Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Developments in GIS for Urban Planning

Michael Batty, Andrew Hudson-Smith, Andrew Crooks, Richard Milton and Duncan Smith

Ever since computers were first developed in the mid 20th century, planners saw an immediate use for them in not only organizing large quantities of data about the city but also in the analysis of that data, the construction of simulation models of how cities functioned, and in forecasting the future form of cities. All these ideas were put in place in the 1950s and 1960s mainly in North America and there were even moves to automate the city planning process itself by formulating models that could generate idealised plans based on data pertaining to the current situation as well as to the specification of future goals.
This technology began with main frame machines where most techniques were operated offline but with increasing networking of computers and miniaturisation down to minicomputers along with the parallel development of personal computers, much of this activity came online. The convergence of communications and computing which has occurred in the last twenty years with the development of the internet and its graphical interface in the form of the world wide web has moved many of these functions into networked environments. The prospect now exists for all stages of the planning process and its interfacing to the public at large to become accessible online.
By 1990s, various computational techniques that were being developed in urban planning were being heavily influenced by three related developments. First geographic information systems (GIS) technologies which represented the fusion of spatial database technology with computer cartographies, were being ported from minicomputers to PCs, second various forecasting techniques were being developed on PCs using standardised software such as spreadsheets, and third, this great potpourri of technologies was being fashioned together in what Britton Harris (1989) called ‘planning support systems’ (PSS) in his seminal article. Since then much of this technology has begun to move online with PSS being used not only for strategic planning but also for more routine uses in the control of development and also plan implementation. There are now so many developments that in a short article like this one, we cannot do justice to the hundreds of potential applications in urban planning. What the modern computing environment has opened up is the prospect that any kind of application can be fashioned in any kind of software – within limits of course – and that any kinds of software can be plugged into any other. Forecasting models, traffic models, GIS and so on can be interfaced with one another with no one software necessarily dominating the other. The prospect now also exists of planners being able to draw on data and software which is configured and operated on remote sites such is the present connectivity and power of the internet.

more posts about GIS:


GIS in U.S. Urban Studies and Planning Education

Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Science and Public Policy Research

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