With the opening of its City Intelligence Lab (CIL), the Center for Energy, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is setting a new milestone in its research infrastructure.
“The City Intelligence Lab at the Center for Energy is bringing about a paradigm shift by using digital technologies to include user perspectives, making the lab an international model when it comes to urban planning processes of the future,” says Wolfgang Hribernik, Head of the Center for Energy, at the opening. Functioning as an interactive platform, the City Intelligence Lab combines innovative processes with the latest digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). It is therefore able to realistically simulate and run through scenarios such as the climate situation in different parts of the city.
City Intelligence Lab – an international model laboratory
The laboratory is an interactive platform designed to allow tomorrow’s urban planning professionals to investigate new methodologies and technologies and takes a co-creative development approach, enabling the joint creation of new knowledge. “In establishing this laboratory we have produced a platform and a space for experimentation, what you could call a sort of medical laboratory for digital technologies,” says Nikolas Neubert, Head of the Competence Unit for Digital Resilient Cities at the Center for Energy.
The laboratory applies key technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence in order to develop complex simulations and parametric designs. “The innovative achievement of tomorrow’s urban planning will be to apply digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad portfolio of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. We have created the infrastructure necessary to do this,” Nikolas Neubert goes on to explain. The laboratory is equipped with interactive projection screens and models which together provide an improved collaborative planning environment, as well as an AI-based urban planning model which combines real-time simulation prediction and generative design, enabling the experts to explore unprecedented situations.
By working closely with other research institutions such as the Future Cities Lab at the ETH Zurich, and through close links with the private sector, the CIL is designed to become an international hub which facilitates the development of new research approaches.
Climate change and digitalisation in cities demand new ideas for planning and implementation
Urbanisation is a modern phenomenon. It requires cities to intelligently manage their growth and find answers to the challenges of climate change.
“Again, this year, we experienced an extreme heatwave. The growth and increased densification of cities only enhances the problem of overheating during the summer months,” explains Nikolas Neubert. Overheating is understood as the growing number of very hot days which reach a maximum temperature of over 30°C, and tropical nights in which the nighttime temperature never falls below 20°C. This development poses a health burden for the population.
“In order to make cities more resilient to this situation, we can use machine learning in the City Intelligence Lab to simulate microclimates for summer days and heatwaves, both with and without adaptation measures, to run through different climate models, and to present the results in visual form. This allows us to immediately identify the measures which would be effective in helping to cool particular areas of the city,” Nikolas Neubert says.
Digital technologies shift the focus of urban planning to the needs of residents
The innovative achievement of urban planning will be to use digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad spectrum of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. In the LiLa4Green project, for example, a research team led by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is working together with city residents in two districts of Vienna to develop ideas and solutions to counteract urban overheating in parts of the city. The Living Lab approach combines innovative social science methodology with cutting-edge digital technologies in order to involve citizens in Wien Favoriten and Matznerviertel (Wien Hietzing) as early on in the planning process as possible. The aim is to ensure that the measures have a significant social impact and are widely accepted. In September 2019 LiLa4Green was selected as a candidate for IBA_Vienna 2022. LiLa4Green is being funded by the Climate and Energy Fund – Smart Cities Demo.
Innovations for cities and the built environment
In its Digital Resilient Cities research field, the Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology blends urban planning expertise with state-of-the-art city management and planning solutions. The researchers combine innovative processes with cutting-edge digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Although the research projects are based in Austria, a large proportion (60%) of them are international. Know-how “Made in Austria” is in demand everywhere, whether in Germany, Argentina or Uzbekistan.
AIT Center for Energy
At the AIT Center for Energy over 200 experts are developing sustainable solutions for our future energy system under the leadership of Wolfgang Hribernik. The Center combines longstanding experience and scientific excellence with high quality laboratory infrastructure and a global network to offer companies innovative applied research services, providing them with a competitive edge in this promising market. A total of 370 research projects were carried out in 2018, with European projects accounting for 41 percent. The thematic portfolio of the Center for Energy focuses on three key systems: sustainable energy infrastructure, decarbonisation of industrial processes and facilities, and innovative technologies and solutions for cities and the built environment. More information about the Center can be founc on this link