7 Smart City Projects Emerging from MetroLab Network

The network has released details of several technology- and data-focused projects bubbling up through partnerships between cities and universities across the country. Here's a look at seven of them.

by / March 10, 2016

More details have begun to emerge about the high-tech, sometimes experimental projects that cities and universities are collaborating on through the White House-backed MetroLab Network.

The network launched in 2015 amid a push from the White House and several federal agencies to pump $160 million into the development of smart city projects and the Internet of Things. While some of the partnerships and projects existed before the network — like Chicago’s Array of Things project, for example — participants extolled the project as a means of adding funding and connecting experts together to help accelerate the efforts.

Now the network has put its first group of projects up on its website, involving cities from Seattle to Boston.

1. Boston Boosts Wage Inequality Data

Though it's well established at the national level that men make a lot more money than women, a team at Boston University is partnering up with Boston to get a more local view. With access to anonymized wage data from 60 local participating employers, the university's team developed an application that allows users to see benchmark statistics and then track wage data.

2. South Bend, Ind., Implements Scientific, Data-Driven City Operations

Notre Dame University and the city of South Bend are working together to build a framework for municipal decision-making that involves gathering data and using statistical models to give officials a real picture of operational efficiency. The framework will be based on the scientific method and will begin with the city’s “Vacant and Abandoned” initiative.

3. Portland, Ore., Examines Impact of Bus Rapid Transit

With Portland looking to launch its first bus rapid transit line in 2020, the city is partnering with Portland State University to deploy instruments that will gather data before, during and after construction of the project. Some of the parameters the university will measure, which it will compare against existing traffic data, are air quality, noise and meteorological conditions.

4. Pittsburgh Catalogues Road Problems with Cameras

Instead of relying on human eyes to find problems to fix in Pittsburgh’s roads, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working on a system to put cameras in city-owned vehicles to find things like potholes and cracks. A computer program can scan those images to identify problems and then map them to allow the city access to an easy database of potential projects.

5. Seattle Helps to Understand Electricity Demand

Using more than 100 temperature sensors deployed throughout Seattle, the University of Washington wants to gather data on what factors influence electricity use and where. That will help engineers understand where new energy resources are needed and get a clearer picture of trends.

6. Chicago Builds Predictive Analytics Toolkit

The city of Chicago has plenty of data available. Now, the University of Chicago wants to help apply a predictive bent to the use of that data. By developing a toolkit of predictive programs, the university hopes to help the city streamline its operations and deliver services more effectively. It also hopes to adapt the toolkit for use in other cities.

7. New York City Establishes Neighborhood Innovation Laboratories

Working with city officials, New York University plans to establish several “neighborhood innovation labs” across the five boroughs where it can test emerging smart city technologies. These laboratories will use the city’s expanded public Wi-Fi, as well as the emerging Internet of Things, to support projects aimed at improving day-to-day life in the city.