A group of universities in Florida, New Jersey and New York announced last week they are forming a federally funded center to research “smart streetscapes.” The Engineering Research Center for Smart Streetscapes will explore improvements related to road safety and traffic efficiency, public safety, assistive technologies, the future of outdoor work and hyper-local environments. Researchers plan to partner with municipal agencies and community organizations in West Palm Beach, Florida; New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Harlem, New York.

The center’s leaders have taken into account lessons from past smart cities projects’ pitfalls, said Jason Hallstrom, the center’s deputy director and chief research officer. “We’re not going into this with preconceived ideas,” said Hallstrom, who is a professor in the College of Engineering & Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University. While the center has laid out research themes, “the applications need to come from our communities.”

A smart streetscape has the potential to “instantly sense human behavior and guide disabled pedestrians, collect refuse, control pests, amplify emergency services, and protect people against environmental and health threats,” the center’s announcement states.

The center is funded by the National Science Foundation for the next five years with $26 million, with the potential to renew for another five years thereafter. Columbia University, Florida Atlantic University, Lehman College, Rutgers University and the University of Central Florida are the center partners.

In addition to working with municipal agencies and community groups, the center already has about two dozen industry partners, ranging from large commercial builders to road safety companies to smart cities analytics companies, Hallstrom said, and it hopes to add more.

Read the full article about improving city infrastructure by Maria Rachal at Smart Cities Dive.