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Google Is Outfitting Carnegie Mellon With Smart Tech To Create A “Living Lab”

The experiment may eventually introduce Internet of Things technologies to all of Pittsburgh.

Google Is Outfitting Carnegie Mellon With Smart Tech To Create A “Living Lab”
[Photo: Flickr user Jiuguang Wang]

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has long been considered one of the world’s leading robotics research institutions–so much so, that ride-hailing company Uber recently poached 40 of its scientists and researchers. A new project funded by Google will help the institution expand beyond its robotics cachet, as CMU turns its campus into a “living laboratory” for smart technologies.

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The university will essentially become a petri dish for Google’s Internet of Things technology. The campus will be outfitted with Internet-connected sensors and accelerometers that will enable buildings and other traditionally “dumb” devices to communicate with the Internet. The goal is to allow any physical object or space–be it a coffee pot or bus stop–to connect with other web-enabled tools, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Eventually, the hope is to extend the project beyond the borders of the CMU campus.

The Snap2It app, which enables users to link a smartphone to a printer or projector simply by taking a photo of the device, is an example of the systems to be deployed on the Carnegie Mellon University campus as part of a Google-funded research expedition to produce new Internet of Things technology.Ken Andreyo/Carnegie Mellon University

“Our goal is to, within a year, turn a lot of the space we have access to as faculty into smart spaces that students, faculty, staff and visitors can interact with,” Anind K. Dey, lead investigator for the project, told the Post-Gazette. “Then our goal is to push it out to the city.”

Google is looking to build up a platform to facilitate IoT applications called GIoTTO, which will develop cheap sensors, privacy measures, and app development software. CMU will lead the charge, with help from researchers at Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Illinois. The decision to have CMU at the helm was, as Google’s director of university relations Maggie Johnson said in a statement, due to its “vision for a living laboratory, validating system design through daily use.”

Google will give the university $500,000 to get the initiative off the ground.

The platform could have a significant impact on Pittsburgh if it stretches past CMU, as Dey told the Post-Gazette. “You can examine how people are actually using spaces in the city, which bridges are actually in use every day,” he said. “I’m sure they have a lot of this information, but this would be adding to that information, making it much more transparent so everybody has a say in how the city is run.”

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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