Internet of Things photo illustration showing connected devices

CWRU, CSU partner in new “Internet of Things” collaborative

Supported with Cleveland Foundation planning grant as part of broad regional digital initiative

With a planning grant from the Cleveland Foundation, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University (CSU) will partner in the development of a new regional academic collaboration to assess, promote and innovatively contribute to the vast interconnected network of devices known as “the Internet of Things.”

The $200,000, six-month grant is part of the Cleveland Foundation’s broader digital economy strategy—called the Digital Excellence Initiative—to invest in efforts that create a more connected community, support digital skills development, improve digital civic engagement, elevate regional digital leadership and encourage technology innovation for social good.

“This new initiative reflects the foundation’s ongoing commitment to strengthen Greater Cleveland’s digital landscape, an area in which we can and must compete or we risk being left behind,” said Leon Wilson, the foundation’s chief of digital innovation and chief information officer.

With the foundation’s support, Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State will jointly identify and develop academic and research solutions to challenges that impact connected devices, while also preparing a future workforce to move the region forward.

The grant will allow Case Western Reserve and CSU to plan and build an operational foundation for this academic collaboration, focused mainly on economic development and partnership. The goal: to transform Northeast Ohio into a national model of collaboration, research, technology transfer, workforce development and community infrastructure in the emerging area of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

“This funding provides a focused opportunity for Case Western Reserve and CSU to develop an academic collaboration that includes education and research in the emerging field of IoT by capitalizing on our individual strengths, leveraging our complementary assets and identifying critical needs for the future,” said Kenneth Loparo, the Nord Professor and chair of CWRU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“With increasing reliance on social networking systems, the fundamental structures of human contact and communication have begun to include the physical infrastructure around us in ways previously never imagined,” added Nigamanth Sridhar, professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at CSU. “The vision for such an always-connected world includes an Internet of Things, which can provide society with a seamless, coherent and unified interface to the world around us. This grant allows CSU and CWRU to work together in new and innovative ways to provide educational and research opportunities to our region.”

The grant will support a six-month planning effort to:

  • Develop a model of private-public higher education collaboration around education, research and training with an administrative structure that supports its implementation.
  • Conduct a feasibility study to test the model with an industry partner for validation, feedback and refinement.
  • Host a public IoT symposium to promote the regional economic impact and opportunities and seek additional support and feedback from stakeholders, including public sector, industry and other higher-educational institutions.

IoT is the network of physical devices that contain embedded technology to communicate or interact over the internet, such as factory automation sensors, sensors for monitoring agricultural production, devices that can remotely transmit patient data to labs or doctors and systems that monitor road and railway transportation, water distribution, electrical transmission and distribution and other infrastructure.

According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence, the economic potential for the IoT is enormous. The report estimates 24 billion IoT devices installed internationally by 2020, with $6 trillion invested in IoT solutions over the next five years as internet connectivity expands globally, mobile adoption increases, the use of low-cost sensors expands and greater investments are made in IoT.

The partnership with CSU dovetails with an effort Case Western Reserve launched last March, creating the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems (ISSACS) to advance IoT research—initiatives in data science, cyber security, networks, embedded systems and more. The institute helps leverage the university’s strengths in sensors and electronics, networks and communications, systems and control, data science and analytics.