The University of Virginia’s School of Engineering has debuted the interdisciplinary Link Lab, which is a 17,000 square foot facility where engineers, researchers and students can build and create the systems that will connect the cyber world to the physical. Some of the main project themes at the Lab are Smart Cities, autonomous cars, and Connected Health.
The $4.8 Million lab’s aim is to unite different members of the staff, facility and students. Combining their expertise in a wide variety of technologies. One example is director Jack Stankovic, who is a computer science professor who works with real-time systems, wireless sensor networks, wireless health, IoT, and cyber-physical systems. While another director, Jonathan Goodall, works in computer science as well as civic and environmental engineering with specialization in hydrology, water resources engineering and hydroformatics.
“Organizers sought to bring together professionals and students whose wide-ranging backgrounds would bring broad support to the lab’s research efforts, said Craig Benson, dean of the engineering school. We have this unique ecosystem with a strong medical school, a strong hospital and strong schools of engineering, all within walking distance of each other. We’ve got experts in algorithms, sensors, computations, systems and applications, and the nexus is an advantage for UVA. The Link Lab is all about creating an environment where scholars and students can work together on real-world problems.”
Thus far researchers have created a communications system for connected and autonomous vehicles, as well as wearable monitors to improve home care for patients with conditions such as dementia and diabetes. Other projects include interfaces between driverless cars and their passengers to keep them informed about the cars’ actions. Cyber-physical systems to understand, manage, and analyze water systems to address resource challenges. Also, using information about building occupants’ locations and activities to strategically use heating, cooling, water and electricity.
With these efforts, it will be interesting to see which ones garner with most practical results for consumers. In the utility usage example, early returns indicate that $25 worth of sensors could reduce the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning consumption by 28 percent according to University of Virginia assistant professor Kamin Whitehouse.
For the students, the big benefit of working in the Link Lab is the chance to gain hands-on experience using principles the in cyber-physical systems courses. This also provides smart city talent for the industry.
“Everything in our future is going to be connected through the internet, everything in the world in which we work and spend our lives,” said Benson. “Cyber-Physical systems form the link between computers, data, decision-making and the physical world, and cyber-physical systems let us do things in a much faster more efficient and effective way. Our Link Lab is an environment where scholars and students can work together developing cyber-physical systems that will solve real-world problems and make the world a better place.”
The hope is more universities will follow suit and build these smart labs across the country.