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UN-Habitat in Chinese partnership to use AI to create smarter cities

It will work with Chinese partners to explore the use of artificial intelligence in urban and economic development and pave the way for a global alliance of smart cities

The partnership will examine the role of AI in building more efficient cities
The partnership will examine the role of AI in building more efficient cities

UN-Habitat and its Chinese partners are exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in cities to ensure the most efficient use of resources, paving the way for a global alliance on smart cities.


The United Nations agency for human settlements organisation will work with the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPD), a research institution under the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, to look at the use of AI in urban and economic development.


The project aims to promote a high-level dialogue among the top scholars, city leaders, industrial solution providers, urban residents and consumers.


Role of UrbanX Lab


UN-Habitat signed a letter of intent with CAUPD and the project will be mainly undertaken by the UrbanX Lab, which was established in 2018 by CAUPD and the Alibaba Group, a Chinese multi-national conglomerate specialising in e-commerce, retail, internet and technology.


UrbanX Lab works on smart integrated solutions for cities and has led the AI-city system design for Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities covering smart transportation, energy, living and construction, autonomous driving and flexible building management.

"Differing perspectives are vital for providing a broad understanding of smart city solutions"

Entitled, AI for City: The Initiative for Urban Innovation and Sustainable Communities, or AI4City for short, will result ultimately in the setting up of a global platform on AI themes for cities with the private sector known as the Global City Cooperation Alliance.


UN-Habitat and UrbanX Lab have agreed to co-author a report providing a global perspective on AI smart cities based on interviews with AI experts across the world and supplemented by case studies.


Yang Baojun, the dean of CAUPD, said he hoped that the publication would be a source of knowledge on the growing importance of computing for processing large amounts of city data in intelligent ways, and the need for effective measures for data security.


UN Habitat’s head of urban economy and finance branch, Marco Kamiya, emphasised that differing perspectives are vital for providing a broad understanding of smart city solutions. The project will examine global standards and technical indicators on use of AI for cities and develop global guiding questions. A mechanism for regular technical visits and capacity trainings for city leaders will be included.


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