SENSEable Cities: Exploring Urban Futures

Exhibition Description
Since 2003, MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory [] has been investigating how emerging digital technologies can be employed to make cities more livable, sustainable and efficient. We recognize that the digital revolution has lent our cities a new layer of functionality and that now is the time to explore how sensors, cellphones, micro-controllers and networks of other handheld devices can be used to more effectively manage city infrastructure, optimize transportation, analyze our environmental impact and foster new communities.

In this, the first retrospective of the lab’s work, we have chosen 15 past projects that represent the potentials of this new world of pervasive computing. A collection of works from MoMA, Venice Biennale, Expo 2008, and Design Museum Barcelona. The work ranges from a pollution-sensing e-bike, to tiny sensors that can detect the final journey of trash in the waste removal system, and from real time visualizations of calling patterns during Obama’s Inaugural speech to a new smart building from the London 2012 Olympics.

Below are a few projects included in the exhibition:

Copenhagen Wheel

Cars have GPS and traffic awareness; now bicycles can, too. But the Copenhagen Wheel has a new feature no ordinary auto navigation awareness has: it can track pollution awareness as well – in real time. The state of the art hybrid bike also saves power when you pedal and lets you use it when you need a bit of a boost. Copenhagen Wheel is an example of the city data dialog taken to the next level – beyond dialog to interactive decision making.

New York Talk Exchange

Exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York Talk Exchange asks the question: How does the city of New York connect to the global conversation? Using phone and IT data, the images reveal the real time connections between various boroughs and the countries they connect to.


The iSpots project maps the dynamics of MIT’s wireless networks across campus, revealing the ebb and flow of daily life.

Obama One People

For President Obama’s 100th day in office, MIT SENSEable City Lab created visualizations of mobile phone call activity that characterize the inaugural crowd and answer the questions: Who was in Washington, D.C. for President Obama’s inauguration day? When did they arrive, where did they go, and how long did they stay?


Through partnership with mobile operators, Current Cities reveals the inner workings of a city through text messages, articulating the life of Amsterdam, here, These images depict the volume and intensity of text messages during on New Year’s Eve day and night.

Trash Track

Have you ever wondered where your trash goes? MIT researchers attached tags to trash to track it. Some trash is provincial – expiring not far from home, while other objects travel great distances to be disposed of.Trash Track has received wide attention in the national and international press. It has been deployed in several U.S. cities, including Seattle and New York.

–Complete List of Projects–

future NENEL / 2010
flyfire / 2010
the cloud / 2009
AIDA / 2009
the copenhagen wheel / 2009
trash track / 2009
currentcity /2009
spacebook / 2009
eyestop /2009
obama | one people / 2009
world’s eyes / 2009
real time copenhagen / 2008
digital water pavilion /2008
NYTE / 2008
The wireless City /2007
wikicity rome / 2007
wikiCity / 2007
venice biennale / 2006
real time rome /2006
zaragoza bus stop / 2006
tsunami_safe(r) houses / 2005
mobile Landscape Graz / 2005
iSPOTS / 2005
Raster Cities /2005
A.C. Milan / 2004
Sandscape / 2004
Illuminating Clay / 2004
Phoxelspace / 2004
Programmable Window / 2004
Cannes Reloaded /2004


Carlo Ratti / Director
Assaf Biderman / Associate Director

–Current Researchers–

Clio Andris, German W Aparicio Jr., Rex Britter, Francesco Calabrese, Filippo Dal Fiore, Giusy Di Lorenzo, Jennifer Dunnam, Xiaoji Chen, Carnaven Chiu, Luigi Farrauto, Cesar Harada, Lindsey Hoshaw, E Roon Kang, Kristian Kloeckl, Aaron Koblin, David Lee, Eugene Lee, Mauro Martino, Vincenzo Mazoni, Stephen Miles, Mahsan Mohsenin, Sey Min, Nashid Nabian, Walter Nicolino, Dietmar Offenhuber, Christine Outram, Francisco Pereira, Santi Phithakkitnukoon, Adam Pruden, Francisca Rojas, Christian Somner, Bettina Urcuioli, Malima Wolf, Caitlin Zacharias

–Past Researchers–

Alan Anderson, Burak Arikan, Dima Ayyash, Euro Beinat, Luis Berríos-Negrón, Daniel Berry, Andrea Cassi, Natalia Duque Ciceri, Enrico Costanza, Pedro Correia, Talia Dorsey, Sarah Dunbar, Samantha Earl, Paula Echeverri, Chris Fematt, Lucie Boyce Flather, Saba Ghole, Fabien Girardin, Lewis Girod, Gabriel Grise, Daniel Gutierrez, Tim Gutowski, Margaret Ellen Haller, Alex Haw, Bartosz Hawelka, Guy Hoffman, Teerayut Horanont, Sonya Huang, Myshkin Ingawale, Sarabjit Kaur, Jan Kokol, Sriram Krishnan, Xiongjiu Liao, Alyson Liss, Liang Liu, Jia Lou, David Lu, Andrea Mattiello, Justin Moe, Eugenio Morello, Kenneth Namkung, Kevin Nattinger, Sarah Neilson, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Yaniv Ophir, James Patten, Jill Passano, Fabio Pinelli, Riccardo Pulselli, Pietro Pusceddu, François Proulx, Daniele Quercia, Martin Ramos, Rahul Rajagopalan, Jon Reades, Bernd Resch, Renato Rinaldi, Susannes Seitinger, Andres Sevtsuk, Louis Sirota, Najeeb Marc Tarazi, Bo Stjerne Thomsen, Musstanser Tinauli, Andrea Vaccari, Kenny Verbeeck, Yao Wang, Sarah Williams, Shaocong Zhou

–Advisory Board–

Eran Ben-Joseph, Rex Britter, Gillian Crampton Smith, Joseph Ferreira, Dennis Frenchman, Hiroshi Ishii, Michael Joroff, Bruno Latour, Frank Levy, William J. Mitchell, Antoine Picon, Adele Santos, Saskia Sassen, Lawrence Vale, Mirko Zardini