USC, Los Angeles IoT Consortium Takes Shape

The USC Marshall School of Business and Viterbi School of Engineering along with the city have formed the Intelligent Internet-of-Things Integrator, otherwise known as the I3 Consortium, in an effort to further collaboration related to IoT project testing and development.

The University of Southern California will serve as a test bed for smart city initiatives that could see wider deployment across Los Angeles and other cities.
The USC Marshall School of Business and Viterbi School of Engineering along with the city have formed the Intelligent Internet-of-Things Integrator, otherwise known as the I3 Consortium, to further collaborate on projects related to IoT testing and development.
“A straight public-private partnership between government and the private sector has its advantages. But sometimes a third party like a local research university, that feels very strongly about the topic and will even be implementing some of these solutions in kind of a more limited area, that’s really a very good third leg to a stool,” Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross said about the thinking behind the consortium.
The idea is to offer the university as a place to test and study IoT projects. Those projects could originate at the city level or even with the private sector looking to develop particular technology.
“We’re using USC, the campus as sort of a little test bed, because the campus is like a little city. But once we show that it works, in a confined environment, then we’re working with the city, and the city has said that then we can use the entire city as a test bed,” said Jerry Power executive director for the Institute of Communication, Technology, Management at USC Marshall School of Business.
One idea the city hopes to more fully test and develop involves interactive public kiosks, which could offer an assortment of information related to a neighborhood or city. The kiosks could be programed for various audiences, providing information about services for everyone from tourists to the homeless. 
“It’s utilizing information about the location, and what people would be interested in when they go to those locations,” explained Los Angeles Deputy CIO Joyce Edson.
“You could go to a kiosk in a location and decide, ‘I’m hungry. What’s around here?’ And the kiosk could give you geo-sense information about the restaurants that are in the area,” Edson explained.
“A kiosk, for example, that’s in an area with a high volume of homelessness could actually go ahead and push digital services that are around homeless assistance,” said Ross. “So every kiosk could have a little different narrative, depending on where it is and what the purpose is.”
The kiosk project is the sort of initiative that could benefit from the small-scale development and testing found on a university campus.
“Our definition of ‘test bed’ is a bit more expansive than the normal definition of test bed,” Power explained. “A lot of times when you say test bed to someone, they think of an engineering test bed where you show that it works or doesn’t work... We want to provide real operator feedback. So, like, if it’s an application for smart buildings, the facilities people will actually provide feedback into the process. So you have real, live feedback within the process.”
The consortium could also be the place to test and develop smart city applications specific to a neighborhood or even a shopping district, Power said.
“What we want to do is turn a group of people — in a city, in a homeowner association, in a  neighborhood, in a shopping district — to allow them to work together as a community,” said Power.
Another example could revolve around what happens when security camera footage gets aggregated, and how this could eventually lead to reducing the city’s own technology costs. USC envisions a day when, say, the security camera footage from home systems could feed directly into the local police department.
“If everybody starts giving their data feeds to the police department, that means now the police department and the city don’t have to fund putting video monitors on every light pole,” Power offered.
I3 officials also want the consortium to function as a resource for the private-sector entrepreneur community. 
“If somebody goes to the city and says, we have this great IoT idea, and we’re going to do this, this and this. The city could say, great. Go put it in the test bed, generate the return on investment analysis and show us when and where we should use it … and once you’ve got that data, we’ll prioritize it with all the other projects we have and decide which ones make the most sense for our city,” said Power.
“Somebody may come to USC and say, I want to do something that’s part of a smart campus,” he continued. “Or, I just want to use your campus to sort of help generate the data that I can take to Tupelo, Miss., and this is a place to do that.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.