Smart cities and Tech Evolution - XXXII Perceptive Infrastructure - an Image is worth a thousand words

It gets easy to understand heat loss by a building because of insufficient insulation when you see the building in different colours, each hue telling you where heat is "leaking out". Credit: Pixel Thermographics

Over million of years brains have evolved to make syntheses is a flash. In a blink of an eye our brain has to analyse what the senses at reporting and take action. In case of the human species the brain for its decision process rely on vision, other species may prioritize other senses.

This has resulted in our perception strong dependence on vision, on a holistic vision. We capture the “gist” of an image immediately, most of the time disregarding specific details present in an image (this sometimes leads to a mistaken perception of reality). This is why there is the saying: “an image is worth a thousand words”.

This is something city planners and designers need to take into account. Providing a detailed, precise, list of numbers to a lay person (which is each one of us in most situations) is not as effective as providing an image. Image are synthetic - numbers, and list, are analytics.

Of course the image should be able to represent, at first glance, the substance of what one wants to convey. A cluttered image is no good at all.

In a study made by the Carlo Ratti Team at MIT Senseable City resulted in powerful ways to represent city data (see clip), in particular the study used real time data generated by the island/city/state of Singapore.

I particularly like the idea of representing the distance between two points in the city in terms of the time it takes to go from A to B. This time is basically the same through the day if I choose to walk. Not so if I take the car or public transportation. During peak hours traffic is jammed and it takes a long time if I take the car. Conversely, during night time the traffic is low and I can get there quickly. Hence the representation of Singapore island becomse larger during peak hours and smaller at night. On the contrary, looking at the island representation to map public transport time, the islands shrinks in peak hours because of the higher frequency of buses and trains and gets larger at night time when public transportation slows done and you might be waiting 30’ for the next bus.

The rendering of data into effective images creates the information upon which the “digital” city is perceived.

Notice that advances in smart materials will create dynamic building surfaces and dynamic civil infrastructures that will merge into the digital city representation. 
 A building dissipating heat (or better losing heat in winter time because of a faulty insulation) may take a reddish hue, one with better than average insulation may take a greener hue. You might even see blotches of red in a building showing the points where insulation is worsening.

A road with a deteriorating tarmac can change its colour getting redder and redder as you are approaching a pit-hole…

Clearly these are just suggestions to make the point. I am not suggesting to have our cities becoming an Arlequin…  More on this in a little while.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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