Can smart technologies make the cities of the future safer, smarter and more energy efficient? A new collaborative research lab in the US is...

Can smart technologies make the cities of the future safer, smarter and more energy efficient? A new collaborative research lab in the US is being launched to seek potential answers to that question.

IBM and Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up to create the new laboratory, set to begin operations this fall, as part of the Pennsylvania Smart Infrastructure Incubator (PSII). The incubator is a state and industry initiative aimed at developing advanced technologies for managing building, energy, water and other infrastructure elements that are critical to the functioning of cities.

“Making the infrastructure of our cities, communities and industries more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent can make it more sustainable from both an economic and an environmental perspective,” said Wayne Balta, vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety for IBM.

The IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab at Carnegie Mellon will work on technologies that are consistent with both organisations’ existing sustainability initiatives, including IBM’s Smarter Planet program and the university’s work at its Centre for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research.

Researchers at the lab plan to use digitial sensor networks to collect and analyse massive amounts of real-time data related to various elements of a city’s infrastructure. The goal is to detect patterns, identify areas of risk and develop management and operational prediction tools for improved efficiency.

“At Carnegie Mellon, we’ve been working for a number of years on interdisciplinary research to help better manage critical infrastructure using advanced technologies,” said James J. Garrett Jr., chairman of the university’s department of civil and environmental engineering. “Our goal has been to deploy a variety of sensors to collect significant amounts of new data that can be analysed and turned into actionable information so that people who build, maintain or manage infrastructure can do so in a more efficient and cost effective manner.”

The laboratory will seek to develop partnerships with government agencies and businesses that can provide data from their infrastructures, complementary technologies or research support. It will also be integrated with a new Collaboration and Distance Learning Centre at the school that will enable leaders to meet — physically or virtually — and explore smarter infrastructures that can work for them.

Working together, Balta said, the university and IBM hope to “drive innovation and develop new technologies to help leaders worldwide optimise their use of finite resources.”


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