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Up in the air: On urban form and growth in Miami

Solution for: Smart City Air Challenge
About the Solution

This partnership aims to form a synergy between a variety of research interests, with the community at the heart of intentions. We aim to better understand the spatial distribution of key pollutant concentrations in a relatively clean but heavily populated urban environment. By placing large numbers of sensors at private residential locations, local businesses and at popular community facilities and public spaces, we can explore citizens’ personal exposure from a variety of scientific and urban design angles, while simultaneously having the citizens engaged in the research at different stages. One key angle is from ownership, with sensor units being open to sponsorship by individual and business entities. Sponsorship comes with different degrees of recognition, such as names (either real or an alias, as the sponsor prefers) for individuals or corporate logos for businesses, associated with sensor data or visuals. Another key angle of ownership (and sponsorship) comes from the sensor unit housing being 3D-modelled by design students, with each ‘piece’ on display in the streets and available from auction to the highest bidder/sponsor.

Realizing the constraint of deploying 250+ low-cost sensors into the community, we propose gradual deployment with a rotating (and thus reserve) stock of hardware: (1) end-to-end prototype with co-location exercises, installing (~60) sensor unit pairs at a limited number of places (to trial installation and ICT infrastructure for a few months before continuing to a larger installation; (2) full-scale deployment with additional sensor units to sites of sponsorships or those highlighted by community liaisons as deserving contributions. We aim to get the absolute best measurements possible from a sensor so that the data can be confidently applied in a variety of uses, including (but not limited to) urban design, transport planning, environmental justice assessment, land use zoning, exposure and health analyses, remote sensing validation, and so on. To achieve these objectives, we will to start with calibrated sensors and apply rigorous analytical algorithms to allow the data from individual nodes to be trustworthy. Ultimately, it is the urban form and growth of our cities which we are trying to influence, asking “how can we strategically design and develop our built environment by better understanding our ambient environment?” Spatially understanding pollutant concentrations between transportation infrastructure, public space and residential, commercial or industrial zones helps to answer this central hypothesis.

It will be communicated to the public that concentrations and trends of pollutants vary substantially depending on land-use, microenvironment type, urban background levels and immediate local sources such as traffic and other citizen-generated emissions. The engagement of local community through the strong connections established by the staff and students at the School of Architecture will generate an increased community interest in exposure and health, healthy urban design and the use of sustainable, emissions-free transportation choices. The wealth of data will be made freely available and disseminated online via a dashboard-type interface that includes the ability to download quality-assured datasets, but also (depending on stakeholder feedback at early stages in the project) may include widgets and even augmented reality or interactive street-art installations. These data will be of significant interest not only to the project partners, but also to the local county, community action groups, transport authorities and other groups interested in collecting and analyzing large environmental datasets and managing concerns with their community. For example, working with the Urban Impact Lab and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the project has the potential to make a business case between developers and city officials on increasing urban density as opposed to promoting urban sprawl through new proposed highways from Miami’s urban core to the west and south. A description of key project partners like these is provided as an Appendix (A). Synergies with other local initiatives such as the PRECISE project will be explored where possible. Beyond sensor housing being auctioned/bought/sponsored, potential future partners (sponsors; e.g. Verizon for comms) will be approached to help sustain the legacy of this proposed project alongside community stakeholders.

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