'Internet of Things' Symposium Highlights Use of Urban Data

Chicago Chief Innovation Officer Brenna Berman highlighted examples of data-driven analytics leading to policy reform and social change at the "Engineering and Entrepreneurship: The Internet of Things" symposium.

Two hundred and fifty attendees registered for the symposium, according to Gabriella Fee, a coordinator for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' Center for Research on Computation and Society. Attendees at the event, which took place in Harvard’s Northwest Building on Friday, ranged from Harvard graduate students and faculty to members of the technology industry.{shortcode-177451a3dc1e2eef7aaf47bc2f111eb94576bf9b}

The Internet of Things refers to the phenomenon in which data is exchanged through ordinary objects.

Business School Dean Nitin Nohria introduced Berman, who also serves as commissioner of Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology, lauding the power of digital infrastructure and innovation in business models and technology.

“In [Boston’s] history, as a city, we have been pioneers in many, many things, including the formation of this country. [Internet of Things] is an opportunity to be pioneers again,” Nohria said.


Berman, the symposium’s keynote speaker, outlined her vision for transforming what she calls the “future city.” She said efforts to improve cities require an “effective integration of human, physical, and digital systems in a built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive future for residents.”

“What [cities] do and how they behave matters, and they’re growing,” Berman said. Major social, economic, and environmental issues “are going to be solved or not solved in cities, and technology is going to play a major role in that,” she added.

According to Berman, the lack of information on the underground structures of cities poses a serious safety hazard. Using data-driven technology and stereoscopy, a type of scanning technology, Berman’s team has begun rolling sensors that will eventually create a city-wide map of underground infrastructure for construction companies and city officials.

Berman also emphasized the importance of increasing the functionality of data for citizens. She also explored privacy challenges associated with collecting data for public use.

The Internet of Things symposium was sponsored by SEAS’ Center for Research on Computation and Society and the Institute for Applied Computational Science. Both groups co-sponsored the event with the Business School and HUBweek, a week-long innovation showcase in Boston.

The remainder of the symposium, aside from the keynote speech, consisted of a case study and discussion on creating value through software, talks by four SEAS faculty members, and networking opportunities.


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