Using smartphone data to design urban spaces: visualization, modeling, and public engagement

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University campuses contain outdoor spaces that, when well-designed, can support student well-being. It may be easier to design campuses that benefit students if designers are aware of student movement and campus use patterns. Until quite recently, precise data about how students move around their campuses has not been widely available. However, the near ubiquity of smartphones, and their capacity to collect location data, presents new opportunities both to understand student movements, and more generally, the movements of people across urban areas. While the data are abundant and seemingly available, much work remains to demonstrate the value of this resource in real-world urban design applications. This thesis presents four stand-alone manuscripts that address different aspects of the urban design process, using a single university campus as a model system. The first provides a review of how location data have been used to understand human behaviour in urban settings. The remaining three draw on a data set of smartphone locations collected from 300 students, tracking their individual movements on a university campus. One study, using these data, considers how best to incorporate location data in public engagement. Another demonstrates a tool for visualizing location data intended for use by design experts. And a final study investigates patterns in the use of design features by modelling the data. These studies demonstrate that location data derived from smartphones (for example, smartphone-GPS data) can be used by non-experts in public engagement scenarios, that it can also help architects to understand flows of human movement, and that it can guide designers towards better-informed decisions about design features. The introduction of the thesis provides the context for this research, and provides an overview of each chapter. The thesis concludes by discussing how all four studies provide insights for future researchers and more specifically, to designers of campus plans.
Smartphone-GPS, GPS, urban design, planning, urban resource selection function, participatory mapping, public engagement, data visualization
Rout, A. (2020). Using smartphone data to design urban spaces: visualization, modeling, and public engagement (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from