Why our cities need your IT, engineering and design skills

Love coding, maths and data? Interested in protecting the environment? Careers in smart spaces and exciting and in demand. Image: Shutterstock

Information technology, engineering and design are merging into new and exciting career areas improving our cities and communities.

Imagine getting all of the data you could possibly have – weather, architectural and electricity plans, water pipes, geology, topography, how people move around an area – and jamming it into a system you could slice by time or location and visualise and draw in 3D?

“Using data, we can visualise the changes in the area and to understand how a city is growing or changing and make sure we are not compromising the environment, society or the economy,” says Dr Soheil Sabri, research fellow and senior project manager, Urban Analytics Data Infrastructure at the University of Melbourne.

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Digital twins

Soheil studied urban and regional planning, before living in Asia and developing analytical tools to measure livability. He’s now at the University of Melbourne, working on the Fishermans Bend ‘digital twin’ project in collaboration with Land Use Victoria. Fishermans Bend is Australia’s biggest urban redevelopment and will house 80,000 people and 80,000 jobs by 2050.

Digital twins are replicas of physical areas in the digital space. They combine Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality and real-time data with 2D and 3D engineering data and geospatial data (like Google Maps) to reflect the current reality and allow people to better understand the consequences of decisions. This could be as simple as a person deciding how to get from A to B, or governments looking to understand the environmental or social impact of their policy decisions.

“You can look at the area over time, in peak hour, or if you’re using different types of public transport, for example,” says Prof Abbas Rajabifard, who leads the research and development of the Fishermans Bend ‘digital twin’ project. “If we can visualise the effect our decision makes, it lets us make better informed decisions.”

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Choose this career if you…

  • Love coding, maths and data
  • Are interested in helping to protect the environment
  • Get excited about art, design and interactivity
  • Want to improve access for people with disabilities
  • Would like to design better urban spaces

Typical tasks

• Work with industry to manage water and waste.

• Collaborate with a variety of people across government, business and community.

• Visualise and describe futuristic buildings, parks and workplaces.

• Design innovative urban spaces.

• Help to shape healthy and equitable spaces for people to work and live in.

• Prevent and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

• Measure, provide and analyse environmental and land use data.


Bachelor of City Planning, UNSW

Bachelor of Urban Design and Town Planning, University of the Sunshine Coast

Bachelor of Design, University of Melbourne

Bachelor of Geospatial Science, RMIT

Diploma of Sustainable Practice, TAFE NSW


Urban Designer: $53K–$101K

Environmental Planner: $50K–$107K

Geospatial Analyst: $55K–$126K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs


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