Carnegie Mellon University

Leadership Team

April 20, 2018

Highlights from the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute Launch Event

On March 1st and 2nd, we celebrated the launch of the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute! We are starting a new phase in our mission to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas through Research, Development, and Deployment of smart cities technologies. Thank you to everyone who attended our launch event - we hope to continue building partnerships with you all. For those we missed, here are some highlights from the event:

Welcome and Opening Remarks:

President Farnam Jahanian welcomed attendees with an endorsement of our work, emphasizing that all seven of Carnegie Mellon University’s colleges are on board, providing guidance and support to the Institute.

Partnerships are essential to our success. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald reiterated this point, highlighting how a collaborative environment has driven Pittsburgh’s transformative growth over the last three decades.

Karina Ricks, Director of the City of Pittsburgh Planning department continued to push for collaboration between the public and private sectors. She highlighted the impact of Carnegie Mellon’s research on public infrastructure and data governance.

Grant Oliphant, President of the Heinz Endowments, noted that we currently have the technological capabilities to build a world that works for everyone and that Metro21 is uniquely positioned to make progress on this front. He posed a challenge to those in the room to help restore trust in science, expertise, policy, and governance, and to build ethical systems that work for all.

Overview of Metro21

Raj Rajkumar, Director of Metro21, gave an overview of the mission, responsibilities, and future plans for the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute. Specifically, he highlighted Metro21’s collaborative role with government, private sector, and non-profit partners to solve real world problems.

Panel 1: Smart Cities Research and Education

In our first panel of the day, Interim Provost and Professor Laurie Weingart moderated a discussion around the role universities can play in the evolution of smart cities. Highlights include Dean Ramayya Krishnan pointing to Heinz College’s work intersecting social and data science while focusing on equity, and Dean Scheines emphasizing “Good education is local, and feedback has to be localized and customized.”

Dean Andrew Moore implored the audience to focus on the major computing challenges associated with smart cities, while pointing out the creative ways (including encryption) to balance privacy and information quality. Closing out the panel, Prof. Don Carter of the Remaking Cities Institute steered the panel to think about how they could get citizens involved - through honesty, personalization, and incentivizing participation.

Lunch Remarks
During lunch, David Roger, President of the Hillman Family Foundations told the audience the origin story of Metro21 and how foundations are heavily invested in the success of the Institute.
Panel 2: The Science of Smart Cities

After lunch, Engineering College’s Dean James Garrett moderated our second panel about the science of smart cities technologies. Featuring professors from across Carnegie Mellon, the panelists addressed how necessary an interdisciplinary approach is to these issues. Prof. Alexandra Chouldechova first drew attention to the non-neutral nature of data, imploring researchers “to be learning from our mistakes, not simply learning to replicate them”. Still, Prof. Satyanarayanan expressed optimism about the social impact of computer science, while looking forward to the growth of the field that will result from the unique computing challenges smart cities offer.

Prof. Moura emphasized that in disciplines like machine learning, starting with the needs of the user (i.e. city), is one of the most effective ways to solve problems. Prof. Veloso spoke to the “defined process” that cities have become, though our intuition often leads us to believe people have a large degree of freedom in cities.

Panel 3: Smart Cities and Public-Private Partnerships

Moderated by Heinz College’s Dean Ramayya Krishnan, the last panel of the day focused on Metro21’s partnerships with the public sector. Lee Haller, Director of Pittsburgh’s Innovation & Performance Department, stressed that governments should evaluate opportunities first from the business end. Echoing this sentiment, Port Authority CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman laid out a mission for her organization: become the most attractive place for transportation.

In response to Dean Krishnan’s question about the biggest constraints on public-private partnerships, Jim Young, Chief Operations Officer with Crown Castle stressed that funding models have to be adaptive to the city, citing regulations (or lack thereof) as obstacles to getting things done. Frank Sgambati, Director, Business Development - Smart Cities NA, Robert Bosch, noted the “basket of apps” being a problem in this space - a problem Bosch is trying to solve.

Summary and Next Steps
Wrapping up the conference, Karen Lightman, Executive Director Metro21 gave the audience a presentation of key points from the day. She highlighted the importance of our partnerships, and expressed hopes for the distribution of our model to other cities and institutions.