Researchers in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture are leading a five-year, $1.5 million initiative to develop a framework to monitor, predict, and control energy and air quality in an urban environment, and record resulting health impacts in Spokane’s University District.

School of Design and Construction students developed smart city design ideas for the University District.
School of Design and Construction students developed smart city design ideas for the University District.

Supported by WSU, the multidisciplinary initiative is part of WSU’s Grand Challenges in smart systems to harness technology to improve quality of life. The initiative will link researchers in WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center, the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, and the Institute for Sustainable Design with Spokane’s Smart City Accelerator and its public and private sector partners.

The University also recently signed a memorandum of understanding to begin working with the city of Spokane, Avista Utilities, and other public and industry partners to develop smart systems in the district, which is located north of I-90 and east of Division Street. The area is being transformed by private, state, and federal investments, including WSU’s new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and an iconic new University District Gateway Bridge across the Spokane River.

WSU has a long history of work in smart environments. As part of a national effort to test new smart grid technologies, a group of WSU researchers worked with Avista Utilities on a five-year-long demonstration project to make Pullman the region’s first smart grid community. Researchers in the Energy Systems Innovation Center are also partnering with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington on a project to research, develop, and demonstrate technologies to create “smart” buildings, campuses, and cities to better manage energy use. The WSU team is installing photovoltaic modules on the Pullman campus and integrating them into WSU’s smart city test bed.

In the past year, students in the School of Design and Construction also developed smart city design ideas for Spokane’s University District, including ideas for interactive environments and data-driven decision making.

The new planning project furthers these efforts, aiming to establish WSU as a center for research and analytics in the design, engineering, and application of smart systems that will serve and ensure healthy, resilient communities, said Anjan Bose, regents professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a project coleader. The global smart cities initiative aims to create cities that use less resources while increasing their livability and economic viability.

“There are more and more people on the planet relying on urban infrastructure,” he said. “We can’t tear out and replace all of our infrastructure, but we have to increase its capability and make the most of the resources we have.”


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