Purdue’s persistent pursuit of the next giant leaps continues. The Discovery Park District at Purdue, adjacent to the west side of the university’s campus, is being transformed into a connected community. This type of community bring together businesses, citizens and local government with online education, tools and other resources so they can prosper in the digital world and address some of their biggest challenges. But there is a lot more to connected communities than only that brief summary. We have invited three Purdue University researchers – Sogand Hasanzadeh, David J. Love and Shweta Singh – and Purdue Research Foundation’s Troy Hege to share their insights in this virtual roundtable.
Question: How could a Connected Community with 5G and 6G connectivity impact academic research and entrepreneurial efforts conducted at a university? How could it impact economic development?
David J. Love: There is much potential with this kind of deployment and research model, but it has to be done in a controlled way. The key to allowing academic research is to have a flexible and easily modifiable interface and to limit the accidental damage researchers could do. For example, researchers will test new architectures and perform experiments where the outcomes are not predetermined. You do not want a graduate student to run an experiment and accidentally take out wireless connectivity for paying customers.
Troy Hege: David is correct about research. The L2L, or Lab to Life, platform is more about application; applying research to real-world situations to solve a problem or improve the human experience. The ability to have both research and application platforms/capabilities is what positions Purdue uniquely.
The accelerated growth of higher quality, more data and faster connectivity is driving the need for higher-capacity networks and technology solutions to keep pace. The recent emergence of 5G networks brings ~1,000 greater data capacity and lower latency than 4G networks. While 6G is in its infancy, it again will create a step function in speed, capacity and latency over 5G. Higher data speeds and lower latency begins to unlock use cases, such as “autonomous operation” in fields like health care, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment, and public safety and security.
The Lab to Life applied innovation platform at Discovery Park District at Purdue provides a real-world, diverse, integrated and scaled environment for Purdue faculty, students and corporate collaborators to create this future and continue to lead the state and nation in the transformation to the digital economy.
Question: How could a Connected Community impact university-industry collaborations such as sponsored research and the commercialization of innovations?
Troy Hege: To survive, all companies need to understand the implications of the real-world effects of the digital economy on their products and services. The most successful companies are strategically collaborating with one another as well as universities to advance their R&D and innovation activities.
The Lab to Life applied innovation platform at Discovery Park District at Purdue leverages the smart connectivity platform that was deployed to provide leading-edge connectivity services and solutions to the tenants and residents of the district to enable research and application in new communication technologies, networks, applications and use cases. The Lab to Life platform is an at-scale, real-world, 400-acre “facility” that companies can use for advancing their innovation agendas. As companies do this, they are also engaging with Purdue’s faculty on sponsored research and Purdue’s students in internships and employment.
Question: How do smart and Connected Communities enhance flexibility, resiliency and efficiency in grid-interactive multi-buildings and city-level energy and water systems?
Sogand Hasanzadeh: Traditional building has a one-way communication with the grid; however, the Connected Communities leverage the two-way communication of grid-interactive multi-buildings. In Connected Communities, having smart controls, analytics and sensors — e.g., adopting smart thermostat, advanced distribution management system — to talk/respond to the grid and each other deliver distributed capacity at scale, facilitate the integrated city-level energy and water system and leverage the advancement in digital communication. Real-time insights on the needs of building occupants and advanced analytics on their energy usage can be used to optimize their comfort and support grid needs during peak hours.
Connected communities facilitate the pathways toward energy equity, resilience, greater affordability and comfort to underserved communities by deploying and implementing demand flexibility and renewable generations inexpensively.
Troy Hege: With more connectivity, more sensors, more data and robust governance to support secure, transparent and trusted data use, Connected Communities can enhance the delivery of services to their citizens. The collection and use of data enable communities to better understand and see a wholistic view of their power and water usage that allows for optimization, enhanced prediction and faster notification that is improving resiliency and efficiency. Examples of this include demand-based mass transit, coordinated traffic flow, faster emergency response, and load-balanced energy generation and storage.
Question: 5G and 6G haven’t yet been applied to digital agriculture. What is the potential impact of these technologies on digital agriculture? How can they best be supported and developed for digital agriculture use?
Sogand Hasanzadeh: The agriculture industry can significantly change by the implementation of 5G/6G. The question that came to my mind is how the utilization of 5G/6G in digital agriculture can help in real-time insights of the plants and reduce the cost or risk of natural disasters? How about deploying the concept of a digital twin of the field to facilitate digital agriculture?
David J. Love: Agriculture takes place in rural areas that do not have a high density of users. Most research, standardization and industry investment has focused on urban and suburban deployments. This is problematic because future precision agriculture use cases could pose performance demands on wireless infrastructure that rival the most demanding urban deployment.
Troy Hege: 5G and 6G are network technologies enable the transmission of data and farming like many other sectors of the economy is data intensive, e.g., weather conditions, soil conditions and crop health. Not every use case in health care, transportation, manufacturing or farming requires 5G/6G, but many do because of the volume of data being transmitted or the transmission speed required.
A key across these industries is the need for connectivity and the need for networks like LoRaWAN, WiFi, 3G/4G/5G/6G and even other spectrum bands like CBRS to work together to enable the right data at the right time to be communicated. 5G networks may not be required for the management of a 5,000-acre field, but what if instead the farmer was trying to optimize crop health and crop yield in 5,000 one-acre fields. This kind of use case would benefit from high-capacity networks and edge computing capabilities. The challenge in farming like in lots of other industries will continue to be finding ways to produce more with less and data capture, transmission and use is increasingly providing new insights on how to do this.
Question: How can physical infrastructure — roads, buildings, bridges, etc. — be monitored, managed and maintained through digital twins in Connected Communities? How will the maintenance costs be impacted by this integration?
Sogand Hasanzadeh: Infrastructure is aging in the U.S. and billion-dollar investments are needed to take care of them. The digital twin — a digital replica of the city including all infrastructures connected through sensors — and IOT have the potential to make smart cities smarter by collecting real-time data, precisely monitoring the existing infrastructure, sending data to the cloud to be analyzed, optimizing city operations, and improving the functionality and performance of services. This ultimately helps officials stay informed about the status and condition of the existing infrastructure, detect problems — e.g., natural wear and tear, humidity impact, cracks — early on, and make more informed decisions with the help of data analytics and visualizations.
Troy Hege: In Connected Communities, critical infrastructure elements can be monitored in a variety of ways. These include in-place sensors and cameras as well as in vehicle and mobile sensors. Most new cars today have sims card embedded in them so that manufactures can collect and analyze engine and driving performance over the life of the car. Increasingly cars are also capturing information that provides insight into the infrastructure itself. Purdue researchers are working on evaluating “hard-breaking events” in automobiles to assess traffic, road, and weather conditions to provide real-time monitoring and alerts. Cameras in vehicles are also being used to monitor for lane markings and autonomous systems are being used to condition sidewalks and roadways ahead of ice and snowstorms to improve public safety. Digital twins allow communities to model, test and predict congestion, faults, and failures in critical infrastructure via real-world like simulations that provide insights into the impact of maintenance and severe weather on public infrastructure and its impact on the community.
Question: Does connecting all modes of traffic (vehicles, emergency vehicles, autonomous vehicles) and delivery (robots, drones) infrastructure with pedestrian mobility facilitate sustaining a safer, smarter, and more effective traffic control system? What are the challenges with this integration?
Sogand Hasanzadeh: Smart city technology\ies (traffic cameras, video detectors, fiber optic cable, etc.), IoT, V2X network, and many other technologies can provide users with critical information. For example, the driver can be warned if s/he is at risk of a crash with a pedestrian or cyclist; when the emergency vehicle is approaching; and when approaching a school crossing. It can also provide the optimal route suggestions for the drivers. Taking advantage of these integrated sensors also enables a better vehicle-to-infrastructure and helps in improving autonomous vehicle performance.
Troy Hege: Muti-model transportation produces multi-model sources of data. The key challenge is in real time or near real time capture and integration of this information to inform and direct action, e.g., the switching of a walk sign or stop light based on real time traffic data to decrease congestion and improve safety. We are a long way from this type of transit integration, but that isn’t stopping us from exploring how we can use the Lab to Life platform to advance various aspects of this to bring value to the community. Purdue is currently partnering with the City of West Lafayette on a Smart City Challenge looking at ways to improve public safety in the multi-model environment along state street. The challenge is looking at ways to identify a cyclists, scooter, robots, and pedestrians and understanding how these modes of transportation interact with cars, truck, and public transit at key interactions. Insights captured will help improve public safety and improve traffic flow.
Question: Will Advanced Cyberinfrastructure be the key in enabling sustainability and meeting decarbonization goals?
Shweta Singh: Meeting decarbonization goals and enabling sustainability of manufacturing/production is both an engineering and information challenge. Clearly identifying the hot spots of the complex manufacturing networks across multiple supply chains will be key in making decisions about decarbonization efforts. Therefore, building advanced cyberinfrastructure that will support model building, simulations and information sharing will be key in making the right decisions. With significant advancement in computing capacity, automation etc. it is feasible to now achieve this, however, there needs to more interdisciplinary work to develop the infrastructure with right functionality.
Troy Hege: Connected infrastructure has a big role to play in sustainability. The Purdue Research Foundation is partnering with AT&T and its Connected Carbon Initiative to explore this idea. AT&T is partnering with several universities to explore how 5G connectivity can help improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. The PRF project is specifically looking at manufacturing, but other areas of focus include transportation and energy. The collection and use of data is enabling companies and communities to better understand and see a wholistic view of their power and water usage that allows for optimization, enhanced prediction, and faster notification that is improving resiliency and efficiency. Examples of this include demand-based mass transit, coordinated traffic flow, faster emergency response, and load-balanced energy generation and storage.
Question: What will be the role of community infrastructure for decision making to drive manufacturing networks towards zero waste and zero emissions systems?
Shweta Singh: Shared governance, transparent yet secure information/data sharing, accessibility to knowledge for making decisions are some of the key roles that community infrastructure can play in decision making. There needs to be more interaction between physical and information scientists to create, maintain and co-evolve these community infrastructures.
Question: With limited economic resources, how do Connected Communities stay current when technology changes year-to-year?
David J. Love: 5G NR is quickly evolving with each new release. The focus of a Connected Community would need to be on equipment that is highly programmable in order to track release updates and (potentially?) allow for research. If available, it seems like any commercial open radio access network (O-RAN) and software defined radio (SDR) solutions would be well suited to this sort of environment.
Troy Hege: Technology changes and generally improves, e.g., the iPhone 7 has now evolved to the iPhone 13. Companies and municipalities are not different than individual consumers. All people did not migrate immediately to smart phones and not all iPhone 12 users migrated immediately to iPhone13 as soon as they were launched. People, companies and municipalities adopt technology as they perceive value and benefit that is worth the cost. The onus is not on the consumer to keep up with technology, but for technology to provide value. Coming back again to the Lab to Life platform it is not about advancing innovation for innovation’s sake, it is about a place to optimize, test, validate and substantiate technology and use cases that create value for the consumer – value in terms reducing costs, reducing carbon emissions, improving safety, improving quality of live, improving productivity. Framed in this way connected community investments should be made when value can be delivered at which point connected community infrastructure becomes as important to invest in and re-invest in as roads, schools, and parks.
Question: How do connected communities allow for new connected vehicular enhancements while balancing safety concerns?
David J. Love: Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems have been around for many years now, but they have still made little commercial impact. There have been numerous testbeds, including the federally funded Connected Vehicle Test Bed in Michigan and its affiliate sites. In some of these locations, users can test new hardware and software solutions in a controlled setting. A connected community with V2X capabilities should follow best practices developed through this past testbed work. Most likely, this means that it would be used for limited driver assistance, sensor monitoring, and entertainment functions.
Troy Hege: Connected mobility is more than autonomous. Connected mobility enables data to be captured, transmitted and used. The question becomes, what are the use cases that can use this connectivity and data to improve our lives. Examples of this include on-demand services like Uber or food delivery robots, emissions reductions via more effective public transit and reduced traffic congestion, and sustainability and efficiency from enhanced monitoring and maintenance. The advancement of technology is not without risk. Cyber-terrorism is a real and emerging threat and autonomous vehicles are not high functioning yet. However, in the healthcare industry, the answer is not don’t innovate, the answer is to innovate in controlled ways with appropriate oversight, e.g., clinical trials. It is in this context that the Lab to Life platform becomes such a unique resource because it enables technology innovation in a controlled environment that is geared to protect the broader interest of the community through secure, safe, transparent, and ethical oversight of data and projects.
About the panelists
Sogand Hasanzadeh is an Assistant Professor at the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering and Management at Purdue University. She received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Civil Engineering and two M.Sc. in Construction Engineering and Management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Shahid Beheshti University, Iran. Hasanzadeh’s research focuses on advancing smart construction/manufacturing and building smart/connected communities through the application of cyber-physical-human systems, wearable sensors, VR/AR/MR/XR, AI, and big data analytics. Her interdisciplinary work is looking for creating a shared language between civil engineering, data science, computer science, human factor, and psychology that leads to more informed engineering solutions in response to the current and future challenges in our communities and complex projects. Her works have repeatedly been recognized nationally and internationally and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), several DOTs, construction companies, and the Electri International.
Troy Hege is the Vice President of Innovation and Technology at Purdue Research Foundation (PRF). In this role, Hege works closely with the Chief Innovation and Collaboration Officer to build and foster engagement with funders, collaborators, and corporate partners. Key areas of focus include the activation of discovery park district as a leading live, work, and play connected destination of future; and, the innovation partners institute, which is a vehicle for advancing public-private partners around technology application to solve community challenges.
Prior to joining PRF in 2020, Hege spent three years as founder and president of Westvale Group, a management consultancy focused on innovation and commercialization; Served as the chief of staff of the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute for three years; and spent a decade at BioCrossroads as an initiative leader.
Prior to returning to Indiana in 2003, Hege worked for seven years in management consulting for firms in Boston and New York, advising leading healthcare, pharmaceutical and technology companies on brand management, business development and technology strategy. Hege received his Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University and MBA from Harvard Business School.
David J. Love (S’98 – M’05 – SM’09 – F’15) received the B.S. (with highest honors), M.S.E., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000, 2002, and 2004, respectively. Since 2004, he has been with the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University where he is now the Nick Trbovich Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and leads the College of Engineering Preeminent Team on Efficient Spectrum Usage. He currently serves as a Senior Editor for IEEE Signal Processing Magazine and previously served as an Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Communications, an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing, and a guest editor for special issues of the IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications and the EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking. He is a member of the Executive Committee for the National Spectrum Consortium. His research interests are in the design and analysis of broadband wireless communication systems, 5G wireless systems, multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) communications, millimeter wave wireless, software defined radios and wireless networks, coding theory, and MIMO array processing.
Shweta Singh is an Assistant Professor in Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering and Environmental & Ecological Engineering at Purdue University, USA. Dr Singh’s research focuses on advancing systems methodologies and computational tools for Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Input-Output based LCA and creating cloud-based computational tools for sustainability assessment. Applications of these tools include design for enabling circular economy, evaluating impact of adopting renewable energy and decarbonization, climate change and sustainability of emerging technologies such as bio-based or cyber-physical systems. She is also passionate about diversity and inclusion in education and designs puzzles that imparts game-based systems thinking education for K-12 students to demonstrate power of diversity using Jigsaw Puzzle classroom pedagogy, offered through 4H program at Purdue. Her research is supported by funding from federal, private and non-profit organizations including U.S. National Science Foundation; U.S. Army Research Lab and international organization such as International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Germany. Dr Singh received B.Tech in Chemical Engineering from IIT, India (2006), Masters in Applied Statistics (2011) and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering (2012), both from The Ohio State University, USA. From 2012-2013, she was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in residence with Western Ecology Division of US Environmental Protection Agency and from 2013-2014 she was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto, Canada. She was one of the 83 early career engineers invited by National Academy of Engineering to attend the US Frontiers of Engineering symposium in 2021. Her awards include AIChE Environmental Division Early Career Award (2021), Best Student Paper from AIChE Sustainable Engineering Forum (2014) and Best student paper and poster at IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (2010).