Internet of Things

New U Virginia Lab to Study Smart Cities, Autonomous Vehicles and More

A little over two years after the University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Science announced an initiative to build a lab that brought researchers and faculty from across the school together to work on projects involving both the cyber and physical realms, the university has opened its $4.8 million, 17,000-square-foot facility.

The "Link Lab," as it's called, currently focuses on projects in three areas: smart cities, smart health and autonomous vehicles and robots. The space houses a team of 34 faculty members and about 100 graduate students and is actively recruiting additional research scientists and post-doc research associates.

Among the initiatives underway:

  • Interfaces to help riders stay informed about what's happening in their driverless cars;
  • LED-based "LiFi" networks that transmit data through signals from light fixtures, as an alternative to WiFi or GPS;
  • Smart storm water management to help deal with rising tides in coastal communities;
  • Sensors that will detect deterioration in infrastructure such as bridges;
  • Surgical robotics; and
  • Wireless health monitors for in-home care of people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"The Link Lab is really enticing for me," said Devin Harris, an associate professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, in a video about the lab. "As a traditional structural engineer, we're looking for techniques, new approaches and new opportunities to do what we do better and understand the performance"

"Everything in our future is going to be connected through the internet — everything in the world in which we work and spend our lives," explained Engineering Dean Craig Benson, in a prepared statement. "Cyber-physical systems form the link between computers, data, decision-making and the physical world, and cyber-physical systems let us do things in a much faster, more efficient and effective way. Our Link Lab is an environment where scholars and students can work together developing cyber-physical systems that will solve real-world problems and make the world a better place."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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