SimCities: Designing Smart Cities through Data-Driven Simulation

In cities across the world, governments use data—about infrastructure, health and safety, or citizen satisfaction—to improve services. But data also has a critical role in shaping the very space of the city, informing the design of new buildings, infrastructure, and neighborhoods. With the help of big data and analytics, urban planners can now use simulations to anticipate the impact of urban development programs. Using these tools, cities can become more sustainable and strategic, while the planning processes become ever more inclusive.

The most fundamental benefit of simulation is the ability to mitigate the problem of “unintended consequences” by using realistic models to predict effects on land valuation, employment patterns, and transportation mode choice. In urban planning, optimizing one system often comes at the expense of functionality in other areas: the construction of much-needed housing can lead to overburdening the local transportation infrastructure; campaigns for water conservation can, ironically, damage a city’s water infrastructure.

Simulation allows planners to anticipate cascading effects across urban systems from water management to energy and waste management to parking. 

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Laura Adler