Journal of Transportation Technologies, 2011, 1, 31-33
doi:10.4236/jtts.2011.13005 Published Online July 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Urban Space with Instant and Ubiquitous Access
Critical Question: How Could Emerging Ubiquitous Access Technologies Help us to Achieve a
Sustainable Global Urban System in a Ubiquitous Technology Space?
Tschangho John Kim
University of Il l i nois at Urbana-C ha mpaign, Champaign, USA
Received April 9, 2011; revised May 7, 2011; accepted May 16, 201 1
According to the United Nations, the world will need to build new cities and/or expand existing cities to ac-
commodate about 1.6 billion additional urban residents by 2030. This rapid trend is the result of many com-
plex socio-economic and political factors, and poses unprecedented challenges to the functioning of cities
and the quality of life for urban dwellers. The resources needed for accommodating new urban dwellers will
be enormous. Can emerging information, communication and ubiquitous access technologies help us to
achieve a sustainable global urban system in a ubiquitous technology space, mitigating the consumption of
scarce resources?
Keywords: Ubiquito us Access Technology, Ubiquitous Technology Space, Sustainable Global Cities, Future
1. Introduction
The ability of individuals to interact and participate in
activities relies on location information and access to it.
As interactions among individuals become more com-
plex as in urban areas, there has been and will be ever
growing need for location and access information. These
information will play vital roles in providing effective
collaboration for personal and social productivity, and
ultimately affect the socio-economic and behavioral pat-
terns in an urban area.
A plethora of information and communication tech-
nologies (ICTs) are available, and alternative new tech-
nologies are emerging. Ubiquitous access technologies
are relatively new sets of concepts, practices, and stan-
dards. The emergence of the technologies need to be
understood within a broader context of both paradigm
changes in computing technologies—from centralized to
distributed, mobile, and ubiquitous computing—and the
advancement of ICTs including ubiquitous geographic
information (UBGI), radio-frequency id entification (RFID),
location-based services (LBS), global positioning sys-
tems (GPS) and sensing technologies.
The advancement of ICTs in last decades brought a
negative impact on society, the digital divide. Before the
division, most people would share much of the same
information. But now people without access to ICTs can
be isolated living in non-intersecting worlds with distinct
sets of socio-economic patterns. Ubiquitous access tech-
nologies will positively impact society on a large scale if
it becomes pervasive, by allowing more people in more
places to have access to more powerful tools. These tech-
nologies could motivate people to interact with one an-
other and digital apartheid typically segregating space
and places could be integrated.
The problems caused by greater dispersal of urban ac-
tivities, which have led to increased distances from home
to jobs, shops, schools and leisure facilities, can be miti-
gated by pervasive use of ubiquitous access technologies.
Congestion caused urban Americans to travel 4.2 billion
hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons
of fuel for a congestion cost of $78 billion in 2005. In
addition to this cost in time and money, traffic that is
slowed by congestion causes a great deal of pollution.
These emissions kill 30,000 people each year1 in the
U.S., and car collisions kill an additional 40,000 in 2007.
1 [Accessed on October
5, 2010]
32 T. J. KIM
2. Foreseeable Scenarios
Pervasive use of these technologies could save resources
in the forthcoming decades of global urbanization. By
2010, more than half th e world’ s populatio n live in urban
areas and the world population will reach 8.2 billion by
2030 with more than 60 percent of this total expected to
live in urban areas. This means it is necessary to build
new cities over the next 25 years, or to expand the ex ist-
ing metropolitan areas to become megacities to accom-
modate 1.65 billion additional urban residents. This rapid
trend are the result of many complex economic, social,
demographic, and political factors and pose unprece-
dented challenges to the functioning of cities and the
quality of life for urban dwellers. The resources needed
for accommodating new urban dwellers will be enor-
mous. An important question is can an urban area be
The full deployment of ubiquitous access technologies,
coupled with other ICTs, would reduce energy consump-
tion, and would decrease particulate emissions and con-
gestion in cities by finding and providing an optimized
path between origins and destinations, through delivering
and receiving such path information services wirelessly,
thus mitigating unnecessary travel. These behavioral
changes can also reduce the side effects of travel such as
greenhouse gases, accidents, and superfluous transporta-
tion infrastructure. The advancement of mobile and sta-
ble sensing and access technologies, along with new
widespread economic activities generated and governed
by information networks, provide scientists and engi-
neers with powerful tools for preparing and supporting
innovative urban strategies that promote sustainability
and informed decision-making. These promise increased
convenience, awareness, transparency, and access to in-
formation, as well as social opportunities that break with
traditional power structures yet reduce the consumption
of scarce resources by receiving and delivering services
anywhere at any time in a ubiquitous technology space.
3. Challenges
Scientists and engineers, and particularly urban planners
and geographers, have been searching for ways to dra-
matically transform the way the urban environment is
designed, managed, and run. As policy for urban man-
agement moves from a centralized, top-down approach
to a decentralized and bottom-up perspective, our con-
ception of urban systems needs to be changed [1]. The
instant and ubiquitous access technologies could greatly
increase the ability of scientists to create transformative
changes in the consumption of scarce urban resources
and energy use to reduce pollution with minimum social
costs. Defining urban sustainability as acceptable levels
of social costs associated with the daily activities and
physical movements of people and goods, then the key
social costs that burden the economy at large are related
to the use and misuse of scarce urban land, the decay of
environmental quality, traffic accidents, and traffic con-
gestion. Instant and ubiquitous access technologies could
be key in helping us to achieve a sustainable global ur-
ban system in a ubiquitous techno logy space.
Advances in science and technology, particularly in
the past century, have significantly contributed to the
evolution of cities and welfare of citizens [2]. In recent
decades, many important new discoveries spearheaded
by evolution of ICTs have contributed enhancing the
quality of life for millions of individuals. However, the
potential for science and technology to ameliorate or
solve the problems of the world's multiplying cities has
not been realized. A much broader and interdisciplinary
research is needed on how the range of existing techno-
logical and scientific research findings can be translated
into actions at the national, regional and local leve ls.
The main research agenda for future urban settlements
is to conserve scarce resources by utilizing the ubiqui-
tous access and the emergence of pervasive ICTs and to
identify ways for existing cities to grow in a more sus-
tainable and intelligent manner. The rapid convergence
of ubiquitous and cloud computing technologies, and
ICTs is raising the possibility of a dramatic transforma-
tion in the way we perceive and move about the urban
environment, and how we interact with each other in
urban spaces. Facing the following paradigm shifts from
the traditional urban space to the ubiquitous technology
space would be challenging tasks for scientists and engi-
From street-oriented to information-oriented,
From economy of scale to economy of scope,
From centralized information to distributed infor-
From standardization to customization,
From efficiency-oriented to quality-oriented,
From regularity to flexibility, and
From distance-oriented to time-oriented.
4. Unanswered Questions
Toward answering the underlying critical question of
how could emerging ubiquitous access technologies help
us to achieve a sustainable global urban system in a ubiq-
uitous technology space, a host of challenging questions
should be answered. Examples of such questions are:
1 Would the instant and ubiquitous access technolo-
gies and other ICTs become centripetal or centrifugal
forces that affect the shape of urban areas?
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
2 Will the ubiquitous technologies change research
domain for human settlements, particularly in urban ar-
eas, and if so how?
3 Will the scarce urban resources be saved, and if so,
how much?
4 What will be changes in individual behaviors and
what will be implication of such changes on collective
behavior in urban areas?
5 What would be implications to the pub lic policy?
6 Will the ubiquitous access technologies enhance the
function of city or eliminate face-to-face interactions and
make cities obsolete?
7 Will ubiquitous access technologies help with re-
duction of the use fossil oil and enhance the environment,
and if so, how much?
5. Capacity Building
The improvement of existing cities, as well as planning
for future urban settlements, needs to become a new pri-
ority discipline in which expertise is developed by inter-
disciplinary collaborations among a wide range of disci-
plines, including the physical sciences, urban planning,
engineering, human health, ecology, economics, geog-
raphy, architecture, sociology, po litical science and com-
puter science. This part of the white paper is heavily
drawn from the statement by seventy-two of the World's
Scientific Academies2.
Cross-disciplinary Education and Training: The nature
and complexity of challenges of urban settlements in-
herently require integrated efforts among education, re-
search, and operational institutions. A new set of cross-
disciplinary curricula will educate a cadre of future so-
cial scientists, engineers and urban planners. Inter-disci-
plinary research is necessary not only to produce new
2Science and Technology and the Future of Cities, A Statement by
Seventy-Two of the World’s Scientific Academies, June 1996, from [Accessed on October 5, 2010].
knowledge, but to build the capacity to assess, absorb,
and use technology and experien ce developed elsewhere.
Non-technological Institutional Elements: A new set
of challenging non-technical issues includes legal frame
works, including property ownership and the protection
of intellectual property, effective and flexible standards,
institutions for efficient mobilization of capital resources,
tax and regulatory structures which are conducive to in-
novative solutions to urban challenges.
International Cooperation: The sustainability of cities
in the decades to co me requires a better understand ing of
the complex interactions among environmental, eco-
nomic, political, social and cultural factors at local, re-
gional, and global levels. Global urban problems cannot
be solved in isolation. Developing and sharing informa-
tion and technologies will be necessary since innovative
solutions developed in one city can be applied to other
cities. International assistance should be provided for
capacity building of local scientific and technological
expertise. The worldwide scientific community should
work together and with political and managerial decision
makers to identify and implement innovative solutions
for meeting the challenges faced by the rapid global ur-
banization trend and the emerging ubiquitous access and
other related technologies.
6. References
[1] Michael Batty, “Cities and Complexity,” The MIT Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005.
[2] Tschangho John Kim, Matthew Claus, Joseph S. Rank
and Yu Xiao, “Technology and Cities: Processes of
Technology-Land Substitution in the 20th Century,”
Journal of Urban Technology, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2009, pp.
[3] Harvey J. Miller, “Societies and Cities in the Age of In-
stant Access,” Springer, Berlin, 2007.
iThis is a revised version of a white paper submitted to the National
Science Foundation as a possible future research for 2020 in the Social,
Behavioral and Econom ic Sciences. All other white papers submitted to
NSF in 2010 can be seen in