Urban Innovation






Researchers working in Urban Innovation study and build technology to help shape the future of urban environments. Expertise in design, hardware and software prototyping and deployment, electrical engineering, biology, chemistry and social and data science, is combined to target three application areas: climate change and related environmental effects on society; productivity and the economic health of cities; social equity and the health of people and their communities. We focus on three general areas:

Environment: Car travel, air conditioning, and many other aspects of daily modern urban life, contribute to climate change. At the Urban Innovation Initiative, we strive to better measure, understand, and mitigate the impact of urban life on the environment. With Project Eclipse we are developing, deploying, and analyzing low cost environmental sensors for cities. We have also partnered with Azure to produce daily urban heat island indices for all major U.S. cities.

Economy: A productive city is one in which all citizens are engaged economically. To help understand our rapidly changing employment landscape, we use unique large scale datasets to characterize and compare regional differences in jobs and skill development (see interactive maps of job searches by sector: United States, Canada).

Community: Cities should be safe, healthy, and inclusive. We are being proactive and engaging with community groups early in the process so that local needs and concerns can be addressed. In the public health domain, we are exploring ways to model and forecast respiratory illnesses at fine grained geographic scale using naturalistic data such as land cover from satellite imagery and search queries.

The Microsoft Urban Futures Summer Workshop (July 28–30, 2020) was three intensive days of talks, discussion and planning for data driven urban transformation. With over 100 attendees, we built a research driven coalition of civic, academic and research leaders to envision what services could be built on top of data sets for improving the future of cities. Together we produced a series of white papers that present research and action plans for cities, academia, and industry, to conduct real world research and deployments.

Urban Innovation makes its research available through scholarly publication, through open source software and datasets, and through collaborations with universities, and with business and product teams at Microsoft.

(Illustration by Aimee Dan)

Urban innovation logo with leaf