaries from across the USA for a blend of talks and panel discussions on three core themes.

Large Sensor Networks: The instrumentation of our world is growing at a rapid rate and much of this equipment is linked across large networks creating both new opportunities and new challenges. Topics discussed included challenges in deploying, calibrating, and maintaining sensors across these large stationary networks, cybersecurity of sensor networks, and privacy concerns, as well as the many opportunities that these large networks present.


Novel Sensing Modalities: The diversity of urban sensors is increasing dramatically from wearables to the aerial and everything in between. This theme explored new sensing modalities and their potential applications across health, threat detection, urban physiology, and magnetometry. 

Smart Cities and Citizen Science: Smart cities are fast growing area both in industry and research with the potential to radically change the lives of urban dwellers the world over. The ways that cities are instrumented and citizens are empowered will be critical in determining how and to what degree smart cities change their citizens lives. Citizen science initiatives, sensor deployments, social implications, transportation, and disaster management were discussed through the lens of this theme.

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