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Urban systems involve a multitude of closely intertwined components, which are more measurable than before due to new sensors, data collection, and spatio-temporal analysis methods. Turning these data into knowledge to facilitate planning efforts in addressing current challenges of urban complex systems requires advanced interdisciplinary analysis methods, such as urban informatics or urban data science. Yet, by applying a purely data-driven approach, it is too easy to get lost in the ‘forest’ of data, and to miss the ‘trees’ of successful, livable cities that are the ultimate aim of urban planning. This paper assesses how geospatial data, and urban analysis, using a mixed methods approach, can help to better understand urban dynamics and human behavior, and how it can assist planning efforts to improve livability. Based on reviewing state-of-the-art research the paper goes one step further and also addresses the potential as well as limitations of new data sources in urban analytics to get a better overview of the whole ‘forest’ of these new data sources and analysis methods. The main discussion revolves around the reliability of using big data from social media platforms or sensors, and how information can be extracted from massive amounts of data through novel analysis methods, such as machine learning, for better-informed decision making aiming at urban livability improvement.



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