This article is published in the October 2015 issue.

NSF/CISE Plays Leadership Role in New Federal Smart Cities Initiative

nsf logoOn Monday, Sept. 15th, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director, Dr. France Córdova, joined other federal science leaders at the White House, including the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, and U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Ms. Megan Smith, to help kick off a new government-wide Smart Cities Initiative.  NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) is pleased to be playing a leadership role in this initiative.

smart_gridIndeed, our CISE community has already played a crucially important role in laying the foundation for this initiative, which creates enormous opportunities for unlocking “smart” new solutions to improve the quality of life in cities and communities throughout the Nation. The deep integration of computation into physical devices, systems, and infrastructure, coupled with advanced networking capabilities, opens the door to transforming our communities in myriad ways, including optimized energy use, reduced traffic congestion, improved access to education and government, and many other other critical services.

At the White House event, Dr. Córdova announced more than $35 million in new NSF smart cities-related grants in FY 2015, including:

  • $12 million to support new research and infrastructure projects through the US Ignite program, including awards to Mozilla Foundation and US Ignite, Inc., to foster “living labs” that will scale up next-generation Internet application prototypes in important public-sector areas such as healthcare, energy, education and learning, transportation, and public safety across our Nation’s cities and communities;
  • $10 million to support new Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) projects with emphases on Smart Cities and the Internet of Things;
  • $3 million to support a new Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) project called the Array of Things to the University of Chicago, which will be the first at-scale research infrastructure deployment enabling researchers to study an urban environment;
  • $2.5 million to enhance the design and operation of efficient, secure and Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) that provide essential goods and services in the context of cities and communities;
  • $2.5 million to enable NSF-funded researchers to participate in the National Institute of Standards and Technology Global Cities Team Challenge;
  • $2 million in new Smart and Connected Health (SCH) research projects to accelerate the development of next-generation health care solutions to enable patient-centered care and wellness that extend to the home, workplace, and community;
  • $375,000 to establish a Research Coordination Networks (RCN) to stimulate novel international research on how to integrate data from physical sensors, social media and other sources; and
  • $4 million to support academic and industry partnerships through the Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program that facilitate integration of breakthrough research discoveries into human-centered service systems, with an emphasis on emerging technologies that can contribute to smart cities/communities.

Beyond these investments, the cornerstone of NSF’s announcements was a new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) that aims to accelerate fundamental research addressing challenges in enabling Smart and Connected Communities.  This DCL is led by the CISE Directorate, and involves the participation of NSF’s Directorates for Education and Human Resources; Engineering; Geosciences; and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences – a testament to the highly interdisciplinary nature of the research questions in this space, as well as NSF’s unique role in convening the breadth of the science and engineering community.

We look forward to continuing to work with the CISE community to realize the smart and connected communities of tomorrow.  We encourage you to review the White House Fact Sheet, NSF press release, and new Dear Colleague Letter, and also to stay tuned for details about an upcoming workshop series later this fall/winter that will help shape the fundamental, interdisciplinary research agenda in this area (for more information about the workshops, please contact CISE’s cognizant program director for Smart and Connected Communities, Dr. David Corman).

By working together, we will help enable new ways for how we work, learn, and interact with one another; cultivate an ecosystem of discovery, innovation, and sharing; and support transformational approaches for conducting interdisciplinary science and engineering that will change how we think of our cities and communities well into the future.