Carnegie Mellon University

photo of metro21 display at airport

Can a win-win partnership exist?

Carnegie Mellon University’s research partnership with the Allegheny County Airport Authority began six years ago where most trips start: in the parking lot where a CMU professor and his students developed an app that used real-time parking information that detected available spaces, tracked cars and enabled navigation.

Fast-forward 6 years and the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is gearing up to be the world’s smartest airport. You cannot become the world’s best anything alone, so PIT sought out like-minded partners to help them achieve their goals.

Through the partnership, CMU has helped PIT with many issues including wheelchair accessibility, guest wait times, and shopping pattern trends.

Carnegie Mellon was one of the first universities in the nation to partner with its home airport. In 2018, CMU and the Allegheny County Airport Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing faculty and students from CMU’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute to research, develop and deploy several projects throughout the airport that will benefit local travelers and the entire aviation industry.

Since then, Metro21 Executive Director Karen Lightman has fielded dozens of calls from other peer schools and other airports wanting to learn more about the collaboration.

“The airport is a mini city: fire, security, parking, shopping and more,” she said. “It’s a great living lab for our faculty and students.”

Lightman, CMU’s primary point of contact with the airport when faculty develop new research ideas, expects the partnership to expand in the coming years, as PIT embarks on a billion-dollar project that will introduce a new terminal in 2023.

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