At Stevens, Designing Smarter Cities Goes Hand in Hand with Designing a Smarter Campus
“We develop novel solutions for sustainable utilization of environmental resources and net-zero technologies," said Muhammad Hajj, George Meade Bond Professor, chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering and director of Davidson Laboratory.
He might have added that Stevens’ expertise in urban/interconnected infrastructure systems, sustainable development, resilient coastal communities, and smart maritime systems and design has never been more in demand than now, with cities under increasing threat from rising sea waters, extreme weather emergencies, cyberattacks and terrorist activities.
It’s the kind of expertise that has prompted key stakeholders to partner with Stevens.
In 2013, the university collaborated with the City of Hoboken on a three-year project, “Smart City: Hoboken,” that resulted in the installation of smart city sensors throughout the city.
“Think of smart cities as pervasive computing in an environment embedded with sensors and computation, some of which can be directly accessed by citizens,” explained Stevens professor Gregg Vesonder.
The software engineering expert has been applying and testing his research in sensors for smart cities and smart homes since taking over Stevens’ smart cities project in 2015, using the university’s 55-acre campus, located within one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the world, as a proving ground.
One of the major hurdles for implementing smart technology within cities is that it can be “very pricey,” noted Vesonder, who has been working toward lower-cost solutions on and off campus.
At the time he took over the smart cities project, the sensor equipment had been discontinued and there was no support for it. He was able to get one sensor working. It was located down by the Hudson River, but that was out of 19 installed on light poles across the city of Hoboken.
Vesonder figured, “There had to be a better way we could do this, because even when we put them up, the costs of having someone go out to fix them was too expensive.”
He came up with a “better way” from his activity teaching high school students about using Raspberry Pi and sensors. That group worked to create a low-price smart city node that would monitor temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, air quality and noise.
“We did it using low-cost sensor packs for about $150 each,” Vesonder explained.
Vesonder now works to utilize smart sensor strategies in everyday surroundings, and is looking to take those smart home sensors and distribute them around the Stevens campus. He already has sensors working in the (software) Design Lab, and in the near future he plans to start distributing them more broadly around campus.
He states, “What we’re interested in is the quality of the spaces, and to understand what places around campus are highly desirable to students and what makes them desirable. We also hope to determine where Wi-Fi is congested and where it isn’t and provide a map to show people where it’s not so bad. Over time we’d like to get access to the campus’ data on electricity and water and start displaying visualizations on that.”