A city planning app that allows citizens to participate in the redesign and improvement of their cities has been recognised with the Shape Your Future Award at the 2020 Amazon Web Services (AWS) City on a Cloud competition.

Developed by the University of Wollongong SMART Infrastructure Facility in partnership with Danish company Arki_Lab, the city planning app ArkiCity encourages users to take a picture of their city, make a collage and upload it to the cloud platform. These ideas of city improvement are gathered in a single place to facilitate a digital town meeting where they are discussed in an interactive environment.

With ArkiCity, citizens have the freedom to engage in the planning and redesign of their cities through smartphone apps and gamification. The app has been downloaded by more than 300 users and over 500 submissions have been made to the platform.

SMART’s director and senior professor Pascal Perez said it was a major achievement for the team as SMART was the only Australian institution to win from the three shortlisted Australian submissions. Perez acknowledged the contribution of Arki_Lab to the success of the app, as they brought the initial concept to SMART and provided their unique field experience to develop user-friendly and fit-for-purpose tools.

“It is also outstanding work by SMART’s project leader Dr Mehrdad Amirghasemi, who now has two awards for this app.”

Work on the ArkiCity app began in 2016 with researchers from SMART in partnership with three New South Wales local government councils from Wollongong, Liverpool, and Canterbury-Bankstown. 

According to Dr Amirghasemi, ArkiCity is designed to enable citizens to contribute to the (re)design of their neighbourhood in a playful and exciting way. By acting as a bridge between citizens and decision-makers, the app aims to completely change the traditional process of urban design and development, he explained.

“ArkiCity is a smartphone application that allows everyone to engage in the transformation of their city,” he said.

“By taking a picture, making a collage and uploading it on the web, ideas of improvement are gathered on a single platform where people can interact and elaborate.

“The award will enable the use of AWS cloud-based micro-services to perform intelligent image analysis and text processing on the entire database of users’ submissions. This will derive further insights for decision-makers and city planners,” he added.

Since 2014, the AWS City on a Cloud competition has been recognising projects from across the globe that have positively impacted communities. The Shape Your Future Award celebrates projects that lead to growth and transformational thinking around the world.

Finalists from more than 14 countries were included in this year’s competition, with winning submissions ranging from building telehealth solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and improving farmers’ quality of life, to increasing computer science education. Selected by a panel of independent judges, the winners were awarded $20,000 in AWS Promotional Credit along with support from AWS Cloud experts to help progress their projects and make the most of their cloud solution.

Images: Supplied