Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

You name it. The faculty members at Carnegie Mellon University who are connected with the Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research (CenSCIR) are busy applying smarter-planet technologies and thinking to practically any system of physical infrastructure. Now, in connection with IBM, the organization’s leaders are creating a physical place to serve as sort of a clubhouse for researchers and organizations that want to tap into their brain power.

The IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab, announced today, is going to be a 1,000-square-foot facility within one of the the university’s buildings. It will be equipped with engineering workstations, 3-D displays, a telepresence set up, massive data storage capabilities, and access to powerful clusters of number-crunching computers. “Here, people can organize and visualize their work. It will be a showcase for what we do,”  says James H. Garrett, Jr., the co-director of CenSCIR and head of CMU’s civil and environmental engineering department.

Roads, bridges, locks, dams, you name it

The folks at CMU have been focusing on infrastructure research for more than a decade, but they set up CenSCIR  four years ago to provide more of a formal structure for their work. It’s an interdisciplinary approach, with participation from the schools of engineering, computer science, architecture, social sciences, and business.

Garrett is possessed by a burning sense of urgency. He’s concerned that the decline of the physical infrastructure in the United States is going to adversely affect not only safety but the country’s economic vitality. “Some nations spend a lot more of their GDP on maintenance of the infrastructure than we do,” he says. “Here, infrastructure doesn’t come to mind until things collapse. That’s no way to manage this very important piece of the economy.”

When the Lab is set up I’ll visit and create a video tour for the Smarter Planet blog.

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