New Urban Analytics Program Off to Roaring Start

By: Kyle Niblett
January 30, 2023

As Gainesville and the University of Florida community continue to grow exponentially, UF College of Design, Construction and Planning faculty are teaching students through Artificial Intelligence (AI) how to accurately predict commercial and residential expansion through DCP’s new interdisciplinary Certificate in Urban Analytics course.

The program was created with UF’s AI initiative in mind and is a collaboration between the UF Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URP) and the UF College of Engineering. This past fall, DCP doctoral candidate Cenqi Zhu was the first student to enroll in the program, which is now up to five enrollees. Scholars are learning how to systemically understand human behaviors and interactions with urban policies and the built environment, as well as how cities function by analyzing big urban data. The courses also teach them how to use new data science and AI techniques, such as data mining, Machine Learning (ML), deep learning and other AI approaches.

“Since it involves AI, every day we are teaching and learning something new,” said Department of Urban and Regional Planning Assistant Professor Emre Tepe, who oversees the first-of-its-kind course. “The field of urban analytics is being built as we teach it.”

An example of this derives from Tepe’s studies itself. Using machine learning taught in the course, Tepe was able to study Gainesville and examine the components of residential, commercial, and municipal buildings. What would take years for a human to understand, machine learning can detect rapidly from data extraction. Where some patterns might find small units outside the city center, the machine might show a pattern of four-floor residential buildings and mixed-use developments closer to campus.

“For my research, I can predict the future of Gainesville 10 years from now in terms of what areas will be residential and what areas will be commercial,” Tepe explained. “The coursework taught in our new Urban Analytics Certificate program will help us discover these complex patterns that is almost impossible for humans understand.”

For Zhu, who graduated from DCP in 2020 …


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