MetroLab brings Atlanta, Tech, GSU together

Design by Rishabh Datta

On Sept. 14, the Obama administration announced a new “Smart Cities” initiative in order to foster community effort to effectively combat unique local challenges and develop city services.

Smart cities are understood to be communities which build and maintain infrastructures that improve the lives of residents. To this end, over $160 million will be invested in federal research and in support of more than 20 new city-college collaborations by the Obama administration. Issues such as traffic congestion, crime rates, economic growth, climate change and city services will be addressed by local communities that are involved in this new initiative. Over 60 Smart City projects have been planned for next year.

As part of this initiative, the federal government of the U.S. will give more than $35 million in new grants and $10 million in investments for research infrastructure for Smart Cities by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Approximately $70 million in new spending and $45 million in proposed investments will be utilized to come up with solutions in the areas of safety, energy, climate change, transportation and health.

A White House Smart Cities Forum will be held by the Obama administration simultaneously with Smart Cities Week. The focus for these will be international collaboration, leveraging existing federal activity, collaborating with the civic technology movement, building intercity collaborations and testing out the “Internet of Things,” a network of interconnected devices, smart sensors and big data analytics. Cities will essentially become the new testing grounds for the Internet of Things.

The MetroLab Network is being launched by 20 city-university collaborations. One of these collaborations is between the city of Atlanta, Tech and Georgia State University. This network will utilize university knowledge to tackle the problems most cities are facing throughout the country. It will allow city-university partnerships to share projects, manage multi-city and multi-university research efforts and compete for research and project funding.

The city-college collaboration network will be initially funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Projects undertaken will primarily focus on the enhancing of the effectiveness and overall efficiency of the infrastructure and the specific services that exist in local communities. Another aim is to also increase productivity of local economies.

Tech will work to cooperate with Atlanta in solving major issues such as traffic congestion and increasing crime rates in the city. Members of the Tech community have a keen and personal insight of some of the problems faced by people in Atlanta because of the university’s location in the heart of downtown.

The knowledge and expertise of students and professors will be put to the test in this partnership that could potentially lead to multi-city and multi-university collaborations. Effects of the collaboration will include more research opportunities in a wider variety of fields, greater experience for students in real-world problem-solving scenarios and opportunities for the broadening of perspectives by observing the workings of the local government.