$3M grant supports education and training on smart cities

September 21, 2018

Every time we turn on the news, log in to social media or visit a store, we are inundated with references to smart technologies. Now, even whole cities are being labeled as “smart,” but what does that mean for the people who live in them? A new $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help Arizona State University launch a graduate research training program focusing on just that — citizen-centered smart cities.

The grant is a part of the NSF’s Research Traineeship (NRT) Program, which was designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new and potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. ASU’s project will launch with 24 master’s and 14 doctoral students. People crossing a city sidewalk. The caption reads: A new project at ASU, “Citizen Centered Smart Cities and Smart Living,” aims to take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and developing smart cities with individual citizens at the forefront o A new project at ASU, “Citizen Centered Smart Cities and Smart Living,” aims to take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and developing smart cities with individual citizens at the forefront of attention. Download Full Image

“Our project will prepare students to become the engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers who lead this growing field and shape the future of smart cities in a human-centric way,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, principal investigator on the project and director of ASU’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing.

The project, “Citizen Centered Smart Cities and Smart Living,” aims to take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and developing smart cities with individual citizens at the forefront of attention. Multiple co-principal investigators bring unique perspectives to the topic to answer a wide range of questions:

  • Ann McKenna, director of the Polytechnic School, brings expertise in engineering education.
  • Gail-Joon Ahn, a professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, focuses on cybersecurity.
  • Ram Pendyala, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, specializes in transportation systems.
  • Cynthia Selin, an associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, contributes her expertise in ethics and technology in citizen engagement.

“What does a citizen need from a smart city? How could they benefit from a smart city? And how can they engage better in smart cities? There is a lot of focus on citizen awareness, engagement and education as part of this project we’ve put together,” said Troy McDaniel, an ASU assistant research professor who is providing expertise on human-computer interaction, assistive technology, accessibility and inclusion to the project.

One of the main goals for the project includes successful recruitment, retention and graduation of STEM students from diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented minorities, women and individuals with disabilities.

Students will engage in cross-disciplinary courses and research projects, immersive internships with external partners, service learning opportunities, entrepreneur education, and communication skills training. They will have access to Sun Devil Stadium, a recently converted smart stadium, and other local test beds available for research.

One other goal for the project is career placement and creation of new career paths in smart cities related positions for STEM graduates. Lastly, the project will strive to create community, national and global impact through sharing research findings and project outcomes.

The NSF selected only 17 institutions across the U.S. to participate in this highly competitive program, including Stanford University, UCLA and University of Texas, Austin.

“This funding provides us a tremendous opportunity to advance several of ASU’s fundamental values, including our commitment to access, hands-on experiential learning, interdisciplinary collaboration and an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Panchanathan, who is also executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise and chief research and innovation officer. “This approach allows us to cultivate great ideas and solve real-world challenges.”

Written by Madison Arnold

Globalization is nothing new, research finds

September 21, 2018

Globalization is discussed often as a relatively new phenomenon, arising sometime after the spread of the internet. But new research from Utah State University and Arizona State University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the roots of globalization stretch back 10,000 years.

Marty Anderies, a professor of sustainability at ASU and co-author on the paper titled “Synchronization of energy consumption by human societies throughout the Holocene,” spoke with ASU Now about the findings. A globe Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

Question: How did the idea for this research come about?

Answer: Archaeologists around the world have been working to gather radiocarbon data from very old human trash for quite a long time. Recent efforts to pull together this radiocarbon data analyzed in recent decades have opened up interesting research opportunities, and that’s where our work started.

The availability of this long-term data has allowed us to look at how human societies use energy over time. The question is: Is human energy use synchronized across space and time in any way? That’s a proxy for trying to understand the evolution of human societies, because energy use is a proxy for the size of human societies, and the complexity of human societies.

Q: What did early human energy consumption looked like?

A: In small-scale societies — for example, hunter-gatherer groups — people used natural resources to fuel their societies and economies. If you look at early human societies around the globe, you might expect that they follow natural resource availability driven by solar energy. And as societies developed, they transitioned from solar to fossil fuels.

Q: What were your findings, and what makes those findings significant?

A: The findings are significant because they help us understand general patterns of the evolution of human societies. They help us understand that the globalization we talk about today is nothing new. It has happened in the past. The main finding is that if you look at energy consumption in societies, in different places around the world, their correlation decreases with distance. This suggests that societies’ energy consumption may be linked by trade networks — networks of exchange, migration and conflict. So, energy consumption within societies is more correlated by processes within those societies rather than an outside driver, the availability of solar energy, for example. 

In modern times, we’re facing this issue of human societies becoming highly correlated around the world due to exactly these processes: economic exchange and migration. The entire globe is now linked, and that is a modern consequence of modern technology. Globalization has been going on for a very long time, and will continue. The scale of globalization is the only thing that is new today.

Leslie Minton