“Out of sight, out of mind” is a common conception that MIT is literally turning on its head through their SenseAble Cities Lab—a new research initiative that studies how the deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics are radically transforming cities.
Through their innovative and groundbreaking projects, SenseAble Cities Lab has established that we can use digital tools and data analysis to address today’s challenges in the physical world.
A recent article in Wired Magazine explores myriad ways this data could be used in urban areas, from redesigning public transportation systems to helping consumers locate shops and restaurants that will best fit their needs moment-to-moment.
The Trash Track project is only one of SenseAble Cities Lab’s initiatives, but it clearly illustrates the potential benefits of this type of research. In Seattle, WA, 500 volunteers participated in Trash Track by attaching sensors to a variety of items in their garbage. Three thousand pieces of garbage were tracked as they zigzagged across the country for three months.
On a large scale, this data can help to improve operations, save energy, and cut down on pollution. But as Carlo Ratti, Director of SenseAble Cities, points out in his 2011 TED talk, these types of projects also influence human behavior: we are more likely to be less wasteful if we know that our garbage doesn’t disappear when we put it on the curb for pickup.
Trash Track only skims the surface of the life-changing ways we can use this type of innovative research, which help connect individuals to the environment as a whole.
Rather than basing urban planning on assumptions, city planners can now harness this real-time data to design more efficient and environmentally friendly cities of tomorrow.
Illustration by Oliver Munday