Smart city AI lab to tackle urban climate change and digitisation

The Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is setting a new milestone in its research infrastructure, by opening its City Intelligence Lab (CIL).

The laboratory is an interactive platform designed to allow urban planning professionals to investigate new methodologies and technologies and take a co-creative development approach to the creation of new knowledge.

“In establishing this laboratory we have produced a platform and a space for experimentation, what you could call a sort of medical laboratory for digital technologies,” says Nikolas Neubert, head of the competence unit for digital resilient cities at the Center for Energy.

The laboratory applies key technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence in order to develop complex simulations and parametric designs. Furthermore, the laboratory is equipped with interactive projection screens and models which together provide an improved collaborative planning environment, as well as an AI-based urban planning model which combines real-time simulation prediction and generative design, enabling the experts to explore unprecedented situations.

“The innovative achievement of tomorrow’s urban planning will be to apply digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios, which offer a broad portfolio of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. We have created the infrastructure necessary to do this,” Nikolas Neubert goes on to explain.

By working closely with other research institutions such as the Future Cities Lab at the ETH Zurich, and through close links with the private sector, the CIL is designed to become an international hub which facilitates the development of new research approaches.

“The City Intelligence Lab at the Center for Energy is bringing about a paradigm shift by using digital technologies to include user perspectives, making the lab an international model when it comes to urban planning processes of the future,” says Wolfgang Hribernik, head of the Center for Energy.

Functioning as an interactive platform, the City Intelligence Lab combines innovative processes with the latest digital planning tools to realistically simulate and run through scenarios such as the climate situation in different parts of the city.

Climate change and digitalisation in cities demand new ideas for planning and implementation. The innovative achievement of urban planning will be to use digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios, which offer a broad spectrum of solutions for cities and their inhabitants.

“Again, this year, we experienced an extreme heatwave. The growth and increased densification of cities only enhances the problem of overheating during the summer months,” explains Nikolas Neubert.

“In order to make cities more resilient to this situation, we can use machine learning in the City Intelligence Lab to simulate microclimates for summer days and heatwaves, both with and without adaptation measures, to run through different climate models, and to present the results in visual form. This allows us to immediately identify the measures which would be effective in helping to cool particular areas of the city,” says Neubert.

In the LiLa4Green project, for example, a research team led by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is working together with city residents in two districts of Vienna to develop ideas and solutions to counteract urban overheating in parts of the city. The Living Lab approach combines innovative social science methodology with cutting-edge digital technologies taking citizens into account in the planning process as possible.

 

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