Urban Informatics: Realizing the Future of Cities

What does the future hold for cities? Proponents of “smart cities” have made many ambitious promises and proclamations—like fleets of autonomous vehicles, sensor systems tracking conditions on every street corner, and predictive algorithms that anticipate events before they happen—but there are more immediate opportunities that are available now for all communities. Today, cities, agencies, companies, and non-profits are all generating troves of data that capture the dynamics of the urban landscape, and cutting-edge tools for analysis, visualization, and mapping can help us to tap the wealth of knowledge therein.

The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) at Northeastern University is leading the charge on this urban informatics work, and the ways that researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and community leaders can leverage data and technology to better understand and serve the city. We are distinctive from similar projects around the country in that we have chosen to concentrate on the ways that these new resources can enhance major societal values, including equity, justice, and democracy. Meanwhile, the Masters of Science in Urban Informatics offers students the unique opportunity to become a part of this exciting effort to realize the future of the city.

Learn more about the Boston Area Research Initiative and the MS in Urban Informatics, and read a longer op-ed on the subject by Prof. Dan O’Brien (Director of both BARI and the MSUI) published in CommonWealth magazine.


On June 12th Prof. Dan O’Brien will discuss the challenges and opportunities that data and technology offer for cities as he describes the burgeoning field of urban informatics. He will illustrate urban informatics through an extended study of Boston’s 311 system, which enables constituents to report issues in public spaces, like potholes, graffiti, and litter. 

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