RF Spectrum – An unseen, under-valued, much-used resource…

September 1st, 2020|

The Urban Flows Observatory is concerned with the use of resources in our urban environments. The goal is to understand and demonstrate ways in which they might be used more sustainably. One such resource we hardly give a thought to is something that many of us now use, that less than a generation before we didn't, and certainly not to the same extent. We use it to do almost everything, from ordering a taxi, or a pizza, to paying our [...]

As Sheffield Danced In and Out of the Lockdown

August 3rd, 2020|

The effects of the recent and still ongoing pandemic have been manifested in several ways across the UK. Deserted streets on a Monday morning does not only signify the sudden stop of most (if not all) activities, but is also a measure of how quickly and effectively local and national authorities managed to spread the message. Road traffic is a fine proxy for economic activity and, while for a direct look onto economic activities we may need to wait for data on monetary transactions, for the traffic, we can enjoy real time coverage. The Urban Flows Observatory, in collaboration with Sheffield City Council, tracks the traffic evolution in the city of Sheffield through a network of 600+ sensors.

Building Designers: Your building data is needed!

July 23rd, 2020|

With the built environment contributing around 40% of the UK’ total carbon footprint, the construction industry has an undeniable key role to play in the UK’s journey towards sustainability. We need data on building projects (both newly built and retrofit) so that we can evaluate the circular economic potential of existing buildings and benchmark their circularity potential.

Air Pollution and the Air Quality Sensor Farm

February 26th, 2020|

Air pollution in large cities has become one of the hottest topics in environmental issues. According to a recent report, it caused 6.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015. Furthermore, poor air quality causes premature mortality, hospital admissions, allergic reactions, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. It is reported that air pollution has strong links with dementia, causing 850,000 people [...]

Talking about Air Quality at the Blue Dot Festival

November 3rd, 2019|

The Blue Dot Festival is the biggest science and music festival I have ever attended. In 2018 it had almost 16,000 attendees with over 80 science and culture talks, and 50 further exhibitions, shows and workshops. Knowing the numbers did not prepare me for the experience. I greatly enjoyed it despite the unstoppable rain. It was so much more than I imagined and I was pleasantly surprised. Article by Phebe Linette, PhD Student and Grantham Scholar, University of Sheffield   [...]

Upcoming Events

This one-day symposium hosted by the University of Sheffield will bring together international researchers and practitioners to share leading work progressing towards a circular built environment.

The event aims to facilitate meaningful, bi-directional knowledge transfer and discussion between researchers and practitioners on techniques to both implement and assess circularity within the built environment.

It will be made up of keynote speakers, shorter oral presentations and poster sessions, and we actively encourage attendance of researchers and practitioners from across the built environment and at all career stages.

Find out more about how you can get involved and register your interest in attending here.

More events coming soon…

Past Events

Urbans Flows Observatory and Sheffield Technology Parks are offering funding and support for new software that can help Sheffield become more sustainable, happy and healthy. At a hackathon in November Sheffield’s creative and tech experts are invited to working with datasets linked to the city’s energy and resource flows. Successful ideas from the day will get a share of £50,000 worth of funding.

Taking place on 22 and 23 November (venue TBC) the hackathon is free to join and gives you the chance to work with real data relating to the city’s energy and resource usage.

This work is part of a three-year, multi-million Euro international academic collaboration being carried out the Urban Flows Observatory at the University of Sheffield. In 2017 Urban Flows launched a competition to design prototypes for capturing new data on the city’s temperature, humidity and air pressure. Now they are looking for practical solutions that will put this data to work.

Successful teams will receive funding for their ideas plus a package of support from Sheffield Technology Parks.

This isn’t just for technical experts; Urban Flows wants a whole range of different skills and perspectives on the project. Teams should have a wide skill set including frontend, backend, commercial acumen and project management skills. You can apply as an individual, in which case you’ll be put with a project team, or you can apply as a ready-formed team.

Further information and details on how to apply can be found here.

Urban Flows will be on the road this summer at BlueDot Festival 2019! Join us and representatives from the Grantham Centre and ACSE to find out how tracking flow through the festival site can help us understand how cities work. Try our Virtual Reality headsets, Thermal Cameras, and LIDAR mapping to develop your own real-time data and analysis of the Festival. See you there!

Interested in air quality? Join us for an afternoon of talks and discussions from leading researchers, academics and policy makers in air pollution.
We will be providing a platform for bridging the disciplinary gaps through scholarly dialogue and interdisciplinary exchange.

Urban Flows, together with the Urban Institute and The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures are collaborating on the University of Sheffield’s first symposium dedicated to understanding more about air quality and the ways we can influence policy and decision making in our cities to reduce the impact of air

More info coming soon!

Air pollution is on the increase across our planet and has serious health implications for us all. So how big a problem is it? What can we do to stop it? And how can we protect ourselves from its harmful effects? Find the answers to these questions and get hands-on with science in a ‘fresh’ citizen-science project on air quality. Attendees will get to build and take home their own Raspberry-Pi powered air quality monitors, and be part of a pioneering research project.


Date & Time: Thursday 16th May, 17:30-19:00

Location: Lecture Theatre 2, Hicks Building, 226 Hounsfield Road, Sheffield, S3 7RH

This event is a part of the Festival of Debate: www.festivalofdebate.com

Due to decades of over-borrowing from our planet’s natural assets, an environmental collapse is imminent. Everything from clothes to packaging follows a life of ‘take-use-dispose’. By adopting a circular economy, we can reduce the amount of waste we produce. Can this be achieved? Who is responsible? What can be done?


Prof. Tony Ryan OBE (Chair, The University of Sheffield)
Prof. Lenny Koh (The University of Sheffield)
Kevin Vyse (On Pack Recycling Label)
Mary Creagh (MP for Wakefield)
Maya De Souza (DEFRA)

Date & Time: Saturday 4th May, 14:00 – 16:30

Location: The Diamond, 32 Leavygreave Road, MindSphere Lounge, Sheffield, S3 7RD

A workshop has been organised in conjunction with “Clean Air Sheffield” and “Urban Flows Observatory”, The University of Sheffield at which air quality monitoring sensors will be built and kept by the participants for free.The workshop will take place on Saturday 4th May from 2 pm at the MindSphere Lounge in the Diamond Building and is part of a citizen science initiative using low-cost air quality monitors to increase public awareness.

The air quality monitors we will use are based on the German open source project, Luftdaten. The idea of running these workshops here is to handle some of the more tedious and error-prone elements (ordering components, loading their software onto the chips), showing how to build the kits yourself, how to access the real-time data and also to provide some local context on our current air pollution monitoring.

Register here!

The week commencing Monday 15th October marks the start of the University of Sheffield’s Sustainability Week. Each day will see a different talk about how the University is using their power as a research-led university to tackle interlinked social, environmental and economic challenges through ambitious, interdisciplinary thinking.

As part of this we are delivering a  ‘Sustainability in the Pub’ talk at the University Arms on Friday 19th October starting at 17:30 where the team will explain what we’re measuring and why, so together we can create healthy, happy cities.

Check out the Eventbrite page to register!

Venue: MindSphere Lounge, The Diamond, University of Sheffield

The Urban Flows Researchers Forum will be a chance to explore existing and potential research activity in the following areas:

1. Weather station data (9am)

2. Air Quality (10am)

3. Thermal Data (11am)

4. Visualisation of data (12pm)

We will be holding one hour sessions on each of the 4 topics listed above, so please come along to whichever session or combination of sessions are of interest.

Venue: MindSphere Lounge, The Diamond, University of Sheffield

Air quality monitoring sensors will be deployed around the city, aiming to collect both spatial and temporal high-resolution Air Quality data. We now have the backend data storage and visualisation software and hardware up and running so we want to now turn our attention to the deployment strategy. The sensors will be measuring various air pollutants and meteorological parameters. The first phase of the sensors will be deployed soon around the University of Sheffield. Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the sensors will be deployed in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

The objective of the workshop is to seek your input to the deployment strategy for the AQSN, in terms of what we should measure and where we should measure it. At present the deployment strategy is planned to respond to the projects outlined in the attached note. This workshop will review these projects and establish other parameters which should influence the locations and technologies to be deployed.

Come and join us for the final pitching event of the Urban Flows Observatory #sensorbuild competition!

Over the past two months, our nine competition entrants have been building prototypes of sensors that can capture data about how energy and resources flow through the city of Sheffield. They now face our panel of experts for the final pitch event, where they will show their prototype, demonstrate how it will capture data, and present how it could be scaled across the city. For the advanced stream entrants, we will also hear how their product could be commercialised.

Our winners will receive a fantastic prize package including a £500 cash prize, support for commercialisation (advanced stream only), and the chance to see their sensors located in Sheffield.

Each pitch is 2 minutes long and judges have 5 minutes for Q&A. There’ll be an opportunity for you to meet the competition entrants and see their prototypes, as well as vote for your favourite in the Popular Vote category. We’ll be providing pizza and beer, with big thanks to our event sponsors, Arup.

Event Schedule (subject to change)

17:30 – 18:00 Arrival, networking, drinks
18:00 – 18:10 Welcome from Martin Mayfield & intro to judging panel
18:10 – 18:30 Guest speaker keynote: Rick Robinson, Digital Property and Cities Leader, Arup
18:30 – 19:00 Novice pitching
19:00 – 19:30 Break for pizza and beer
19:30 – 20:10 Advanced pitching
20:10 – 20:20 Break for beers and for the panel to convene
20:20 – 20:30 Awards including the popular vote

Judging panel

  • Steve Jubb – Technical Lead, Urban Flows Observatory
  • Mark Gannon – Director, Business Change and Information Solutions at Sheffield City Council
  • Samantha Deakin-Hill, Co-Founder, Campus Capital
  • David Moss, Digital Programme Manager, Siemens Research

**more judges to be announced soon**

Register your attendance here

Urban Flows will be on the road this summer at BlueDot Festival 2018! Join us and the Grantham Centre to find out how tracking flow through the festival site can help us understand how cities work. Try our Virtual Reality headsets, Thermal Cameras, and LIDAR mapping to develop your own real-time data and analysis of the Festival. See you there!

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