Futuristic cityscape

NIST kicks off round 2 of SmartAmerica Challenge

The National Institute of Standards and Technology and several partners announced round two of the SmartAmerica Challenge: the year-long Global City Teams Challenge.

Announced earlier this month during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Business Forum, the Global City Teams Challenge is a contest to develop technology that addresses local community issues, including air quality, traffic management and emergency services coordination, according to a NIST statement.

NIST is working with US Ignite, a non-profit that fosters the creation of next-generation Internet applications for the public good. They will help organize teams, or "action clusters," of representatives of local governments, non-profits and private companies to build, deploy or test applications based on the Internet of Things (IoT).

 “Many established cities have similar goals of improving air quality or delivering better health care – and emerging regions want to be smart from the start. But those projects often address only one city or region at a time,” said Chris Greer, director of NIST’s Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office. “The Global City Teams Challenge will help communities around the world work together on shared challenges. They will identify standards and measurements to guide technology innovators in creating solutions that can work anywhere and lay the groundwork for a future of smarter cities.”

The challenge also benefits companies and non-profits by giving them a chance to test  their solutions in municipal testbeds, and demonstrate them to potential new customers.  The projects’ results will also help NIST's Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office develop technology-neutral standards that will facilitate research and adoption of IoT technologies.

The challenge starts Sep. 29-30, 2014, with a two-day workshop at NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus. Anyone can participate, and the kick-off meeting will be webcast, allowing international participation in the workshop. Registration for the challenge is here.

“Our goal is to cut in half the time and money it will take for cities to deploy advanced engineering and information technologies to better manage their resources and improve everything from health and safety to education and transportation,” said Greer in a blog. “Such collaboration accelerates innovation, and it means the Internet of Things will not need decades to mature as the Web did.”

The Internet of Things, sometimes referred to as cyber-physical systems, involves connecting computing-like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. IoT examples in the community space include systems that can help a robot coordinate with a dog or human in a search-and-rescue operation or help health care providers evaluate the recovery of patients after they leave the hospital, said Greer in his blog.

Other systems, he added, “could include smart manufacturing that brings production right to your neighborhood, getting you the parts you need faster while supporting local jobs. Affordable technologies could create smart homes that include automated safety alerts and a community awareness network to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations. And smart vehicles could not only communicate with one another and traffic signals, but also with pedestrians to prevent collisions. These are just a few of the projects led by the SmartAmerica Challenge teams.”

Aside from NIST, other partners in the challenge include the National Science Foundation; the departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services; and, from the private sector, Intel, IBM, Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks and ARM Holdings.

In June, 24 teams from industry, academia and government demonstrated their IoT systems projects at the SmartAmerica Expo. The projects showcased ways IoT can improve transportation, emergency services, health care, security, energy conservation and manufacturing.

Also in June the USPS Office of Inspector General issued a request for information exploring how the Postal Service can use the IoT to improve processing, delivery and overall efficiency. Respondents were asked to submit a conceptual design of how new sensor and other data collection technologies could improve Postal Service operations.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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