Boston University Receives National Science Foundation Funding to Develop “Smart City” Cloud Platform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2014

CONTACT:    Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 or kjastive@bu.edu

(Boston) – Boston University’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering today announced it has received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a “smart-city” cloud platform designed to streamline and strengthen multiple municipal functions. Called SCOPE: A Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform & Eco-system, the project is designed to improve transportation, energy, public safety, asset management, and social services in the City of Boston and across Massachusetts.

“Today’s cities are increasingly being challenged – to respond to diverse needs of their citizens, to prepare for major environmental changes, to improve urban quality of life, and to foster economic development,” says Azer Bestavros, Director of the Hariri Institute and SCOPE’s principal investigator.  “So called ‘smart cities’ are closing these gaps through the use of technology to connect people with resources, to guide changes in collective behavior, and to foster innovation and economic growth.”

Spearheaded by the Hariri Institute, SCOPE is led by a multi-disciplinary team of investigators from the BU Departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Earth and Environment, Strategy and Innovation, and City Planning & Urban Affairs, and the Office of Technology Development. Industry partners include Schneider Electric, International Data Corporation (IDC), Integrated Technical Systems, Inc., Connected Bits, and CrowdComfort. Public partners are MassIT, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ lead state agency for technology led by the Commonwealth CIO, the MassTech Collaborative, the City of Boston, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.

In collaboration with these stakeholders, SCOPE investigators will develop and implement smart-city services that aim to improve the quality of urban life. For example, transportation and mobility services to reduce traffic congestion, save time and fuel, and reduce pollution; energy and environmental services that will monitor and estimate greenhouse gas emissions; public safety and security services for big-data-driven dispatch of police and traffic details, snow removal, coordinated public works scheduling, and municipal repairs; tools to manage city assets by mining large amounts of data and crowd-sourced coordination of asset use; and social, institutional and behavioral tools that will enable the adoption of new services, such as incentive programs and community report cards that promote transparency and sustainability.

Once developed, these services will be offered through the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC), a new public cloud designed and implemented through the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) and supported by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“The SCOPE project highlights the collaborative efforts between the state, industry and academia that help make Massachusetts the leading innovation state,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Through our Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, we’ve made open government a priority, opening data sets across multiple state agencies, improving access by researchers and the public.”

Adding further, “the project complements our ongoing efforts in state government to use data to continually increase transparency and drive constituent engagement,” said Commonwealth CIO Bill Oates. “I am excited about our partnership with the SCOPE team and look forward to the opportunities the Mass Open Cloud will create for leveraging public sector data in new ways. This important work will open doors for ongoing innovation in the delivery of services to constituents.”

“Partnerships between academics and practitioners can be the source of great innovation,” said Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood, Co-Chairs of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. “This particular grant can strengthen the City’s collaboration with Boston University; we are looking forward to see how, together, we can tackle some long-standing challenges in new ways.”

SCOPE will leverage already existing Boston University projects, including the use of sensor networking for traffic light control applications (by co-PI Christos Cassandras), fusing data from multiple sources for route planning and public works scheduling (by co-PI Evimaria Terzi), and environmental monitoring of carbon emissions in urban settings (by co-PI Lucy Hutyra). This also includes the Open Cloud eXchange (OCX), SCOPE’s enabling technology, a plug-and-play architecture that is the basis for the MOC. “OCX allows many partners, not just a single provider, to compete and cooperate on the same cloud infrastructure, effectively creating a multi-sided cloud marketplace in which innovation can flourish in support of new applications that are currently under-served by prevailing public cloud operators,” says Bestavros.

“No single company can accomplish a smart city on their own – we need to approach this opportunity collaboratively – with city government as leader, citizens at the center, technology as an enabler, and private sector partners to help make the vision a reality,” said Laurent Vernerey, President and CEO, North America Operations, Schneider Electric. “We see the SCOPE project as an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how these stakeholders can work together to develop innovative services intended to deliver substantial value to the people who live and work in the City of Boston and Massachusetts.”

“The SCOPE project will provide invaluable lessons on how to deploy a cloud-based smart city system that will help inform investment direction, policy decisions and the development of new services,” said Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, Smart City Research Director at IDC. “The potential for replication of the SCOPE model has significant ramifications for all cities and states and IDC is pleased to continue its smart city market research to support institutions like Boston University, municipalities and state government, and the vendors that serve them.”

SCOPE is a National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation (NSF PFI) project supported by over $1 million in funding from the NSF and its industry partners. For more information, visit http://www.bu.edu/hic/research/scope/.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.  BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission.  In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.