Accelerating urbanization presents daunting engineering challenge

February 16th, 2009 - 4:17 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 16 (ANI): A scientist has said that the rapid urbanization of the world presents a daunting engineering challenge in the future, as the stability and livability of the urban regions is going to depend more than ever on advances in public-infrastructure engineering.

The accelerating urbanization of the species is rapidly increasing the complexity of the urban environment for humanity as a whole, said Brad Allenby, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University.

This makes urban-system infrastructure a critical component in maintaining stable, functioning societies and ensuring quality of life, he added.

Responding to the challenges emerging from the worlds rapid urban population growth will fundamentally change how the engineering of public infrastructure is done in the future, he contends.

According to Allenby, this accelerating growth is driving an increasing reliance on information and communications technology in everything from smart buildings that manage themselves to reduce energy consumption, to transportation networks that monitor themselves to prevent traffic and instruct drivers how to avoid congestion.

The integration of that kind technology into conventional infrastructure systems presents one of the biggest tasks in developing sustainable urban systems.

First, engineers have to deal with managing the complicated interactions between various information and communication systems even as those systems themselves are evolving in complexity and capabilities.

Information technology is moving toward autonomic systems, according to Allenby.

These are systems capable not only of defining themselves in real time to meet user requirements but also, in the case of a problem, diagnosing and fixing their own internal faults and malfunctions.

To do this, such systems are also being engineered with the ability to learn new functions.

The very complexity of such technological capabilities introduces uncertainty in the designed urban environment, Allenby said.

The public policy implications and social ramifications of such technological evolution are yet to be addressed, he added.

As information systems in urban environments begin interacting with each other, even the experts who designed them cannot predict their behavior.

This makes it critical to study how complex systems such as cities can be made more resilient.

We cant predict or identify all the problems and opportunities that may arise, Allenby said. But, we can try to design our cities and their infrastructure so that were better able to manage them when the problems and opportunities do arise, he added. (ANI)

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