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Smart Cities: Interaction with Stakeholders in Urban Planning

By Eric Van Horenbeeck on Jan 18, 2017


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AG VESPA is the Autonomous Municipal Company for Real Estate and City Projects in Antwerp. VESPA is developing a public-private partnership project on an 18-hectare area where once stood the main abattoir of Antwerp. It involves many participants: regulatory authorities, the private owners of the site, architects and master planners, property developers and local citizens.

Long before the first sod is turned all stakeholders or their representatives are heard. The responsible project manager needs to marshal the different and sometimes conflicting interests. It starts with reading through large amounts of unstructured text emitted by the legislator, neighborhood committees, the general press, experts, and looking for clues, interactions, emerging divergent opinions.

The Unlock application presented here supports the project manager in making the different information flows intelligible. The application uses concepts from graph theory, in particular property graphs, instead of the usual Bayesian inference or probability applied to a bag-of-words view on language. During the preprocessing and indexing of the data, the software detects relevant semantic relations that exist between the documents. This allows the grouping of texts, or auto-classification, based on shared topics across e.g. legal articles, jurisprudence, comments, news. Without the need for ontologies or manual tagging, without the need for intensive computer training.

Because all sematic relations are precalculated, the interaction with the user at query time is fast and accurate. The user can navigate from one relevant information cluster to another and discover insights that might be unexpected or surprising. Unlock aggregates retrieval, search and discover:

• Information retrieval is about the obvious: collect and combine what is known but has to be recovered from a data store;
• Search is used to find related solutions/answers by someone (supposed to be) familiar with the domain in view;
• Discovery is a step into the unknown: open problems with no clue as to the content of the data to investigate.

Unlock demands no human preprocessing, therefore it is especially well suited to explore an uncharted terrain and as such it supports the project manager to communicate well-informed and in a timely manner with all parties concerned, internally and externally.

Much more about interaction with stakeholders in urban planning during Eric Van Horenbeeck and Tom Pauwaert's keynote session at Open Belgium 2017.

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written by Eric Van Horenbeeck
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