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SCSE PhD Student paper highlighted by MIT Technology Review

Published on: 31-May-2018

Mr. Aike Alexander Steentoft has just started his PhD studies at SCSE, NTU and is already making an impact. His recent journal paper entitled, The Canary in the City: Indicator Groups as Predictors of Urban Change”, has been selected as one of the most thought provoking papers at the MIT Technology Review (

“As cities grow, certain neighborhoods experience a particularly high demand for housing, resulting in escalating rents. Despite far-reaching socioeconomic consequences, it remains difficult to predict when and where urban neighborhoods will face such changes. To tackle this challenge, we adapt the concept of `bioindicators', borrowed from ecology, to the urban context. The objective is to use an `indicator group' of people to assess the quality of a complex environment and its changes over time. Specifically, we analyze 92 million geolocated Twitter records across five US cities, allowing us to derive socio-economic user profiles based on individual movement patterns. As a proof-of-concept, we define users with a `high-income-profile' as an indicator group and show that their visitation patterns are a suitable indicator for expected future rent increases in different neighborhoods. The concept of indicator groups highlights the potential of closely monitoring only a specific subset of the population, rather than the population as a whole. If the indicator group is defined appropriately for the phenomenon of interest, this approach can yield early predictions while simultaneously reducing the amount of data that needs to be collected and analyzed.”

Aike Steentoft is a PhD student at SCSE, NTU and a researcher in the ‘Urban Complexity’ project at the Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore-ETH Centre. His main research interest is in extracting knowledge from large-scale image datasets to gain socioeconomic insights. He applies methods from complexity science and machine learning.

Mr. Steentoft is supervised by Adj. Asst. Prof. Markus Schläpfer (Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore-ETH Centre) and co-supervised by A/Prof. Bu-Sung Lee, SCSE, NTU.

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