MIT Maps GRAZ by cellphone

I spent half a year in 1997 studying and working in Graz Austria. This was in 1997, when my alma mater Rizvi College of Architecture selected a couple of us from the first batch for the very first exchange program with the Institut for Hochbau, Technische Universitat Graz. That was my second visit to Graz, the first being as part of a student contingent invited to a conference for the work done by us in the aftermath of the Latur Earthquake.

Most of the time was spent interning in the offices of one of Austria’s greatest contemporary architects, Volker Giencke, and working on some really great projects [1, 2]. The office was an amazing space to work in, and even though the hours were long, there were no complaints. It also gave me a chance to sample Austrian culture and life first hand, and it remains for me, one of the best phases of my life. It allowed me to make great lifelong friends, and have been there several times since then.

Graz is one of the most beautiful medium sized cities in Europe. The modern architecture movement there is about 4 decades old. Its developed into a movement of its own called the Grazer Schule. The state of Styria, of which Graz is the capital, elected an architect as its governor in the early 80’s and he made it mandatory for all projects built with government money to go through a process of competition. Thus every architect, young and starting, or established and famous could compete for the projects and many a new architecture star was born this way. The general public awareness about architecture is amazingly high. More of that in another post someday soon.

Why you wonder am I telling you all this.

An article on the MIT website talks about

Researchers at MIT may not be able to hear your cellphone call, but they have found a way to see it. They mapped a city in real time by tracking tens of thousands of people traveling about carrying cellphones.

Using anonymous cellphone data provided by the leading cellphone operator in Austria, A1/Mobilkom, the researchers developed the Mobile Landscapes project, creating electronic maps of cellphone use in the metropolitan area of Graz, Austria, the country’s second-largest city.

 

 

MIT researchers map city by cellphone

Denise Brehm, News Office
September 14, 2005

Can you see me now?

Researchers at MIT may not be able to hear your cellphone call, but they have found a way to see it. They mapped a city in real time by tracking tens of thousands of people traveling about carrying cellphones.

Using anonymous cellphone data provided by the leading cellphone operator in Austria, A1/Mobilkom, the researchers developed the Mobile Landscapes project, creating electronic maps of cellphone use in the metropolitan area of Graz, Austria, the country’s second-largest city.

The researchers used three types of data — density of cellphone calls, origins and destinations of the calls, and position of users tracked at regular intervals — to create computer-generated images that can be overlayed with one another and with geographic and street maps of a city to show the peaks and valleys of the landscape as well as peaks in cellphone use.

“For the first time ever we are able to visualize the full dynamics of a city in real time,” said project leader Carlo Ratti, an architect/engineer and head of the SENSEable City Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This opens up new possibilities for urban studies and planning. The real-time city is now real: a system that is able to continuously sense its condition and can quickly react to its criticalities,” he added.

In recent years, techniques to locate and track mobile devices have become increasingly available; such techniques were crucial to law enforcement officials in their investigation of the Madrid and London terrorist bombings. MIT’s Mobile Landscapes project takes advantage of these techniques at an unprecedented scale by mapping an entire urban region continually at regular intervals.

The continuously changing electronic maps, which have a surprising aesthetic appeal, will be displayed at the M-City Exhibition at the Kunsthaus Graz from Oct. 1 to Jan. 8. Visitors to the show will be invited to participate in the electronic tracking by sending text messages to a server. “This participatory act aims to engage them in the issues of social networks and distributed interaction, but also on the possible drawbacks of limited privacy and geographical surveillance,” Ratti said.

The research could also have implications for use in large-scale emergencies and for transportation engineers seeking ways to better manage freeway traffic.

In addition to Ratti, designers on the project include MIT graduate students Daniel Berry, Sonya Huang, Xiongjiu Liao, Andrea Mattiello, Eugenio Morello and Andres Sevtsuk, and sophomore Daniel Gutierrez, senior David Lee and junior Jia Lou. The exhibition is funded by A1/Mobilkom, which provided data and technical assistance to MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory. 

2 Comments

  1. the runawaysun September 18, 2005

    Thanks, Arzan, for your mail.

    I can’t agree with you more about the ‘conundrum’. It’s incredible how India is progressing. The scenes are shifting – back and forth, old and new – so rapidly that sometimes I really don’t know what’s going on. However, it is a fact that corporate India is determined to ‘milk out’ the rural markets, now that urban markets are no longer contributing to their bottomlines as desired.

    I’m concerned about this, but don’t know what to do. Don’t even know if there’s any point in talking about it. As you would have made out from Charu’s comments, corporate India is quite hung ho about the whole thing. They have already made ‘inroads’.

    Regards… the runawaysun

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