Monday, July 9, 2012

Intelligent Urban Agents

Readers of this blog may recall that one of my research themes, and the main driver of the intense collaboration with Steve Guerin and other Santa Fe folks, is the quest for a City Knowledge platform wherein each urban asset -- be it a fire hydrant, a light pole, a park bench, or whatever -- is uniquely identified by a birth certificate and is assigned a kind of "guardian angel" in the form of a software agent in the cloud.
After a quarter century (and hundreds of projects) working with cities around the world, I have acquired a thorough understanding about the fundamental services that municipalities provide to their citizens for maintenance, management and planning.  My MIT dissertation was a "reflection" upon the first 15 years of city work, and since then my goal has been to translate the CK theory into practice.
I am pleased to say that we are getting very close to having the first implementation of a real CK Platform, thanks to the efforts of my two summer interns: Neil Pomerleau and Ben Lichtner, who have been implementing what I had envisioned over a decade ago and have since been discussing and refining and experimenting with, in collaboration with Steve, who is fond of noting how often I say "It's In My Dissertation!" during our brainstorming and whiteboarding sessions at the treehouse.  The phrase has earned its own acronym: IIMD.
Now, after a flurry of sketches I was inspired to draw to explain the approach to the two interns, the same monicker can also stand for "It's In My Diagrams"!  Take a look at the cute agents with their hats and how they interact with each other...
Most of the ideas in my diagrams are going to be demonstrated in the ongoing project for the UNESCO Venice office.  Look for a blog when we are done!  Great stuff.
All of this will be illustrated at a workshop Steve and I are organizing with Vincent Corruble of the University of Paris (P&M Curie), where I presented some earlier ideas a couple of years back.
The workshop is entitled Intelligent Agents in Urban Simulations and Smart Cities and it is part of the ECAI 2012 European Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Montpellier, France at the end of August.  That will be our first venue to demonstrate with a "real" application what City Knowledge and AgentsCloud are all about.
Our intelligent urban agents will act on behalf of their respective urban assets and will communicate with other agents to maintain up-to-date information about the status of the asset, with the ability to issue alerts when critical situations are detected, based on publish-and-subscribe feeds coming from legacy systems, as well as from mobile apps or web reports.  Each asset is assigned an individual wiki page, where the information is immediately published and can thus be reviewed (and partially modified) by citizens and municipal officers.  Wait until you can see it with your own eyes!

Watch out for the "men in black", coming soon to a city near you!

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