Cloud Innovation Center Taps AI to Tackle Tough Urban Challenges

The ability to solve real-world challenges with emerging technology is a draw for seasoned and budding innovators. That’s the motivation behind ASU’s Smart City CIC development center, where faculty and students design AI-based solutions for the local community.

Image credit: ASU

College students are getting smarter, and college campuses are, too. Universities are investing in Internet of Things technologies to improve the student experience, facilitate collaboration, and reduce overhead campuswide.

Arizona State University is on the leading edge of that transformation. The university is home to 63,124 students across four campuses and has been ranked the #1 Most Innovative School by U.S. News & World Report for all seven years the category has existed. In 2019, ASU decided to bring its technical prowess to the greater Phoenix community. The university launched the Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC), in partnership with Amazon Web Services, to develop cloud-based, artificial intelligence solutions that address challenges on and off campus.

Challenge Accepted: Tech-Driven Solutions

Students, professors, and community leaders work together to address real-world issues submitted for consideration through the CIC website. The CIC reviews all submissions, which can range from smart city initiatives to social improvements to environmental programs. It selects the most viable, and then the team gets to work creating and testing technology-driven solutions for each project, which are developed for free.

This month the Glendale, AZ, police department is rolling out SmartBeats, a software solution developed in collaboration with the ASU CIC. The city aimed to streamline the scheduling of officers, to establish patrol “beats,” and allocate city resources based on public safety needs and service calls.

Scheduling of the department’s 175 officers was a time-consuming manual task that typically relied on past experience and best-guess service call scenarios. SmartBeats uses artificial intelligence to automate tasks, such as scheduling shifts and managing patrol areas.

The software assesses available staff, officer skills, service calls, special events, and seasonal activities when creating schedules. It also analyzes historical and real-time data to predict staffing needs and populates the data on a dashboard, so commanding officers can deploy or adjust resources as needed.

The patrol scheduler logs into the SmartBeats application, which displays a map of the city, the established patrol areas, and the dashboard. The beats are color coded to indicate coverage and compliance. If additional resources are required, the scheduler can reconfigure them using a “design” tab. As the boundaries adjust, the AI algorithms assess the changes to determine whether they are appropriate for the city’s safety needs. The data, algorithms, and operating system will be updated monthly.

Projects for Good

Other Smart City CIC projects include programs that help families in Arizona. The Teen Workforce Initiative, developed in partnership with a non-profit that helps disadvantaged youth, brings together employers and potential employees. Teens seeking a job download the app, create a profile, and build a resume using a guided tutorial and prompts.

Through the app, job seekers can apply for prescreened jobs, register for job fairs, webinars, and training sessions, and request additional help. The app motivates job hunters by awarding prizes or points for each completed activity. Points can be redeemed at local businesses.

TextAZ is a free text-message service that Arizona residents can use to find and access support services for food, housing, and more. People needing social support services often reach out to multiple resources, each of which requires a redundant intake and screening process and can be time-consuming and confusing. TextAZ consolidates the intake process and creates a user profile.

Using AI, it sifts through the available resources and presents the user with a customized package of services based on their specific location, need, eligibility, and other factors. The AI-based solution will be available in several languages and will support messages via text, phone, and Web applications.

One of the goals of the ASU Smart City CIC is to create prototypes that, once proven, can be deployed in other urban areas. Using AI and cloud computing technologies, municipalities can develop processes to share data and resources that improve services within their communities.