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Pittsburgh’s Leadership in ‘Internet of Things’ May Serve as Role Model for Others to Follow

The world is heating up over the “Internet of Things,” and everyone—including manufacturing CEOs, politicians, engineers and technologists—is trying to figure out how to maximize it for their company or geographic region. The folks in Pittsburgh already may have developed one of the best, and their success may serve as a good role model for others.

The city’s Carnegie-Mellon University is working with some other schools and funding from local companies and foundations—including Google—to turn the campus, initially, and soon much of the city, into an intensely networked test bed.

Initially, the university is building a “living laboratory” for IoT by saturating the campus with sensors and other infrastructure and recruiting students and others to create and use new IoT apps. Embedded sensors in buildings and everyday objects can be interweaved to create smart environments. For instance, CMU researchers have created Snap2It, a system that lets users link to a printer or projector simply by taking a smartphone photo of it.

“Students are an easy population [for testing] because they get excited about new things pretty easily,” Anind Dey, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at CMU, told Manufacturing CEO Briefing.

“Students are an easy population [for testing] because they get excited about new things pretty easily.”

Carnegie-Mellon’s immediate goal is to build an IoT platform that it could provide off the shelf to other entities that want to build their own IoT infrastructure. However, Pittsburgh companies and other local interests may be more interested in the project’s intermediate goal of deploying an IoT network across the city’s infrastructure.

“That could include everything from cameras that are tracking traffic to sensors on bridges that check vibration and the structure,” Dey said. “It could be monitoring public transportation so you can see if new bus lines need to be added or removed. It could produce information about air quality and make it more accessible to people because there is a sensor network everywhere.”

And ultimately, with CMU at the hub of a growing IoT commercial cluster, and Pittsburgh companies in support of it, the Iron City could grow into an important global outcropping in the growth of the IoT economy and provide numerous lessons for both companies and municipalities to follow.

Now, the same way that having a fiber optic ring installed around a city used to make it highly competitive, companies today may consider whether a municipality has any IoT or automation capability that they can piggy-back off of before making relocation or expansion decisions. Pittsburgh is one area set the level of the bar.


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