ENG Enabling Boston to Become a Smarter City


CISE-Led Project Nets 2nd Place in IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Competition

By Gabriella McNevin, ECE

Screenshots of the Street Bump application
Screenshots of the Street Bump application

As part of a multifaceted collaboration to create technology to solve urban problems, the City of Boston and a Boston University-led research team developed an iPhone app, Street Bump, to upgrade management of local road repairs. Now IBM and IEEE have recognized Street Bump as a significant contribution to Boston, awarding its developers the second place prize in the “IBM Students for a Smarter Planet/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge: Student Projects Changing the World” competition.

The team’s project, “Street Bumps and Big Data Analytics: Crowdsourcing Our Way to Better Roads,” was honored for demonstrating engineering expertise and a commitment to improving the world. Advised by Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) and Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE, BME), the team included graduate students Theodora Brisimi (ECE), Yue Zhang (SE), Wuyang Dai (ECE), Setareh Ariafar (SE) and Nicholas Baladis (MIT). All BU researchers are affiliated with the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE).

Used by city employees and citizens, Street Bump was designed to facilitate crowdsourcing as a means of collecting relevant road condition data. The app leverages the iPhone’s accelerometer to detect road bumps sensed during a trip, transmitting the data to the City of Boston, where it is used to alert repair crews of road damage. The algorithms developed by the BU-led team analyze the data received by the City and classify the detected bumps as “actionable” or “non-actionable.” Severe bumps like potholes are actionable and can be prioritized in scheduling repairs. The team collaborated with The City of Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which provided actual data from the City’s servers.

Another BU-based app guided by Cassandras, Smart Parking, won second place in the same competition in 2011.