Physical-Social Nexus

A major driver of progress in smart cities is the ever-increasing interconnectivity between everyday physical devices such as mobile devices, household appliances, and vehicles, coupled with the rise in sensor instrumentation in city infrastructure (e.g. roads and buildings). 

This interconnectivity culminates in social-physical networks, which are revolutionizing a variety of industries that shape cities and the interactions that take place, from transportation to health care, to water, to energy. 

The goals of this cluster are threefold. First, to investigate the impacts of information and technology on human networks in terms of opinion formation and behavior, i.e. how technological disruptions in the physical network impact social networks. Second, to study how our growing understanding of human activity can be leveraged to manage physical networks better. Third, to further explore the social-physical nexus, that is, how humans-as-sensors coupled with information from physical networks affect the overall urban systems.


Electric Vehicle Carsharing and Traffic Flow Dynamics

Led by Saif Eddin Jabari

This project aims to develop new codes and tests to maximise the use and efficiency of charsharing systems with a particular focus on the city of Abu Dhabi. Electric vehicle (EV) market penetration is projected to increase at an exponential rate and is expected to dominate vehicle fleets in the coming 20-30 years. Carsharing services have been shown to be effective in reducing the number of cars on the road. However, EV carsharing is a risky investment that adds operational constraints that can make a system unsustainable in some cities. The underlying problem is that one-way carsharing systems, like other Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) systems, require some degree of rebalancing to be effective in meeting demand, depending on the service area covered and demand patterns. Through this research, carsharing service providers will gain access to new rebalancing code and test results that measure effectiveness with non-EV and EV systems, thereby reducing operating costs for EV carsharing and other EV-based MOD systems.

Towards Sustainable Coastal Development in the Emirates

Led by Prof. John Burt & Prof. Rana AlMutawa

This project aims to support scientifically informed, more sustainable coastal development in the UAE. To do that, it draws on expertise from the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. The rapid rate of urbanization has reshaped in only a few decades the coastal zone of the whole UAE with profound, still not well documented and understood, repercussions on its inhabitants and the biosphere at large. Using a combination of systematic literature reviews and remote sensing, the project will document changes to coastal zones in the Emirates since the 1990s. Furthermore, it will explore the social implications of recent coastal urbanization through interviews with key societal stakeholders such as fishers, divers, tour operators, coastal developers, industrialists, marine planners, and environmental regulators to understand their perceptions of the social consequences of coastal change in the Emirates. Finally, it will promote more socially and environmentally sustainable coastal development practices for the UAE by developing a combination of policy recommendations and ‘proof of principle’ demonstrations using eco-engineered seawall designs.