Purdue event links industry innovation to developing more connected communities

Celebrating Discovery Park District welcomed more than 300 guests on May 25 at the Convergence Center to celebrate next-generation solutions impact on technology for communities of the future.

Purdue’s Discovery Park District welcomed over 300 guests on May 25 at the Convergence Center to celebrate next-generation solutions' impact on technology for communities of the future.

The event brought together some of the top innovators on Purdue’s campus for a tech showcase and featured three dynamic panel sessions focusing on "Smart Cities in the Heartland," "Lab to Life" and "the Global Roadmap to 6G."

"The event served as a platform to show how academia, government and industry can work together to strengthen economic development and innovation within a community," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who attended the event. "Purdue inventors, leaders in local and state government, and hi-tech industry have been working for years to prepare for a future that is now arriving and all around us."

Stephen Goldsmith, former Mayor of Indianapolis and professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (R) sat down with Mayor Scott Fadness of Fishers, James Lienhoop of Columbus, and James Mueller of South Bend about ongoing projects and obstacles smaller communities face in the Smart Cities in the Heartland panel. (Photo: Will Cabral)
Stephen Goldsmith, former Mayor of Indianapolis and professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (right), sat down with Mayors Scott Fadness of Fishers, James Lienhoop of Columbus and James Mueller of South Bend to discuss ongoing projects and obstacles smaller communities face in the "Smart Cities in the Heartland" panel. (Photo: Will Cabral)

David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer for Purdue Research Foundation, shared an all-encompassing thought on the day.

“It’s great to see this interaction because this is what we always imagined," he said. "We’re really trying to develop the Convergence Center as the business front door to Purdue University.”

Numerous autonomous showcases kicked off the day with Purdue professors and entrepreneurs pitching their next big ideas. Meanwhile movement was happening with live action autonomous vehicles including various mowers, combine and grain cart, GEM cars, and Platooning 18-wheeler semis.

The sounds of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” reconnected guests inside the center as a swarming drone light show that led into a poster session for Purdue students. Twenty-five undergraduate and graduate students were able to present how their research projects could guide new technology.

The afternoon was marked by three thought-provoking panel discussions, the first featuring some of the state’s most forward-thinking, technology-minded mayors, and the other two composed of leaders from the country’s top tech companies.

In his comments at the conclusion of the day, Dean Mung Chiang commended Daniels for his vision to create the Discovery Park District, which the dean emphasized is a premier place for businesses to operate.

“We hope all of the companies here on these panels come to Indiana," Chiang said. "We have great talents here. At Purdue University, the cities get smarter faster in the heartland.”

Smart Cities in the Heartland panel

Moderator: Stephen Goldsmith, Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Policy, Harvard Kennedy School Bloomberg Center; former mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor of New York City

Panelists: Scott Fadness, Mayor, Fishers; James Lienhoop, Mayor, Columbus; James Mueller, Mayor, South Bend

Goldsmith opened the discussion with a description of Smart Cities, which includes initiatives as simple as listening to and involving the public, to more advanced methods like using digital platforms and tools to build and maintain infrastructure and operate more equitably. All cities have different goals based on need, and the key is harnessing technology and analytics to reach them, Goldsmith said.

Starting point: preparing data to be more utilized

Fadness shared how, five years ago, the technology was outpacing what his city was capable of using. The administration realized it had thousands of points of existing data but no way to take that architecture and turn it into something meaningful. The city hired a data analytics group and has made great strides as a result.

In South Bend, building an innovation and technology team was key. Mueller explained that before hiring business analysts and successfully implementing software, his office didn’t have Microsoft Office, no Cloud storage, and a server located under a leaky pipe.

“One of the things we realized early on is that we canvas every inch of city streets once a week — it’s called a garbage truck,” Lienhoop said. He and his team identified this as an opportunity to have eyes on all of the roads of Columbus and plan to implement a system where sanitation workers see a problem such as a downed tree or troublesome pothole and simply press a button in the truck to alert City Hall of the issue.

Using AI and robotics

Working with the company Robotics, South Bend utilized an autonomous car equipped with a camera to drive the roads and take images of street conditions. “We haven’t found any significant difference in the quality of data from physically going out there and assessing versus the solution from Robotics.”

Initially to assist the Columbus Fire Department to safely monitor cases of hot spots and rekindling after house and building fires, the city utilized drones. “What we realized rather quickly is they also can help us identify people,” Lienhoop said. Officials have used drones to find lost children who have been hiding and suspects who attempt to evade law enforcement. On the fun side, they have used them to capture photos of large gatherings of people at celebrations to share on social media.

“Literally we flew a drone into a home where there was a murder-suicide and initially didn’t know if the individuals were deceased or not,” Fadness said. “Without that, you’re knocking through the door and putting someone’s life at risk. That was probably the most unique use of a drone I’ve seen so far.”

Exercising equity

In South Bend, the city tries to “fix the worst streets first,” Mueller said. “That means some investments are going to go to areas that have been neglected for decades.” Also, in its open data GIS platform, all of South Bend’s road ratings are available to the public. Residents can go online and click on the city map to see how a particular street is rated in its level of quality, or depending on the number assigned, its severity.

A new broadband company wants to establish in Columbus, and Lienhoop’s administration agreed, with the stipulation that they “can’t cherry-pick neighborhoods.” They have to serve 90 percent of citizens.

License for innovation

Turning the tables on the moderator, Fadness queried Goldsmith about the often-limiting ability mayors have to embrace innovation, offering, “Infrastructure is ripe for disruption.”

Goldsmith, calling the procurement of the latest technology a “defining issue,” said most mayors suffer from this asymmetry problem. “Mayors want to purchase innovation from the private sector through a process that solicits ideas and turns them into a formal purchase contract. If we’re really going to support innovation at the level of smart technology, there needs to be some way to provide the consulting services to the cities which will advance the speed of the process.”

Modern-day infrastructure, Fadness said, “is necessary for the type of economy we want to drive in our city. We were very intentional about recruiting companies and tech entrepreneurs that we thought, once you get a critical mass of those individuals, it starts a fly wheel that is self-perpetuating. We really did try to put our money where our mouth is as a city, and we told all of those innovators and entrepreneurs, ‘View our city as a living laboratory.’ We will continue to have that open door when it comes to working with entrepreneurs.”

Mueller explained how, in the last 10 years, a critical partnership between South Bend and University of Notre Dame was forged to establish best practices. Through the MetroLab Network agreement, the two entities work together to address critical community needs, and South Bend’s enFocus program was “set up to retain talent from our university.” Furthering that innovative initiative, just this year, Mueller’s administration launched the workforce development program, Upskill SB, to target job seekers, professionals, and recent high school or college graduates to earn industry-level job reimbursable certifications with the goal of developing a highly skilled base of workers in the city.

Sensors and cameras

The City of Columbus has 26 miles of trails and is always trying to measure how well they are used. “We have a variety of sensors, either infrared or in the pavement,” Lienhoop said, adding they are used to gather data about speed, blind spots, and mode.

“Some people are scared of technology,” Lienhoop said. “We’ve had some push-back about cameras downtown and on public buildings, but what we’ve found is that people often behave a little better when they know they’re being watched.”

Every signal in Fishers has the same software platform and allows city officials to manipulate those signal timings in real-time. “We can change them from a laptop in the engineering director’s office,” Fadness shared.

Economic development built around technology

Coming to the conclusion a few years ago that “Edge devices are going to transform the economy,” Fadness’ team capitalized on “Indiana being the most intense manufacturing state in the country.” They saw an opportunity — in the form of a new IoT lab — to encourage companies that could roll out new technology in Fishers.

“We have people working on alternative energy methods, security cameras, and Bluetooth-enabled technologies. We’re hoping to see our first graduation of these companies into our local economy shortly.”

Ten years from now …

“We are looking to implement a cloud-based real-time crime center in the next year, so we would like to see public safety outcomes go in a better direction,” Mueller said.

According to Lienhoop: “Columbus is going to grow 2 to3 percent a year, so 10 years from now, we’ll be 20 to 30 percent bigger than we are now. I don’t want our workforce to have grown by that much. To increase productivity, we’d like to grow the workforce at a lesser rate than we’ve grown the population.”

Fadness wants to see “marked improvement in empowering employees and marked improvement in empowering our residents.” Saying that he thinks Indiana can suffer from a folksy or anecdotal approach to policymaking, he also hopes for “marked improvement in the level of sophistication in the way we make our policy decisions."

Lab to Life Panel

Moderator: David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer, Purdue Research Foundation

Panelists: Nick Hamilton, client executive, U.S. public sector, Cisco; Lee Davenport, director of community development, USignite; Keren Ronen, director of industry ecosystem partnerships Ericsson; Scott Remillard, U.S. air traffic management (ATM) business development, Saab

Broecker welcomed the panel with an update about Lab to Life (L2L) in the Discovery Park District, which, once fully developed, will include manufacturing, research, residential, retail, and health care. L2L represents more than $2.5 million in infrastructure investment and $2 million in innovation and sponsored research projects.

“Over the next 10 years, this 400 acres is going to see over a billion dollars worth of investment, the addition of 7-8,000 people, and it’s all under the governance of Purdue Research Foundation.”

Are we in a 5G world yet?

Remillard: “From my perspective, not yet. But the promise is beyond any single person’s comprehension.”

Ronen: “The infrastructure is there, but it has no meaning until people start using it.”

Davenport: “It is an evolving framework. I can tell you that when my phone flips to 5G, I only have about two hours of battery. We do still need to solve some problems.”

Hamilton: “Taking a digital equities stance … I live in Maryland, and one in four Marylanders don’t have access to broadband at home.

Wi-Fi versus private networks

Hamilton: “I think they’ll continue to work together, and they’re going to be use-case driven.”

Ronen: “Each technology has its own advantages, and each technology has its own costs. There is no best, only the best one for a specific solution.”

Community engagement

Davenport: “I think one of the things we’re happiest about here in the Discovery Park District is the opportunity to put in place a trust framework. The thing that’s greatest about having a brand new space with brand new residents is that, yes, they’re open to being experimented with, but the guidelines that were put in place at the beginning of the conversation” were initiated in trust.

Opportunities for students

Remillard: “We’re building fighter jets here — the next-generation trainers for the U.S. Air Force with a joint project with Boeing. The thread I’m involved in here — we are applying some of our advanced systems here in an innovation center with advanced networks to solve problems. So, you talk about a school of students who are going to be future airport operations managers …. it’s an exciting place to be.”

Hamilton: “A lot of our business units tied into recruiting at Purdue.”

Davenport: “Through our partnership with Purdue Research Foundation, we worked with the City of West Lafayette to understand how to better leverage a network of connected infrastructure – the smart cameras that are along the main thoroughfare. Two competing teams — brilliant minds, freshman engineering teams — presented ways to improve road safety for bicyclists. We’ve coached and mentored those teams through the process of becoming startups. These kids are 19 years old.”

Ronen: Ericsson is working with Purdue on two levels. First, through a collaboration with a company lab on the West Coast, and second, on a test bed Ericsson will create together with the university and Saab to use 5G infrastructure or private networks.

Global Roadmap to 6G panel (hybrid)

Moderator: Mung Chiang, John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering and executive vice president for strategic initiatives, Purdue University

Panelists: Asha Keddy, vice president and general manager for next generation standards, intel; John Roese, global chief technology officer of products and operations, Dell Technologies; John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, Qualcomm; Jan Söderström, vice president of advanced technology, Ericsson

Throughout the discussion, Chiang emphasized the message that Discovery Park District is a desirable place to operate a business.

“We hope all of the companies here on this panel come to Indiana. We have great talents here. At Purdue University, the cities get smarter faster in the heartland.”

What is 5G not delivering that makes 6G necessary by the end of this decade?

Söderström: “I think Indiana is in a good spot for making use of this journey we’re now on to 6G and beyond. For manufacturing or health care or agriculture, we really need the super low latency and super high bandwidth.”

Smee: “There’s a lot of content already in 5G, and so what we’re focusing on in the next five years is to make sure we’re making the right investments to deliver on some of these use cases so they can be more transformative.”

Roese: “The economics of connecting devices is still too high. In 6G, we will find novel ways to bring connectivity to far more than the big things. It will become connectivity for the little things. In rural America, you need a collection of networks working together,” instead of having to choose between satellite or terrestrial wireless. We know we’re going to need a significant reduction in latency, improved performance, and increased reliability to bring more and more of the sensorized industrial and manufacturing world onto these infrastructures.”

Keddy: “I think the difference to Indiana by 2030 is we’ll have it fully connected. The people who are 10 to 15 years old today will come up with innovations that I can’t dream of, that will help in the aspirational things Indiana wants to do. They will help create the future of innovation and economy.”

Dream applications in the year 2030

Keddy: “My own Jarvis – whether it’s for my factory or for my agriculture, or maybe for my software startup — but to have that level of intelligence at my fingertips would be the application I would choose because we have computing at a scale we’ve never had before.”

Roese: “There’s this class of application that has been excluded from the mobility revolution, and they’re primarily living in deep enterprise use cases. They are now all becoming unlocked for the first time in our history, and that is incredibly disruptive and powerful.”

Smee: “We are going to be moving beyond the human requirements. We are relatively limited in terms of our eyesight and our hearing and our ability to engage with multimedia, but as we move toward a more immersive experience, that really challenges the question of where compute is happening. It’s about these different human productivity parts and then that machine connectivity.”

Söderström: “What I think would be key to bridge the divide is immersive health care for everybody, education that is equal across states and countries. 6G really has the capability to bridge society, which is super important for the time we’re living in now. That is maybe a personal and corporate view.”

Private and public networks

Smee: “We can become much more data-driven. What’s exciting about private networks is that you can have a more localized, optimized deployment. Private networks enable the system to dynamically adjust to what’s needed.”

Roese: “Private and public 5G are actually highly complementary. This is going to be the first era where we have not just public and private, but a big focus on interworking between them, making them operate seamlessly.”

Keddy: “It’s about context. Today, most of the data that is generated locally is not used, so we need to use it in a way that is helpful right then and there.”

Söderström: “We are selling private networks on the dozen right now. The public networks will eventually catch up, and there will be a closing of the gap.

Electromagnetic spectrum: Dynamic sharing prevalence in 2030?

Roese: “You want predictability at the RF layer, and you want to do that through governments, not necessarily through raw technology. And so spectrum sharing is going to become more and more important. We’re already doing it reasonably well in 5G. A big piece of how the 6G ecocystem works – that spectrum becomes a tradable, consumable and accessible component.”

Söderström: “Spectrum sharing is already happening in many ways. Some portion of licensed and controlled spectrum is needed. In order for the market to take off, we need to make sure that whoever invests in those services have something to rely on in the base.”

Keddy: “We can do a lot more with the spectrum. All models are good. All spectrum is good, and we’ll use it, we’ll optimize on it, and look at it as a foundation. I’m pleased to see shared models as a way forward.”

Smee: “The ability for spectrum sharing to open up new paradigms for how things are deployed, how multiple operators collaborate, how you can make the best use of spectrum in a spatial environment and allow re-use in another environment, I think that’s really an important area of continued research.”