Downtown Chattanooga

Aug 30 2021

Chattanooga to Explore Smart City Research with NSF Funds

Using a National Science Foundation grant, the city will expand on its connected transportation test bed.

Chattanooga, Tenn., has already carved out a place for itself as a smart city focused on providing broadband connectivity to all of its residents and a pioneer in testing pedestrian safety and other smart transportation technologies.

Now, the city is planning to initiate another smart city project. Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress won a $1.37 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a Test Bed as a Service on top of the city’s existing smart corridor in its downtown area. Researchers will be able to collect and share transportation data from the connected infrastructure. 

As StateTech has reported

In spring 2019, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) began using cameras and lidar, radar and other sensors, along with various networking capabilities, to test pedestrian safety conditions, traffic flow and air quality elements along a 1.2-mile portion of the city’s Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Now, the city will use the new grant money to create “Smart Corridor+” along the same stretch of roadway to study traffic flow, public safety and transportation, environmental impacts and other quality-of-life issues.

“Smart Corridor+ is a major step forward for Chattanooga’s smart city research community,” said Kevin Comstock, the smart city director for Chattanooga, according to Smart Cities World. “The city will be able to offer state-of-the-art research technologies to the nation’s top smart city researchers. It’s a huge win for everyone involved.”

RELATED: How can smart city tech improve community safety? 

Chattanooga Builds on a Smart Foundation 

Once the new test bed is deployed, researchers will log into an online portal to get continuously updated data, video, analysis and performance-measuring tools, according to Government Computer News.

A key goal of the new experimentation is to cut down on pedestrian injuries and integrate autonomous and connected vehicles into the environment. 

According to GCN, the platform “will be programmable and able to deliver data on internet-of-things devices, diverse communications, edge computing and software services.”

The researchers plan to focus on Internet of Things applications related to “improved urban mobility, public safety, smart infrastructure, and human/device behavioral analysis that cannot be otherwise performed,” according to the NSF grant summary, as noted in the GCN report. 

“We have been working toward this for some time now, and it wouldn’t have happened without our close collaboration with the city of Chattanooga, EPB and The Enterprise Center,” said CUIP Director Mina Sartipi, according to The Pulse. “Securing funding for this initiative is exciting. We want Chattanooga to advance as a hub for smart and connected community research and development.”

Chattanooga has been using its existing smart corridor to analyze dangerous interactions between vehicles and pedestrians and to predict economic activity. 

“During the pandemic, we were monitoring traffic in a handful of areas, and as we saw these dips — critical dips — on a lot of our main corridors out there, we knew that that was going to be having an impact on our tax revenue,” said Kevin Comstock during a July 29 panel to discuss the future of smart city projects, according to Government Technology. “As we began to see those things climb out of the COVID time, taxes started to return,” he added. 

Comstock envisions using traffic data “as a metric to reflect when the tax base would be returning to some level, if we knew in advance what the traffic system was looking like,” he said. 

The data from the new experiments will be used by both university researchers and the city’s smart city officials. “I think one of the key things to being a smart city is actually starting to utilize the information you have on your fingertips already, and making use of that in some proactive fashion,” Comstock said.

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