SCOPE Research Project


SCOPE, a Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform and Ecosystem, is creating a cloud platform that exposes the digital pulse of the city for innovators to develop smart-city services. It is based on a unique  new eco-system of stakeholders, technology, organizations and information.  SCOPE is a National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation (NSF PFI) project at Boston University and in close collaboration with its partners, with over $1 million in NSF and partner funding. Read the 9-23-14 press release.

Housed within the Institute, the SCOPE project interacts with RISCS and CCI by leveraging MACS project developments and utilizing the MOC eXchange model, the enabling technology of SCOPE.

The Open Cloud eXchange (OCX), a plug-and-play architecture, allows many partners, not just a single provider, to compete and cooperate on the same infrastructure, effectively creating an multi-sided cloud marketplace where innovation can flourish in support of new applications, currently under-served by prevailing [public] cloud operators. SCOPE investigators and their collaborators will work with partners to develop specific SCOPE-enabled smart-city services, including:

  • Transportation and mobility services to reduce traffic congestion, save time and wasted fuel, and reduce pollution;
  • Energy and environmental services that monitor/estimate greenhouse gas emissions for congestion management and coordination of smart-grid energy demand-response solutions;
  • Public safety and security services for big-data-driven dispatch of police/traffic details, snow removal, coordinated public works scheduling, and municipal repairs; and
  • Tools for management of city assets through mining of large data sets and crowd-sourced coordination of asset use.
  • Social, institutional and behavioral mechanisms to facilitate adoption of new services, such as incentive programs and community report cards to promote transparency and sustainability.

SCOPE leverages current Boston University projects that use sensor networking and decision & control capabilities, for example in smart parking, adaptive traffic light control, public transport scheduling, and emissions-aware traffic modeling.  Implementation of SCOPE entails the development of novel application programming interfaces, adding capabilities that are currently not available in public cloud offerings, including support for predictable operation of cyber-physical systems; data-quality management; and data security, integrity, privacy, and provenance services.

Designed to start small so as to innovate quickly upon existing data, applications and governance structures, yet big enough to have meaningful policy and environmental impact.  SCOPES’s goals are to:

  • Enable urban stakeholders to collectively harness, learn, innovate and monetize unused ‘big data assets’
  • Spur a generation of new public and commercial goods
  • Innovate with state-of-the-art technology, with sensor-based information, with plug-and-play architectures
  • And ultimately create new spaces for public [data-driven]  policy debate, and enhance quality/equity of services and innovate new services for transportation, healthcare, energy distribution, emergency response, business, commerce, and social applications, among others.

SCOPE is scalable and flexible, a template for other US cities, enabling growth for more widespread deployment. A catalyst for a number of broader impacts, SCOPE’s platform will help break technological and institutional silos; facilitate institutional transformations and deep citizen engagement;  lead to technology commercialization and business development; and act as a template for widespread adoption of smart-city services systems.

Even more about SCOPE

The word “platform” refers to a software standard that allows innovators to easily develop applications without having to worry about too many details. Good examples of platforms that we see every day around us include the Microsoft Xbox platform and the Android or Apple Mobile Apps platform. These platforms allow innovators to develop applications (e.g., Xbox game or smartphone app) without having to worry too much about details (e.g., how Xbox Kinect understands gestures, or how GPS works on a smartphone). SCOPE is a cloud platform, meaning that it is implemented and is run on resources such as storage and servers in the cloud, in the same way that applications such as BU Gmail is supported by resources operated by Google “in the cloud” (as opposed to on dedicated computers at BU).

The team assembled to pursue this project is unique in the sense that it crosses traditional disciplinary and professional barriers. The project is focused less on “basic research” and more on “transition to practice”. We have faculty from different departments and schools working with practitioners in industry and with public servants from the city and state, to solve real problems that impact all of us. This project will be successful if its outcomes are less about academic papers we write and more about new services we develop and deploy to improve our every-day lives.

This project will certainly check the validity of our assumption that if we build the right smart-city platform, innovative new services will follow. Whether or not what we develop ends up being a “standard” is less important. What is important is that we show that “if you build it they will come” (if you build a smart-city platform, innovative services will come).

The project will give BU students an opportunity to develop applications that make use of unique data sets available from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and from the City of Boston (e.g., traffic data, pollution data, public safety data, etc.) It will also allow many courses at BU to use the “smart city” as a backdrop for teaching and learning – it is like giving BU students a living lab where they can apply what they study and where they can creatively develop applications, and even think about startups based on these innovations!

Yes! The Hariri Institute is leading a number of projects that are not “business as usual” in the sense that they create great opportunities for students to get involved. In addition to SCOPE, I can also point to the Massachusetts Open Cloud. We have many students already involved in both of these efforts, including some working with partners in the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to connect them with our efforts.