Kent State Researchers Develop City Planning Software


As the City of Kent continues its renaissance, and nearby cities like Akron and Youngstown continue to refine their plans to revitalize, an understanding of how people use a city and move through it could be vital to development plans.

A grant from the National Science Foundation could put some Kent State University researchers in a position to help such cities find and use that data.

The two-year $100,000 grant will contribute to the work of Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr. Ye Zhao, Assistant Professor of Geography, Dr. Xinyue Ye, Professor of Geography, Dr. Andrew Curtis, and their colleague, Computer Science Professor, Dr. Jing Yang of UNC-Charlotte.

The study, “S&CC: Support Community-Scale Study by Visual Analytics of Human Mobility and Opinion Data from Social Media Data," will gather Twitter data from mobile users in and around Akron and Kent to collect information on human and vehicle trajectories, and social media data sets.

The information will help them develop software that is easily accessible to city officials and to residents, and could make urban planning a more practical and informed process.

“We want to use this tool to analyze data to get a better understanding of the neighborhoods, and help inform the way we plan parks and design traffic routes,” Zhao said.

Zhao said that the popularity of smartphones has provided a new wealth of unprecedented data sets that scientists can use to identify people’s real time movement data.

“The interesting research is seen before and after building, say, a hospital,” said Ye. “We can see how a community is impacted in real time, in the short- and long-term.”

The grant is part of the Obama administration’s Smart Cities initiative. Beginning this year, the NSF began awarding $35 million in grants, including $7.5 “for urban science that will support research that integrates advanced digital tools with the physical world to improve quality of life, health and wellbeing, and learning in communities.”

The grant allows the Kent State/UNC-Charlotte research team to build on the momentum of an existing three-year $500,000 NSF grant for the study of data fusion.

“Up until now, there were too many data sources, and they were very fragmented,” said Ye. “We use trajectory to integrate the elements of data about community essence. This will open new doors for us to better understand our community.”