Transforming The Nation’s Streetscapes With Smart Technology

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $26 million, five-year grant for a new Gen-4 NSF Engineering Research Center for Smart Streetscapes (CS3). The grant was awarded to a team led by Columbia Engineering, along with Florida Atlantic University, Rutgers University, University of Central Florida, and Lehman College. Streetscapes include neighborhood streets, sidewalks, and public spaces which make up the center of public and commercial activities. 

Gaining a better understanding of complex streetscapes in real time will require advances in engineering knowledge and an understanding of the best use of public interest technology. CS3 envisions a future smart streetscape that can instantly sense human behavior and guide disabled pedestrians, collect garbage, control pests, aid emergency services, and protect people against environmental and health threats. It would also address needs in road and public safety, traffic efficiency, assistive technologies, outdoor work, and hyper-local environmental sensing. 

“With this grant, we have an opportunity to transform this nation’s streetscapes with smart technologies that address critical safety, equity, privacy, and security concerns,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “By helping cities better meet the needs of local communities, this project exemplifies what I call the Fourth Purpose of the University—a vision that embraces the capacity of educational institutions to advance human welfare through academic work and with outside partners.”

The center will work closely with a diverse team of more than 80 non-academic community stakeholders, including: industry partners; community organizations; municipalities; and K-12 schools. I will seek to integrate advances in wireless/optical communications, edge/cloud computing, situational awareness, and privacy and security.

 “Through a multitude of strong public and private partnerships, we now have the opportunity to realize a vision for the future of smart streetscapes and the true smart city,” said Columbia Engineering Dean Shih-Fu Chang. “CS3 is a natural and powerful expansion of Columbia Engineering’s commitment to engineering for humanity. It will advance fundamental knowledge in key areas in civil and urban systems engineering–from visual analytics and sensor fusion to computer privacy and security– mobilizing the emerging discipline of smart cities.”