Technology in Urban Planning

“Urban Planning is described as a technical or political process concerned with the development, and use of land, welfare of people, planning permission, design of the urban environment including transportation and communication networks, protection and enhancement of the natural environment”.

Modern urban planning ascended as a profession in the beginning of the 20th century, largely as a response to the appalling sanitary, social, and economic conditions of rapidly-growing industrial cities. Initially the disciplines of architecture and civil engineering provided the nucleus of concerned professionals. They were joined by public health specialists, economists, sociologists, lawyers, and geographers, as the complexities of managing cities came to be more fully understood.

The urban planning deals with the development of both open land (greenfield system) and the existing part of the cities (Brownfield systems). It involves goal settings, data collection, analysis, forecasting, and public consultation. Increasingly the technology of GIS (Geographic information system) and GPS (Global positioning system) are used to map the existing urban system to project the consequences and ongoing changes in the development of these urban systems.

Rapid urbanization and urban growth in India is causing an exodus of population from rural to urban and semi-urban areas. By 2050 it is estimated that half of the population in India will be residing in the urban cities. Urban planning in India evolved during the period from 1991 to 2001, due to the increase in the number of metropolitan cities which in turn has resulted in the shortage of water supply, waste disposal, sewerages and  healthcare centers.

Urban planning is a framework that helps leaders transform vision into implementation, using space as a key resource for development and engaging stakeholders along the way.

Use of technology in urban planning:

Technology can be a great benefit for those working in urban planning. It boosts productivity for design and urban planning teams,increases team collaboration, citizen engagement, accuracy and data driven processes. With rapid growth, climate change, expanding urban lines and gentrification, it’s important to have a better resource plan and design for cities which are under threat. Some of the technologies that can be used to improve urban planning are:

  1. Technology features allows the Urban Planners to create a database with the help of cloud applications to get the details of urban and semi urban areas. It assists in planning infrastructure development in the areas where there is scope of development.
  2. Internet connectivity: With the implementation of internet connectivity and Wi-fi cables around the cities, it’s easier for a person to work from home and other locations reducing the commute times and improving traffic congestions.
  3. Internet of things: Due to the declining cost of sensors, our government is focusing on improving the efficiency and services, where IoT is allowing cities to implement real time data-driven management across urban systems, including water, energy, waste and transportation. Most of the basic IoT tools have been there around for years, including the smart streetlights, which switch off when no one is present to conserve energy or send automatic notifications when the light is not there. Building on these IoT solutions, cities are expanding their programs to enhance the urban infrastructure.
  4. Planning: Urban planners use modern technologies and open data to design and create inclusive communities. Tools such as the National Equity Atlas and Metro Pulse help planners to create a sense of demographic data, and economic benefits. By using these tools, planners and urban designers can spend more time on planning tasks and can confidently create space that will be inclusive, vibrant for both residents and for businesses.
  5. Using GIS (Geographic information system) in urban planning: This technology used in urban planning is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present a variety of spatial and geographical data. Urban planning requires many layers of detail on a single map and one of the features of GIS is multilayered mapping. A municipal planning committee can use GIS to see a variety of different things, including prime agricultural land, surface water, high flood frequency. This multilayered capability can make a significant difference when developing an area. In future 4D Mapping will help the urban designers and planners to develop an area in the city.
  6. Virtual Reality Technologies: It is a technological tool in the field of simulation that represents reality through artificial means. Its contribution to urban planning is the modelling of urban environments in 3-D, using computers with advanced visualization techniques, allowing the visuals of urban areas in different perspectives and approaches in a graphic environment. It allows prior evaluation of environmental impacts caused due to a specific place and helps make decisions in urban planning.
  7. Remote sensing system: allows gathering information about a place or a plot without physical contact. Some of the systems includes aerial photography and satellite images. These technologies allow detecting the changes in the use of soil, identify the growth of the urban sprawl and natural resources, and mainly helps in monitoring and controlling the disproportionate growth of the cities.
  8. Using alternative fuels and technologies for transport vehicles: such as natural gas, bio-fuels, hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid vehicles which will help reduce the traffic congestion and pollution.
  9. Management and disposal of cities solid waste:
  • Systems of waste classification: technologies such as the separation of municipal solid waste, for either its recycling or other disposition, is carried out. These systems allow the reduction of common landfills, fostering the reuse and recycling of materials, reducing the volumes of materials to be incinerated and implementing biological and compost systems in rural and urban areas.
  • Aerobic processing of waste.
  • Using sensors and other devices such as GPS and GIS systems to reduce waste helps the urban planners to decide and create a space for the city dwellers.
  1. Automation systems in buildings (ASB): help optimize air conditioning and central heating systems, alarms and security systems, artificial lighting systems, energy saving, control of equipment and electromechanical,electrical and electronic installations by means of “intelligent” control devices.
  2. Regulators and controllers of earthquakes:  these are electromechanical devices that control the friction between connections in buildings, when there is an earthquake. This system permits reducing costs in designing and constructing the structures of the buildings, allows a better operation and structural behavior.

Urban growth and technology are the two major factors in designing an urban area. It is estimated that by 2050 half of the Indian population will be living in urban areas. Be it homes, work space, utilities, or transport there is a recognition that urban space is finite and the use of technology in this space will help the planners and designers create a beautiful city with all the facilities.

With better planning, integrated design and technologies, cities will get transformed into green, safe and smart spaces.

Sourced from:

Planning Indian Cities Utilities and the Futilities of the Master Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

Phathak, V. K. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

Technology is shaping urban planning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from

Lapointe, S. (n.d.). 5 Ways Technology Can Improve Urban Design. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from


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