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How is Gen Z shaping cities and futures?

UQ people
Published 29 Sep, 2020  ·  2 minute read

Gen Z’ers are unknowingly helping to co-design cities of the future.

You may not know it, but you are an important part of urban planning. Every time you swipe, tap, or scan your public transport card, you are helping engineers create more efficient cities.

By analysing how communities use different modes of public transport, engineers can plan for the cities of tomorrow.

Dr Jiwon Kim, Senior Lecturer in Transport Engineering, explains how UQ is teaching future engineers to own the unknown.

“I always begin my first lecture by telling students that we are not just civil and transport engineers, we’re human behaviouralists modelling movement to shape cities,” Dr Kim says.

“We look at the digital footprint of everyone in urban settings. It’s about us studying mass movement patterns and translating that information to ease congestion and reduce air pollution.”

Dr Kim has a unique approach to the study of city mobility patterns, by using real-time data that shows how people move within the traffic network.

She then analyses the data to find natural groups and transport borders within each city.

“In general, one of the big trends in transportation engineering is digital transformation. Digital transformation is happening in the way we build. The way we operate our cities is transforming from paper to digital data, and from manual processes to automated processes,” Dr Kim says.

“The large-scale data generated from human movements, such as through number plate recognition, GPS and travel cards, all help to plot out a living and breathing map of the world we live in.”

By harnessing the power of data, we can forecast what infrastructure cities will need in order to make life easier for the people living in them. But Dr Kim says that in order to use the full potential of this data, digital literacy has never been more important.

“We are now living in a world where digital transformation is happening. One of the most important attributes that students are required to have is digital literacy,” Dr Kim says.

“It helps us predict unknown mobility trends that we can use to improve daily life. This data is hugely important, not only to engineering, but to our economy, health and other public services.”

According to Dr Kim, the next unknown is what will happen when we mesh our digital footprint with that of autonomous vehicles. This is just one of the topics she wants to inspire future engineers to tackle.

“This intersection of humans and machines will lead to even smarter cities, based on deeper data – much of which is being generated by Gen Z.”

Want to use emerging technology to build more efficient cities? Discover how with engineering at UQ.

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