The 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission fosters ICT enabled governance transformation in Europe, funding projects contributing to this objective. urbanAPI - Interactive Analysis, Simulation and Visualisation Tools for Urban Agile Policy Implementation – is one of these projects. Led by Fraunhofer IGD (Germany) and supported by development partners UWE, Bristol (UK), AIT (Austria), GeoVille (Austria) and city partners Vienna (Austria), Bologna (Italy), Ruse (Bulgaria), and Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain), it is investing €3 million in the development of ICT applications supporting the management of European cities.
urbanAPI provides ICT enabled solutions adapting governance models to deliver more effective decision making, supporting stakeholder engagement and citizen participation, in order to enhance sustainable urban policy development and delivery. The urbanAPI applications can be used for decision support, conflict management, analysis and visualisation and rely on innovative interaction platforms. They support policy makers, planners and stakeholders at different governance and spatial levels – urban quarter level, municipal level, and urban region level. urbanAPI web applications make use of state-of-the-art web technologies such as X3DOM to display 3D contents over the WebGL API.
urbanAPI adopts an agile development methodology with cyclic and multiple tasks running in parallel, developing a toolset that creates advanced ICT-based intelligence in three urban planning contexts:
- The 3D Scenario Creator application directly addresses the issue of stakeholder engagement in the planning process through the development and provision of enhanced 3D virtual reality visualisations of neighbourhood development proposals.
- The Mobility Explorer provides mobile phone based ICT solutions that permit the analysis and visual representation of socio-economic activity across cities and in relation to the various land-use elements of the city.
- The Urban Development Simulator prototype provides ICT simulation tools for interactive city region development simulation addressing urban growth and densification as a result of planning interventions.
A major added value of the urbanAPI toolset is the ability for these smart applications to support transformational governance, facilitating the shift from a purely top-down planning approach, to one which is fully engaged with bottom-up initiatives supported by public intervention and stakeholder involvement.
For more information on how to participate, acquire and apply the urbanAPI tools please follow the links of its website.
The objective of the urbanAPI project is the full exploitation of smart tools and methodologies supporting decision-making for sustainable urban development. Achieving this exploitation potential requires full understanding of the wider urban governance context in which urbanAPI tools and applications connect with urban governance processes and contribute to the flow of intelligence necessary to support plan making and decision taking (see diagram depicting Urban Governance Policy Cycle). This understanding permits the further development of these tools and the identification of application commonalities in the urbanAPI partner cities. Specifications of commonalities will then be translated into generic tools and methodologies applicable to a wide range of cities throughout Europe, and indeed globally. The ultimate aim is the commercial exploitation of the urbanAPI toolset, and the elaboration of future strategies for tool development via further RTD engagement.
In respect of the above UWE and AEW supported by AIT and IDG are working with partner cities Vienna, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Bologna and Ruse to map out the procedures of plan making and decision making in respect of the various city agencies and actors involved. From this it is possible to discover what information is used and required, by which organisations/actors, for what purpose, at what time, and thereby identify the information and intelligence management relationships between these organisations/actors. In this way the project will elaborate the potentials for the development of common tools that can be usefully applied in a wide variety of city contexts throughout Europe.
Description of target users and groups
The fundamental objective of urbanAPI is to develop practical ICT enabled tools and methodologies which directly enhance and contribute to the urban planning decision-making process. The conceptual and methodological basis of the project, defined in terms of requirements gathering, product development and user evaluation, is conceived to ensure that project outputs meet user requirements. As a consequence the urbanAPI tools not only address the needs of urban planners in developing urban planning solutions, but also the wider needs of civil society and business interests in securing vibrant and viable cities.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
The urbanAPI ICT approach and tools are developed and tested through specific real-world application scenarios in collaboration with the cities of Bologna, Ruse, Vienna and Vitoria-Gasteiz.
These cities have a wide range of different socio-economic, environmental and territorial characteristics, governance structures and practices. Nonetheless distinct commonalities can also be observed in the challenges facing the majority of cities in Europe today. These common challenges are best served by common solutions. urbanAPI accordingly deploys a generic framework and methodology for the development of ICT enabled tools for urban governance that not only serves the needs of the project partner cities, but also offers decision-making solutions for all European cities.
The case study – Bologna
Bologna is pursuing urbanAPI solutions for both urban planning as well as environmental objectives. The aim is to communicate more effectively with citizens by visualising future development and potential impacts and to enhance public engagement for effective feedback on planning initiatives. In Bologna both 3D Scenario Creator and Mobility Explorer applications have been developed. The San Vitale District provides the context for the development of the 3D Scenario Creator application, where proposals are seeking to create new public spaces. Bologna possesses one of the largest historic town centres in Europe. The city envisages that the Mobility Explorer application can provide an effective way of testing alternative mobility proposals for the city centre including the pedestrianisation of certain localities.
The case study – Ruse
Ruse is the fifth largest city of Bulgaria. The growing socio-economic and industrial activities in Ruse create the need to manage the urban development in a better way. The urbanAPI Urban Development Simulator is considered as a suitable instrument to model future urban development of the city and visualise its effects to achieve better urban planning guidelines.
The case study – Vienna
Vienna has long recognised the critical importance of effective communication with citizens in respect of urban planning issues. Vienna has been actively using 3D Scenario Creator to support this communication by planners, and is now seeking to extend this application so that all citizens can benefit as well. The 3D Scenario Creator can also be useful for assisting in the integration of new development proposals in the urban environment and the visualisation of alternative design and architectural possibilities. The Mobility Explorer application provides entirely new sources of information concerning population distribution and movement in the city based on aggregated mobile phone data. Specific information offered includes mapping of diurnal travel patterns by exploration of day-time mobile device distribution and movement,.
The case study – Vitoria-Gasteiz
For a number of years Vitoria-Gasteiz, European Green Capital 2012, has promoted a sustainable mobility and public space plan in order to reverse the trends of increasing car use, reductions in walking and cycling in the city, and to increase the quality of public space. Vitoria-Gasteiz recognises the opportunities created by both 3D Scenario Creator and Mobility Explorer applications to support more effective engagement with the public and other urban stakeholders in the appropriate implementation of these policies.
UrbanAPI is a three year project that employs a simple work plan pattern. In an initial set-up phase from project month 0 to 6, project infrastructure required for communication and development was set up, and methodological aspects were clarified. Following the set-up phase, the main research and development work was conducted in project months 6 to 24. A final evolution, evaluation and exploitation phase will conclude the project.
To ensure good project progress the work on the three applications was done sequentially. It was a basic requirement for all work packages that results were delivered to the users early and often, where applicable. This process ensured an even workload distribution across application and research and development partners. Local initiatives in the four urban regions working in this project were encouraged to participate within the planning process, to contribute to the final solutions and understand and finally accept the expected impacts on environment and inhabitants. Adapted urban planning applications were created, deployed, evaluated and used to support policy makers, planners and stakeholders at different governance and spatial levels (urban quarter level, municipal level, urban region level).
The urbanAPI tools developed cover three urban planning contexts:
1. 3D Scenario Creator
Using 3D virtual and augmented reality visualisations the general effects and the visual impact of urban development plans can be shown as realistically as possible. These 3D scenarios support the negotiation process for urban development projects. Interactive control of planning interventions and presentation of the new visual effects released through changes in zoning and finally building help the citizens to experience these impressions.
Virtual representations of planning decisions are the most convenient and understandable solution for presenting spatial planning alternatives to the public. Allowing interactive modifications of alternatives helps stakeholders to understand the proposed actions and to endorse the anticipated impacts.
2. Mobility Explorer
In today’s world, wireless mobile communication devices establish and support permanent interconnectedness between people, places and urban infrastructure.
Urban planning urgently requires information regarding the population distribution and mobility patterns: For example, the diurnal population movement to observe traffic infrastructure usage during the day, or population access to certain areas like parks, pedestrian zones, nature areas to identify population sojourn preferences or lack of accessibility.
Mobile communication services allow the exploration of communication traces, describing human distribution, movement and thus activity patterns.
3. Urban Development Simulator
The Urban Development Simulator helps to understand large scale consequences of spatial planning decisions in a complex urban system (e.g. urban growth and densification as effect of zoning, tax regulations or traffic infrastructure development). Interactive control of proposed planning interventions and associated impacts generated by these interventions assist the public interactively engaging in planning processes and contributing to planning decisions.
Detailed and easy understandable information about planning decisions and full transparency about the expected impacts support the negotiations with citizens during a planning process and finally increase public commitment to these decisions.
The example given above shows the Ruse simulation environment with some intra-city land use details.
The interactive Urban Development Simulation has been developed for the city of Ruse.Technology choice: Proprietary technology, Mainly (or only) open standards
Main results, benefits and impacts
The urbanAPI - Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project provides urban planners with the tools needed to actively plan and manage the urban environment. The following tools have been developed within three urban planning contexts:
- Support negotiation processes for urban development projects: 3D Scenario Creator
- Assess public motion patterns as response to urban infrastructure: Mobility Explorer
- Understand large scale consequences of spatial planning decisions: Urban Development Simulator
Such developments collectively provide vital decision-making aids for urban planners in the management of the territory, as well as for the associated authorities in political negotiation, and wider stakeholder engagement regarding the future development of the territory.
The particular aims are to:
- support activities such as issue identification, policy analysis, consultation, decision and evaluation in urban planning and land management policy
- develop a policy metamodel, a formalised vocabulary, a set of rule languages to define data integration and abstract simulation models
- transpose elements of agile ICT development to the urban policy making process
In the context of European initiatives to improve policy as a more transparent and understandable process, the urbanAPI project aims to support activities such as issue identification, policy analysis, consultation, decision and evaluation in urban planning and land management policy. For this purpose, a policy metamodel, a formalised vocabulary, a set of rule languages to define data integration and abstract simulation models are introduced. Furthermore, the urbanAPI approach will transpose elements of agile ICT development to the urban policy making process: Multiple activities can run in parallel, and all activities are kept synchronized. In such a process, risks are identified earlier, conflicts are understood better, and that knowledge gained in one activity can directly be used in all other activities.
On this formal basis, a novel ICT toolset is developed. The urbanAPI toolset allows the fast development and deployment of participative policy support applications. These applications can be used for decision support, conflict management, analysis and visualisation and rely on innovative interaction platforms. Concepts known from web 2.0 and semantic web technologies, such as linking, tagging, rating and adding of semantic annotations, are supported directly. Applications created with the urbanAPI toolset also make use of a comprehensive data integration system to make use of the vast data resources geospatial and statistical datasets related to planning.
Local initiatives in the four urban regions working in this project will be encouraged to participate within the planning process, to contribute to the final solutions and understand and finally accept the expected impacts on environment and habitants. Based on the toolset, adapted urban planning applications will be created, deployed, evaluated and used to support policy makers, planners and stakeholders at different governance and spatial levels (urban quarter level, municipal level, urban region level).
Return on investmentReturn on investment: Not applicable / Not available
Track record of sharing
Projects with active cooperation with Urban API:
- Urban-Nexus (FP7)
- FUPOL (FP7)
- eGovPoliNet Project (FP7)
- IUME (FP7)
- PLUREL (FP6)
- Common Strategy for Sustainable Territorial Development of the cross-border area Romania-Bulgaria (CBC Program Romania-Bulgaria)
- Integrated city rehabilitation and management plan for the city of Ruse (Structural funds-OP Regional development)
- Red Española de Ciudades Inteligentes (RECI) (Spanish national project)
ICT-enabled urban governance, as applied within urban API, provides practical and effective enhancements of the urban planning process, addressing some of the fundamental challenges of urban planning today. These challenges include most importantly the full engagement of urban stakeholders in addressing the future evolution of their cities and neighbourhoods in response to drivers of change including climate change and economic transition. UrbanAPI solutions support stakeholder engagement in both local and citywide planning via enhanced visualisation and simulation of the urban planning challenges. Moreover, urbanAPI solutions are applicable not only to the specific challenges of the pilot cities but also more widely to cities throughout Europe as the drivers of change define common problems to which common a generic ICT solutions can be applied.Scope: Local (city or municipality), Regional (sub-national)