Virginia Tech and Arlington County have formed a partnership to join a MetroLab Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships focused on bringing data, analytics, and innovation to local government.
Members of the network research, develop, and deploy technologies and policy approaches to address challenges facing the nation’s urban areas. MetroLab Network was launched by 21 founding city/county-university pairings in September 2015 at the White House as part of the Obama Administration’s “Smart Cities” Initiative.
In these Metro Lab partnerships, the university serves as a research and development arm and the city serves as a test-bed for technologies and policies. Faculty members and students gain access to real-world laboratories to develop and test tools and programs that utilize information technology, data analytics, sensing, and more. Cities and counties benefit from their technical expertise, leading to solutions that reduce the cost of infrastructure and services; make cities more sustainable and resilient; and improve citizens’ quality of life.
MetroLab Network members are working on more than 100 “research, development, and deployment” projects with broad impact on areas such as improving transportation and water systems; reducing the energy footprint in cities; and advancing health and public safety goals.
MetroLab Network connects these city/county-university partnerships via a national, collaborative platform that facilitates the sharing of information and the scaling of technology and solutions across the country.
“Virginia Tech’s partnership with Arlington County and the MetroLab Network is a wonderful way of extending our land-grant mission to urban innovation,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “It further strengthens our long-standing relationship with the county, offers our researchers an opportunity to address issues and challenges that significantly impact the future of urban society, and our students can engage in hands-on, problem-based learning that will open the door to future careers.”
“Becoming a part of the national MetroLab Network will spur innovative solutions for our community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “It will be exciting to watch this partnership use data and technology to improve the country’s infrastructure and enhance both economic development and the quality of life for all who live and work here.”
Virginia Tech and Arlington County have signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to undertake at least three research, development, and deployment projects. The Virginia Tech National Capital Region will be the focal point for the MetroLab partnership with Arlington.
Sanjay Raman, associate vice president for the National Capital Region and professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Kristanne Littlefield, chief digital innovation officer, will lead the overall MetroLab partnership efforts for Virginia Tech and Arlington County, respectively.
The three projects are:
- Transportation Characteristics Analysis – This project will observe intersections and collect data on pedestrian, bicycle, bus, and vehicle movements at intersections, focusing initially on Rosslyn. The data will help develop smart city protocols that Arlington County can use to make informed decisions about planning and operational investments in dense urban areas.
- Crystal City Sensor Networks – In collaboration with Vornado/Charles E. Smith, this project will implement and collect data from “Internet of Things” sensor devices in Crystal City, in addition to utility and building automation data. Monitoring building envelopes for energy and environmental parameters will identify opportunities for improving sensing and control of infrastructure and increasing building energy efficiency and environmental quality.
- Smart Cities Engineering Capstone Design Projects – Leveraging Virginia Tech’s electrical and computer engineering two semester capstone design course, students will spend two semesters on a smart county/Internet of Things project where they will utilize emerging technologies, collect data, and perform analysis on specific problems of interest to the county. In the future, these projects can expand to other departments and majors.
Raman and Lauren Bulka, coordinator for Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for the National Capital Region, will represent Virginia Tech at MetroLab Network’s Spring Summit, May 9-11, hosted by the City of San Diego and the University of California San Diego, with support from Clean Tech San Diego.
“We are thrilled to welcome Virginia Tech and Arlington County to our network,” said Ben Levine, interim director of MetroLab Network. “Their focus on transportation, environment, and data analytics will help drive progress in the cities, counties, and regions that are addressing similar issues across the country. Furthermore, their collaboration with our extensive national network will accelerate progress in Arlington County on many of its priorities.”
MetroLab Network is supported by a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a research enterprise that uses data and information technologies to better understand how cities work and to improve the urban condition. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the fiduciary of MetroLab Network during its incubation period.