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How can digital technology make cities more liveable?

Smart cities can collect data from people, through the devices they carry, the services they use and through sensors embedded in the built environment. The intelligent use of this data has the potential to revolutionise how we live our lives, do our work and socialise, making cities and the built environment easier to manage, more efficient to run and more tailored to the needs of citizens.

But how do we make sure that smart cities are truly human-centred? How do we use our digital data to empower inhabitants rather than corporations? How can we use digital technologies to make cities better and more secure places to live? Join the debate to discuss a future of digitally-enhanced living.

Digital Living sits at the intersection of people, place and technology. Smart cities, big data and the security of digital information all fall under the scope of our studies.

Research teams from a variety of disciplines including architecture, psychology, business, computer and information science and design, are drawn together to explore the digital and urban environment, identifying the problems, opportunities and challenges of our digital cities of the future.

The scope of our projects is wide, with current research looking at CCTV surveillance, ultra-fast broadband, digital urban living and digital civic engagement.

Northumbria has a global reputation within the field, with particular recognition given to our work on human-computer interaction, data fusion, privacy, digital economy and business, and digitally-enabled communities. To date, our researchers have attracted millions of pounds of funding over the last five years from bodies such as Research Councils UK (EPSRC/ESRC/AHRC), the EU, Qatar Science Foundation and Innovate UK.


Digital technology and artificial intelligence is becoming embedded in the objects all around us, from consumer products to the built environment. Our activities and movements are increasingly sensed, digitised and tracked. Much of this by large companies, who then try to profit from data about our activities online and in the world. This data however, is a hugely powerful resource, which can be harnessed for beneficial purposes. Cities are increasingly keen to understand how data might help them to proactively respond to the needs of their inhabitants, and how it might allow them to dynamically provide services, manage resources and enhance security for citizens.

Cities are places where people come together to live, work and socialise. They have, very literally, people at their heart. However, in the rush towards delivering a future, in which we have open access to computing, we are all networked through our smart phones and digital technologies become embedded in buildings, clothing and even people, it may be easy to become fixated on the technical challenges ahead. In doing this, we risk losing sight of some important human concerns. What value does a technology provide for a user? Does it matter if we give up some of our privacy to a large corporation in return for a better digital product or service? How can we use digital technologies to make the experience of living and working in a city a better one?

At Northumbria, we are bringing together world-leading experts in artificial intelligence, information processing/modelling, architecture and the built environment and Human-Computer Interaction to explore the future of the human-centred smart city. 

What do you think? Share your views using #ChangingChallengingWorld

Prof David Kirk

Professor of Digital Living

Department: Computer and Information Sciences


David is Professor of Digital Living in the school of Computer and Information Science. He has a background in Psychology, Ergonomics and Human-Computer Interaction. He is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. 

David is an expert on the Human-Centred Design of interactive technologies. He works across a broad range of application areas, addressing critical issues for future practices of living and working in the digital age. He is currently focusing on Human-Building Interaction and the intersections between interactive digital technologies and the built environment, through the design and development of smart homes, smart device (IoT) technologies and adaptive architectures.

David is the theme lead for Northumbria University’s ‘Digital Living’ Multidisciplinary Research Theme’. He has over 70 peer reviewed publications, 2 awarded patents, and has been an investigator (PI and Co-I) on projects worth more than £5.5M.

Get in touch: / 0191 227 3376


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