The MetroLab Network has grown to 35 city/county-university partnerships working together to research, develop, and deploy technologies and policy approaches in order to address urban areas’ challenges.

MetroLab Network was launched in September 2015 by 21 city/county-university pairings, as part of President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative-an initiative using more than 25 new technology collaborationsto help local communities address key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services. It is supported by a $1 million grant that uses data and information technologies to better understand how cities work and improve urban conditions.

Members of the MetroLab Network focus on research, development, and deployment on more than 100 broad impact projects, including improving transportation and water systems, reducing energy footprints in cities, and advancing health and public safety goals.

Recently, Virginia Tech and Arlington County, Va., have been accepted into the MetroLab Network. “It will be exciting to watch this partnership use data and technology to improve the county’s infrastructure, and enhance both economic development and the quality of life for all who live and work here,” said Arlington County board chair Libby Garvey.

MetroLab Network interim director Ben Levin welcomes the partnership and said, “Their focus on transportation and data analytics will help drive progress in the cities, counties, and regions that are addressing similar issues across the country. Furthermore, their collaboration with our extensive national network will accelerate progress in Arlington County on many of its priorities.”

Overall these partnerships create a collaborative platform that enables information sharing and the scaling of technologies across the country. “Becoming a part of this national network of local governments and universities will spur innovative solutions for our community,” said Garvey.

This partnership “offers [Virginia Tech] researchers an opportunity to address issues and challenges that significantly impact the future of urban society,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. The partnership “is a wonderful way of extending our land-grant mission to urban innovation.”

The university partnership will aid with the research and development aspect, while the local government provides a test-bed for technologies and policies. The combined expertise provides local governments solutions that reduce the cost of infrastructure and services, leading to more sustainable and resilient cities that will improve residents’ quality of life.

These two new partners have signed a memorandum to undertake at least three research, development, and deployment projects, including the following:

  • Rosslyn Transportation Characteristics Analysis: Observe and collect data on pedestrian, bicycle, bus, and vehicle intersections to aid in the development of smart city protocols. This data can help Arlington County make informed decisions regarding planning and operational investments in urban areas.
  • Crystal City Sensor Networks: Implement and collect data from the Internet of Things to monitor building envelopes for energy and environmental parameters. This project will identify opportunities for improving sensing and control of infrastructure, while increasing building energy efficiency and environmental quality.
  • Engineering Smart Cities Capstone Design Projects: Develop and design a course for Virginia Tech students where they will use new technologies, collect data, and perform analysis on specific problems of interest to Arlington County.
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