Carnegie Mellon University

photo of a Pittsburgh police cruiser

December 21, 2017

Blog: Stone Soup and Smart Cities

Creating a viable smart city is a lot like the old folk tale of stone soup. Everyone needs to bring something to the community pot in order for everyone to benefit. A future-state smart city stone soup likely will include ingredients such as autonomous vehicles, intelligent streets/traffic, smart buildings, smart first responders and social services, as well as a heavy dose of wireless sensor networks to make it all happen. If the ingredients are kept separate, the benefits are few and not widespread; but when connected together in a "soup" the community benefits as a whole with increased mobility, reduced energy consumption, lower emissions, increased safely and improved overall quality of life for its citizens.

In this analogy, Metro21: Smart Cities Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is the pot, the stone, okay and maybe the chicken stock. Funded by the generosity of funders, Metro21 pursues its mission to be the conduit for smart city collaboration. Core to our projects is the mantra "Research, Develop and Deploy" (RD&D). Through RD&D, we strive to address 21st century solutions to the challenges facing metro areas by supporting research and development of possible solutions and then testing them for viability and scalability in partnership with one or more partners in a "real world" laboratory.

Critical to any smart city is improving the quality of life of its citizens - keeping them safe and protected from harm. I recently met with Professors Wil Gorr and Daniel Neill who are co-directing a project in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP). Funded through Metro21, they developed a predictive analytics program and policing strategy for PBP to predict crime hot spots and prevent serious violent crimes. They start by accessing five years of data that is gathered by 911 calls, police logs and criminal reports. They then took this data to create a neural network model that predicts locations likely to have crime flare-ups in the following week.

Based on this information, the PBP used this information to enhance its community policy approaches to patrol (by foot and/or by car), with the goal of proactively deterring or decreasing crime in the hot spots. Alongside their partners at the PBP and the City of Pittsburgh's Department of Innovation and Performance, Gorr and Neill developed a APRS- and CAD-based, real-time crime mapping system, building on the city's Burgh's Eye View software. Currently, they are in the deployment phase of the project, working hand-in-hand with PBP. This collaborative work was recently featured on NBC News. The next phase will focus on evaluation — to tweak and refine the models and the software.

This is just one recipe of Metro21's stone soups — we have many other projects that are matching CMU faculty research with the challenges of metro areas, deploying them in pilot projects. In all of these stories, the partnership and collaboration of all the parties is critical to its success. Bottom line, when making stone soup, you need to make sure that it's not only full of ingredients but that's also nourishing and palatable.