Posted by Rob Knies

CUSP logo

Over the past year, the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), a New York City-based public-private research center created by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in conjunction with New York University, has advanced from creation to gaining traction in its mission of using the city as a living laboratory and classroom to help cities around the world become more productive, livable, equitable, and resilient.

CUSP relies on urban informatics—the acquisition, integration, and analysis of data to understand and improve urban systems and the quality of city life.

Over the past year, Microsoft Research New York City has advanced from creation to gaining traction in its mission to advance the state of the art in computational and behavioral social sciences, computational economics and prediction markets, machine learning, and informational retrieval.

See any parallels there? You’re not the only one.

Therefore, it just seems right that, on April 11, during a ribbon-cutting event in Brooklyn, Microsoft was named a lead sponsor for the CUSP partnership, which aims to address key challenges facing cities, including technology integration, energy efficiency, congested transportation, and public safety.

Over the next three years, Microsoft will contribute a combination of cash, in-kind services, software, and computing expertise to support CUSP. Specifically, Windows Azure will help CUSP and its partners improve city infrastructure by delivering elastic-scale storage and computing services that are quick to deploy and easy to manage. Along with researchers from Microsoft Research New York City, the best and brightest data scientists from Microsoft Research’s New England, Redmond, and Asia labs also will provide big-data and machine-learning expertise on various CUSP projects and help develop academic materials, internships, and curricula to create a unique, data-driven educational program.

“Microsoft is incredibly excited to be able to apply our expertise in big data to some of the most compelling problems in urban computing—from fundamental research questions to practical questions that can impact cities and societies worldwide,”  said Jennifer Chayes, managing director of Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City.  “We are thrilled to be working with our colleagues at CUSP, the agencies of the great city of New York, and our partners, using machine learning, information retrieval, data visualization, and social-science approaches to data science to find new ways to analyze, navigate, and protect the privacy of urban data and to use these to drive new insights and solutions.”

Chayes attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with Christian Borgs, deputy managing director of Microsoft Research New England, and David Pennock, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research New York City.

The partnership fits Microsoft Research like a glove. Its labs have taken leadership roles in the analysis, visualization, and understanding of big data. It collaborates openly and often with the scientific and academic communities. Microsoft Research can help indicate where computing is going and how it can help solve the world’s toughest problems.

All these attributes should prove complementary to CUSP’s plan to advance scientific discovery and research to improve urban infrastructure and to assist in city planning.

“The problems that CUSP is designed to address, ranging from urban sustainability to easy citizen access to personalized information, are exciting from the research side and have been the hallmark of Microsoft Research’s eScience work in recent years,” says Tony Hey,  vice president of Microsoft Research Connections. “I also am excited about the rich collaboration this will foster between the CUSP faculty, students, and Microsoft Research.

“This effort will not only benefit New York City, but also will point the way toward the future of computing.”