UNSW has launched a new Master of City Analytics course designed to assist urban planners, engineers and built environment experts with interpreting big data on cities.

Housing availability is under strain from a rapidly growing population in cities, requiring urban planners to harness big data and new technologies to design for the future.

UNSW’s new Master of City Analytics will teach course participants how to interpret big data to understand and predict the issues affecting overcrowded cities, from transport congestion to air pollution and population migration.

According to UNSW’s inaugural Professor of Urban Science Chris Pettit, who is leading the degree, by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet using around 44 zetabytes of data. He believes a major part of this data can be harnessed to plan cities better.

Offered by UNSW Built Environment, the degree will equip students with the skills to analyse big data and open data, as well as develop a comprehensive understanding of geodesign, geocomputation, scientific programming, modelling and simulation, visualisation and virtual reality.

UNSW’s partnership with King’s College London (KCL) and Arizona State University (ASU) in the Plus Alliance will provide opportunities for students to work with international data sets collated as part of a research project led by Professor Pettit and a team of Plus Alliance researchers. Big data on how people commute in London, Phoenix and Sydney is currently being analysed to see how it can inform the design of more accessible and sustainable cities.

Pettit says each of the Plus Alliance universities has experts in relevant, complementary areas: KCL leads in air quality monitoring, ASU is skilled in advanced geographic modelling and UNSW excels in housing dynamics. The long-term vision is to offer online courses on city analytics across all three universities in the future.

Students will also have the opportunity to contribute to UNSW City Futures Research Centre’s existing data, which is stored on the Centre’s interactive City Viz and City Dashboard.

The first intake for the Master of City Analytics will be in Semester One, 2018. Register for the Postgraduate Information Evening on Wednesday 10 May to learn more about the degree.