CWRU, CSU initiative designed to shape region into digital innovation leader

The Internet of Things Collaborative (IoTC), a partnership between Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State universities, is bringing together industrial, governmental, educational, neighborhood and nonprofit entities in the region to harness IoT’s vast potential.

To continue building on the IoTC’s early successes, the Cleveland Foundation has awarded another $2.2 million, one-year grant to the collaborative, which was created in 2017 to position Cleveland as a leader in digital innovation.

The new funding follows $2 million in grants the foundation awarded the previous two years to help establish the IoTC and attract top academics and create research labs for the initiative.

“The foundation’s initial support has allowed our universities to make significant progress in advancing research and working with communities and companies on practical applications of this technology,” Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder said. “With this new grant, we will be able to enhance our respective strengths and contribute even more to Cleveland’s role as a true technology leader. We cannot thank the Cleveland Foundation enough for this additional investment in the Internet of Things Collaborative.”

“What we are building here—together with Case Western Reserve University—is special,” said Cleveland State President Harlan M. Sands. “The Cleveland Foundation’s generous, continued support is a testament to the significant strides our two universities have already made in impacting cutting-edge digital technology.”

Vast economic potential

The Internet of Things refers to the massive interconnected network of devices and serves as the technology framework for blockchain and other future digital innovations. The IoTC is focusing especially on four sectors in Northeast Ohio: manufacturing, health, energy and municipal infrastructure.

According to some industry estimates, the number of IoT-related devices is expected to exceed 30 billion by 2020, and the economic impact of related projects is predicted to reach as much as $6 trillion worldwide within five years.

“Our continued support of the IoT Collaborative is indicative of the first-year success of the unprecedented partnership between Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University,” said Leon Wilson, the Cleveland Foundation’s chief of digital innovation and chief information officer. “Investing in our research universities to drive Cleveland’s future in the digital economy is a proven model for economic transformation and makes it possible for our public sector to embrace technology in ways that enhance quality of life for Cleveland residents.”

Initiative showing early successes

Late last year, the IoTC awarded five pilot grants to research teams at both universities as seed money for wide-ranging projects. Separately, CWRU and CSU have also funded additional IoT pilot projects from internal sources.

One such project teams Roberto Galan, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at CWRU, and Wendy Regoeczi, professor and chair of the Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology at CSU. They are developing predictive models of drug offenses and gun violence by studying diverse data sets—including information from the Cleveland Police Department and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

In another, Christopher Wirth, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at CSU, and Emily Pentzer, the Frank Hovorka Assistant Professor in Chemistry at CWRU, are developing IoT-enabled chemical analysis capabilities for chemical products and food processing. Pentzer and Wirth will create analysis tools for connected devices—possibly including smartphones—for manufacturing processes, industrial coatings and more.

Additionally, the collaborative has received four grants from the National Science Foundation totaling nearly $1.5 million and has $20 million in research proposals pending review and more than $12 million in proposals under development.

Such financial support has allowed the IoTC to:

  • Launch a bimonthly thought leadership series to examine industry innovations in IoT.
  • Influence the research and development of an “Industrial IoT Roadmap” by Team NEO (funded by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation), designed to help manufacturers deploy and integrate “smart manufacturing”—also known as “Industry 4.0”— technologies, including  addressing talent development.
  • Work on two neighborhood-based demonstration projects:
    • In Lakewood, the collaborative is using a novel platform to monitor road-surface and sub-surface infrastructure using GPS, vibration sensing and ground-penetrating radar to identify issues before they become catastrophic, such as an undetected water leak. In Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, a group of residents is being trained in the “Appreciative Inquiry” method to discuss how to build on their community’s strengths and how technology might help make their neighborhood even stronger.
    • To help address the opioid crisis, the collaborative is studying the technical and administrative barriers to data-sharing with the goal of significantly improving how law-enforcement agencies and health providers collaborate.
  • Add faculty, staff—including those with industry experience—and consultants to the IoTC team. Included were two new faculty members and three new staff members to support CWRU’s Institute for Smart Secure and Connected Systems (ISAACS), the body coordinating CWRU’s involvement in the IoTC. CSU is recruiting two new faculty members and two staff members to support its Center for IoT Innovation (CITI).
  • Leverage the foundation’s investment by raising $6.6 million in additional philanthropic awards for ISSACS and CITI. CWRU has designated 10 endowed chairs for ISSACS-associated faculty, representing more than $20 million in endowments, which generates more than $800,000 annually for faculty to use for students, equipment, conferences and other expenses.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at william.lubinger@case.edu