People and Community Research

Smart Cities Miami Conference to examine climate crisis, impact of the pandemic

The forum, to be held this week at the School of Architecture, will address topics that include how the pandemic intensified smart city infrastructure and practices and how it renewed the interest and investment in virtual reality.
Smart Cities

How have cities adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Has urban planning and zoning changed to meet the mounting threats of the climate crisis? 

Will the trends of working from home continue as teleconferencing technology explodes? 

These are some of the topics that will be addressed at “The Post-Pandemic Smart City: Automation, Decentralization, Virtualization” conference during the 2022 Smart Cities Miami Conference at the University of Miami. 

A collaboration between the School of Architecture and the Institute for Data Science and Computing, the conference will be held on Thursday and Friday, May 19-20, at the School of Architecture’s Glasglow Hall. The first session begins at 1:30 p.m. 

“With each new edition of the conference, we like to bring relevant trending topics to the table,” said Rudolph el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture. “This translates into new interlocutors and business partners. This year, we are highlighting automation, robotics, and extended reality, or XR, given their precipitated growth during the pandemic years. We are excited to welcome leaders in these thriving fields to our forum.” 

The topic of climate change and how to mitigate its effects will be discussed during several panels. 

The conference programming is meant to aid in the design and development of more sustainable, livable, and resilient cities, by delving into the latest in urban planning, architecture, and engineering in alignment with computational resources and analytical methods, according to conference organizers. 

It also will provide a forum for leaders in academia, industry, and government to examine evolving theories and practices in the Smart City field. 

This year’s keynote speaker will be Skylar Tibbits, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-director and founder of the Self-Assembly Lab housed at MIT’s International Design Center. The Self-Assembly Lab focuses on self-assembly and programmable material technologies for novel manufacturing, products, and construction processes. 

Among the topics on the agenda are: 

  • How the pandemic intensified smart city infrastructure and practices.
  • How the pandemic response accelerated the adoption of automation and robotics.
  • Will work-at-home and decentralization be lasting consequences of the pandemic, given the leap in telepresence and conferencing technology?
  • How the pandemic renewed the interest and investment in virtual reality. Is the rapid development of the “metaverse” a consequence of COVID-19?
  • How will the new transformative technology and practices impact individual rights and privacy? 

One topic that will be explored during several of the discussions is the growth of artificial reality, or AR, and virtual reality, or VR. Ruth Ron, a lecturer at the School of Architecture, will participate in the “From Zoom to Extended Reality” panel that will explore the integration of these technologies into the metaverse, a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

“As an architect, I see the design of virtual spaces as an extension of the domain of architecture,” Ron said. “I would like our students to learn theory and technical skills in AR and VR, and to develop a responsible conscious approach to the future metaverse.” 

The second day of the conference is programmed in collaboration with the presenting sponsor Conconcreto LLC, a Colombian construction company that has recently established a base in South Florida and funded a research unit at the School or Architecture.

The spotlight will be on the school’s construction management program and focuses on recent developments in Building Information Modeling (BIM). 

The session will feature experts from the U.S. and Colombia, including participants from Autodesk, the leading BIM company. The conference will conclude with a closed session moderated by el-Khoury that looks at the future of the building industry. 

Visit to register for the conference or to get more information.