The London Meeting – Finding the Quality of Life

Defining quality of life is akin to defining pornography. One knows it when one sees it, but the range of opinions ranges widely.
After some four and a half years of working with cities as the IBM Research Leader for this activity,  a number of impressions emerge.  One is that city governments care less about revenue and income than about establishing leadership as a city that others  want to emulate.  Another is that cities want to attract world skills from every domain of human endeavour to create an environment which provides cultural, academic, technical and financial opportunitues which work harmoniously to create an urban system which is attractive, accommodating and vibrant. Clearly accomplishing these simultaneous goals is a significant challenge and it is difficult to identify cities which lead in all areas, but equally clearly they point to the idea of quality of life.

As part of a team that worked across 12 labs around the world. I think it is true to say that we were very surprised by the paucity of data that had been used in the past to determine the future.. Specifically we were surprised at how little data was actually used to make decisions that would improve quality of life in cities.  For example most city agencies compete for funding to accomplish goals which interfere with each other. This is not because of any animus, rather it is because the tools that clearly explain the impact and the mitigation of one group digging up the proverbial road prior to the next crews’ incursion with their own excavation are not available. Where people move during the day is often based on paper questionnaires  and sparse information rather than acquired from moving cell phone locations (provided through opt in processes of course).
With data and its appropriate presentation people do actually make sound decisions !

It is the goal of our conference, held in  one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world –  London, at Imperial College in the heart of the city,  to begin to identify the parameters  which define city quality of life.   As part of our agenda, we will discuss the academic and commercial aspects of city quality of life, with speakers from various universities, industry and government.

As a participant in the panel on industry views of the quality of life in cities, I am excited about how my colleagues from Skidmore Owings and Merrill, ARUP and Cisco view their extensive experiences in the planning, design engineering and management of cities and exactly what kind of data they have used to understand what quality of life means in cities.   From an IBM viewpoint, which I will be representing, there is so much low hanging fruit that can be picked to improve quality of life that is only just being recognized by cities.

To help us get to the bottom of this thorny question, please join us at the Urban Systems Collaborative meeting this Sept 10 and 11th at Imperial College.

See this link for complete information. Registration is free but limited  –  so join soon !

Jurij Paraszczak is director of the IBM Research Smarter Cities Programme and has led it for over 4 and a half years after 1st defining the technical underpinnings of the   domain for IBM with Pete Williams and Colin Harrison.