NEW $26 MILLION NSF ENGINEERING RESEARCH CENTER FOR SMART STREETSCAPESby GISELE GALOUSTIAN | Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
Florida Atlantic University’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE ) and College of Engineering and Computer Science have landed a major National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) with Columbia University, Rutgers University, the University of Central Florida, and Lehman College.
The new Engineering Research Center for Smart Streetscapes (CS3) will be supported for five years with $26 million; renewable for an additional five years, for a total of up to $52 million. The ERC program is NSF’s flagship engineering program to catalyze convergent research to address large-scale societal challenges. As one of the most competitive research programs in the country, CS3 was selected from among hundreds of candidate centers.
The nation’s streetscapes – neighborhood streets, sidewalks and public spaces – define the character of American communities, linking people with social and commercial institutions, and bonding people across demographic identities. Streetscapes are prime sites for deploying engineering research to fortify society. A “smart streetscape” could instantly sense human behavior and guide disabled pedestrians, collect refuse, control pests, amplify emergency services, and protect people against environmental and health threats.
“We are thrilled to receive this ERC award with our partners,” said FAU President John Kelly. “CS3 will provide important pathways for universities, government, industry and community stakeholders to collaboratively improve quality of life, enhance social equity, and stimulate economic development through innovative and cutting-edge smart city technologies.”
CS3’s mission is to advance livable, safe and inclusive communities through new streetscape applications built upon real-time and hyper-local streetscape intelligence. This will require fundamental engineering advancements in wireless/optical communications, edge/cloud computing, situational awareness, and privacy and security, while balancing public sphere data collection requirements with community-defined benefits. CS3 will apply these advancements across five application themes: Road Safety & Traffic Efficiency; Public Safety; Assistive Technologies; Future of Outdoor Work; and Hyper-Local Environments. The applications will be realized within three distinct urban environments, leveraging strong partnerships with community organizations and municipal agencies in Harlem, New York City; West Palm Beach, Florida; and New Brunswick, New Jersey.
At FAU, CS3 builds upon a longstanding partnership with the City of West Palm Beach, developed through the West Palm Beach Mobility Intelligence Project, led by FAU’s I-SENSE. Launched in 2019, and supported through the City of West Palm Beach, the Knight Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the pedestrian mobility sensing project plays a central role in CS3.
“Over the next decade, CS3 will bring a range of smart streetscape technologies to the City of West Palm Beach and position the city as a national leader in smart cities,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith A. James. “These technologies will enable new streetscape applications designed to enhance livability, safety, and inclusivity across the West Palm Beach community – from enabling safer crosswalks, to improving transportation and parking, to assisting pedestrians with disabilities. The specific applications to be developed will be selected and guided through continuous public engagement.”
Christopher Roog, executive director of the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, says that the City of West Palm Beach is excited to further strengthen its partnership with the CS3 team and to collaboratively chart the future of the nation’s streetscapes.
“Our team could not be more excited to embark on this path with our partners to advance the future of the nation’s streetscapes, and to deliver fundamental improvements in the livability, safety, and inclusivity of American communities through engineering research and education,” said Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., executive director of I-SENSE, who serves as deputy director and chief research officer for CS3.
The FAU team led by I-SENSE and the College Engineering and Computer Science comprises researchers, staff and students across the FAU community, including FAU’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
“This prestigious award is Florida Atlantic University’s first designation as a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. It marks a significant milestone for I-SENSE, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and our entire university,” said Daniel C. Flynn, Ph.D., FAU vice president for research. “The interdisciplinary nature of the project will serve as a catalyst for important scientific and technological advancements that will transform cities throughout our nation.”
Team-leads include Dimitris Pados, Ph.D., Schmidt Eminent Scholar Professor, FAU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a fellow of FAU I-SENSE and director of the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence; Jinwoo Jang, Ph.D., assistant professor, FAU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and an I-SENSE fellow; Jiannan Zhai, Ph.D., research assistant professor, FAU I-SENSE; John Renne, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science; Valentine Aalo, Ph.D., professor, FAU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Donna Chamely-Wiik, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate research and prestigious fellowships, FAU Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry. Additional partners include 25 industry members, 13 community groups, 13 municipal agencies, 11 educational institutions, and two federal labs.
“Together with Columbia University and our other core partners, FAU will co-lead smart city research and innovation, capitalizing on and growing our collective experience in sensing technologies, artificial intelligence, high-speed wireless communication, simulation and forecasting, among other areas of expertise,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science. “Joining forces with our academic, government and industry partners will help to ensure the rapid translation of these technologies for wide-use applications and fruitful economic impact.”
The ERC for Smart Streetscapes positions academic and non-academic stakeholders – urban residents, institutional leaders, students, teachers and municipal resource managers – as co-producers of knowledge and auditors of technology research and development, forming a broad innovation ecosystem that explores the science, utility and humanity of engineering research.