UCI computer scientist Nalini Venkatasubramanian

UC Irvine computer science professor Nalini Venkatasubramanian represented the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences at the SmartAmerica Expo in Washington, D.C., this month. An initiative of the White House and the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the SmartAmerica Challenge asked scholars to submit innovative ideas for cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things and show how these systems can create jobs, new business opportunities and socioeconomic benefits. The White House hosted an event with select SmartAmerica Challenge teams from across the country. At the event, Venkatasubramanian spoke about her team’s project, dubbed SCALE: Safe Community Alert Network, which is designed to help entire communities better respond to risk. The next day, her team and 23 others came together at the Washington, D.C., convention center to see demonstrations and hear speakers from the White House, government agencies, private industry and U.S. universities. The SCALE network, comprising representatives from UCI, MIT, IBM, Twilio, SigFox, Schneider Electric, the Department of Homeland Security and Montgomery County, Md., will use low-cost sensor networks to provide communication, emergency response and other functions to the general public. The team will set up a demonstration site at a housing development in Montgomery County using sensors and analysis tools developed at UCI. The team has developed platforms that are flexible, inexpensive and easy to deploy on a community-wide scale. This will help overcome a particularly troubling aspect of the “digital divide”: Such technologies are often only available to those with the ability to afford them and the expertise to set up and manage them. With SCALE’s advanced technology, an elderly, homebound resident would no longer need to fear a fall. Families would no longer fall victim to fire because of a smoke detector with a dead battery. “The SCALE project enables a new, open ecosystem for cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things, which allows academic, industry and government partners to work together to create innovative new technologies for the benefit of all,” Venkatasubramanian said.