Simulating Cities: A Systems Design Perspective
Population, environmental, and technological changes are reshaping the infrastructure of our urban environments, and will be a major focus of attention in the near future. Cities have always accommodated new technologies, such as the invention and widespread use of motorized vehicles, mass transportation, and recently, electric vehicles. Yet every new technology brings with it challenges in policy making. With the advent of alternative energy and and the Internet of Things, there is suddenly a plethora of new technologies that will require major restructuring of cities. Some examples are electric and autonomous vehicles, solar energy, unmanned aerial vehicles, and smart homes and buildings. In order to establish sound public policies, all these new technologies can greatly benefit from urban simulations, to measure their impact on the city and its people before the policies are defined.
Yet, despite all the reasons why complex simulations are desirable for decision and policy making, and despite advances in computing power, large distributed simulations of urban areas are still rarely used, with most of their adoption in military applications. The reality is that developing distributed simulations is much harder than developing non-distributed ones, and requires a much higher level of software engineering expertise, which usually modeling and simulation experts don’t have.
I have been exploring how some of the ideas underlying Aspect-Oriented Programming can help overcome the design challenges faced by distributed simulation systems, as applied to urban simulations. There are many similarities between the concept of aspect (as given by AOP) and the general concept of “aspect of a city” that urban planning researchers routinely use. This talk looks at urban simulations from a systems design perspective, and puts forward the idea that non-traditional decompositions are not just beneficial for these applications, but are likely the only way to move that field forward.
Crista Lopes is a Professor of Informatics in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on software engineering for large-scale data and systems. Early in her career, she was a founding member of the team at Xerox PARC that developed Aspect-Oriented Programming. Along with her research program, she is also a prolific software developer. Her open source contributions include being one of the core developers of OpenSimulator, a virtual world server. She is also a founder and consultant of Encitra, a company specializing in online virtual reality for early-stage sustainable urban redevelopment projects. She has a PhD from Northeastern University, and MS and BS degrees from Instituto Superior Tecnico in Portugal. She is the recipient of several National Science Foundation grants, including a prestigious CAREER Award. She claims to be the only person in the world who is both an ACM Distinguished Scientist and Ohloh Kudos Rank 9.