George Washington University’s (GW) Research and Technology Services division is deploying 90 smart streetlights along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The streetlights are equipped with cameras, offer free Wi-Fi, and operate on low amounts of energy. Alongside the streetlights, kiosks will offer information on local sights. These smart city technologies are part of GW’s PA 2040 project, a partnership with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Washington, D.C., government that aims to enhance tourists’ experiences along the street that houses buildings such as the White House. According to Kenneth Walton, architect and urban designer at NCPC, 22 million tourists visit Washington, D.C., a year.

“We’ve been thinking about ways to pull visitors to other parts of the city,” Walton said. “There’s lots of different sensors we’d like to get involved.”

Some of the sensors to which Walton refers include monitors in plant beds along Pennsylvania Avenue that alert city managers when the plants need to be watered or clipped. Trash cans in the surrounding area will be equipped with sensors that let garbage collectors know when they need to be emptied.

Don DuRousseau, director of GW’s Research Technology Services division, described the university’s role in PA 2040 as “innovator and aggregator.” DuRousseau and his team conduct research to create the technology envisioned by the partnership. This effort is one of many similar projects across the country sponsored by the MetroLab Network, which links city governments to research institutions to deploy smart city technologies. On Sept. 27, the White House devoted an additional $80 million to expanding the MetroLab Network.

“It opened the doors for us to walk into agencies in D.C.,” DuRousseau said. “We pretty much have carte blanche from the mayor that says we’re going to work together. We’re trying to function as a living laboratory. There’s a lot of information across the city that’s being collected. It’s really about how you can potentially use this information for social well-being.”

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