On place and AI, the conversation has started

Updated: Jun 6, 2021

By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place and Kyle Macaskill | Research Team, Future of Place

On Tuesday 18 May we hosted our second F>P Roundtable - Artificial Intelligence and City Design.

With our guest expert Albert Bifet from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, we confirmed the definitional scope and goals of AI, followed by a dialogue around its application in the built environment. You can watch the recording below.

Throughout the dialogue a series of questions were asked of the Roundtable participants, including:

  • Where are you at with AI?

  • Where might the AI opportunity lie?

  • What could go wrong?

  • What might be the biggest barriers to advancing the use of AI in your city-shaping work?

A second Roundtable on AI and City Design is now in planning, given the interest to continue the discussion and go deeper into the use cases and benefits.

In the meantime, we have identified some potential next steps for city shapers to consider as they advance potential opportunities:

1. Education of Artificial Intelligence and the different types of available technologies. AI implementation requires leaders who are prepared and motivated to make these fundamental shifts within their organisations. This starts with leaders establishing a foundational understanding of AI and its benefits, drawbacks, and applications. Furthermore, organisations must assess the different types of AI technologies to determine which is best to enable data to be activated and embedded into planning and design practices.

2. Organisational shifts to promote an AI-driven business culture. Motivation and resource commitment to AI opportunities in city shaping practices is crucial for successful implementation. While efficient cognitive programs can be used, it is equally important to establish a business culture and framework which supports AI integration. Organisations must share a mindset that AI transformations are long term, requiring iterative testing and improvements continuously. This begins with active discussions of the benefits of AI and its value to enhanced city shaping practices and outcomes for the community.

3. Identifying and assessing opportunities for cognitive applications, develop an AI strategy and launching pilot projects. Organisations should identify areas and opportunities which can benefit from AI in their planning, design and management practices, informed by expert knowledge and data analytics. Furthermore, organisations should assess how difficult it would be to implement this technology and whether the long-term benefits outweigh the costs of implementation and management. It's best if this is done with interdisciplinary collaboration to offer a diverse range of opinions, priorities, and consequences. Organisations should consider opportunities to advance pilot projects to test the capabilities of AI in their work before implementing system-wide approaches. Pilot projects should be developed with an iterative and flexible process above all.

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