BEIJING February 2019 –UN-Habitat is joining forces with Chinese partners to promote a dialogue on how artificial intelligence can ensure the efficient use of resources and better productivity in cities

UN-Habitat will work with The China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPD), a research institution under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to look at the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in urban development and economic development, paving the way for a global alliance on smart cities.

The project aims to promote a high level dialogue among the top scholars, city leaders, industrial solution providers, urban residents and consumers.

UN-Habitat signed a Letter of Intent with CAUPD, and the project will be mainly undertaken by the UrbanX Lab which was established in 2018 by CAUPD and the Alibaba Group, a Chinese multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce, retail, internet and technology.  

UrbanX Lab  works on smart integrated solutions facing future cities and has led the AI-city system design for Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities covering smart transportation, energy, living and construction, autonomous driving and flexible building management.

The Letter of Intent was jointly signed by Marco Kamiya, UN-Habitat’s  Head of Urban Economy and Finance Branch (UEFB) and Yang Baojun, the Dean of CAUPD and the Co-Director of the UrbanX Lab.

The project is titled - ‘AI for City: The Initiative for Urban Innovation and Sustainable Communities’ or AI4City for short and will result ultimately in the setting up of a global platform on AI themes for cities with the private sector known as the Global City Cooperation Alliance.

UN-Habitat and UrbanX Lab agreed to  co-author a report providing a global perspective on AI smart cities based on interviews constituting of 70 questions with experts on Artificial Intelligence across the world, supplemented by case studies

The Dean of CAUPD, Mr Yang Baojun, said he hoped that the publication would be a source of knowledge on the  growing importance of computing for processing large amounts of city data in intelligent ways, and the need for effective measures for data security.

Mr Kamiya, emphasized that differing perspectives were vital for providing a broad understanding of smart city solutions.

The project will examine global standards and technical indicators on use of AI for cities and develop global guiding questions. A mechanism for regular technical visits and capacity trainings for city leaders will be included.

The definition of a smart, sustainable city according to the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Telecommunication Union is “ an innovative city that uses Information and Communication Technology and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects.”