WSU program to innovate in Detroit “Internet of Things”

A $30,000 grant from Intel will fund a three-month adventure led by Wayne State University’s Department of Computer Science for teams to come up with Detroit-based uses for the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next step in computing. It brings information and services from so-called cloud computing closer to the user by empowering objects to be technologically connected. A simple example might be a light or a thermostat that can both give and receive information online. More complex examples allow entire systems to interact with large data input.

The Intel grant to create the Intel Internet of Things Innovators Lab makes Wayne State the home of only the third such lab in the nation.

“Cloud computing has been there for the last 10 years, and it’s very successful,” says Weisong Shi, who is leading the project for the College of Engineering. Now we are trying to push the cloud as close to the people as possible to reduce the latency, cost and bandwidth needed for empowering smart and connected communities in Detroit.”

He says 12 teams of two to three members each will be selected to use IoT equipment donated by Intel to identify Detroit data needs and create applications for the technology. While some teams will be composed of Wayne State engineering students, others may be community or business-based. Each team will have approximately three months to develop their application, and all developments will be judged and presented on March 25, 2016.

Shi, an IEEE Fellow, 2015 Charles H. Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Member at Wayne State and, most recently, a program director on computer systems research at the National Science Foundation, says this kind of research may seem minor but is actually fundamental to developing approaches to the next generation of computing. It will aid in helping Detroit develop city-specific approaches to using new IoT possibilities. One example is the creation of safe travel corridors for individuals based on combining current public lighting reports, crowdsourced information on sidewalks and roadways, and crime data to allow a smart device user to map out the safest route to go from point A to point B at a particular time of the day. The initiative is called SafePath.

To support longer term efforts, Shi is helping create an infrastructure named DISCO (Detroit Data Infrastructure for Smart and Connected Communities), which will help boost IoT real-time collection and deployment of data. DISCO’s purpose is to push IoT data collection equipment out into the wider community to enable capture of information in usable ways. This effort initially will concentrate on health and public safety projects but will eventually include environmental and traffic management as well.

“With this together we will be able to build a better infrastructure here, which will enable a lot of new research activities at Wayne State University and in the Metro Detroit community,” Shi says.

As the Internet of Things makes its way into daily life, Shi hopes that the current project and ongoing research will aid both students and residents in the city. “This will accomplish two things: one is getting students at Wayne State this cutting edge technology to work with to complement our classroom efforts, and the second thing is this gives us a huge opportunity to stand on the frontier of smart and connected communities nationwide.”

For more information on the team event and competition, see the public group IoT@Detroit on Facebook.