Bend, Oregon & Salt Lake City, Utah Seed New Communities with Successful “Smart City” Apps Addressing COVID-19 Response

With $250,000 from the National Science Foundation, US Ignite will help partners in Bend and Salt Lake City extend virtual reality training and air quality visualization applications into new communities

WASHINGTON – January 5, 2021 – US Ignite is boosting efforts by high-tech training and research organizations in Bend, Oregon, and Salt Lake City, Utah to extend successful smart city applications to new communities in the Smart Gigabit Communities network. The initiative is part of US Ignite’s Replicating Success strategy, and is made possible with $250,000 in funding support from the National Science Foundation.

In Bend, developers from startup company Shift have deployed a virtual reality training application for healthcare workers. The company will now work with leaders across Lane and Deschutes Counties in Oregon, and with Silicon Harlem in New York, to create new opportunities for virtual reality training as part of COVID-19 response efforts.

In Salt Lake City, faculty and students from the University of Utah developed and deployed a real-time air pollution monitoring network. This technology is being commercialized by Tetrad Sensor Network Solutions, LLC, which will help the communities of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas; and Cleveland, Ohio install similar systems with air quality sensors and data analysis support. Participating organizations include The Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, KC Digital Drive in Kansas City, and DigitalC and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Research has shown that improving air quality reduces deaths from COVID-19 in dramatic ways.

The participating communities in Oregon and Utah are both part of the Smart Gigabit Communities project, a network of communities across the country leveraging advanced networking and data science technologies to drive key civic outcomes. Since the project began in 2015, US Ignite has worked with partners to develop more than 160 smart city applications and services designed to solve municipal challenges. As the network grows, there is increasing crossover between and among communities as they learn and share insights on new technologies, drive economic growth, and target investment in innovation.

“Building on an initial cohort of eight communities, the Smart Gigabit Communities project has now expanded to a network of 35, and we’re seeing collaboration and cross-pollination among the communities continue to increase,” said Lee Davenport, Director of Community Development for US Ignite. “Whether it’s replicating a public health service with AR technology or air sensors, exchanging guidance on data sharing practices, or comparing the effectiveness of digital inclusion programs, the US Ignite Smart and Connected Communities are the largest set of actively collaborating and sharing smart cities and regions in the nation.”

About the Shift VR Training Application

Shift has created training programs that allow healthcare professionals to practice with new sanitization standards and patient interaction protocol in a two- and three-dimensional training environment. Training includes virtual practice for managing personal protective equipment (PPE), what to do when encountering a contagious patient, how to handle triage scenarios, and more. The Shift training program uses the Oculus platform with content developed by Shift.

Recipient Communities:

Through the Replicating Success initiative, leaders from Lane County Community College and Silicon Harlem will receive Oculus Quest headsets, a sanitizing storage kit with UV-C light, and funding to aid out-of-pocket costs for implementation, site scheduling, site management, and headset maintenance. They will use these resources to offer training at dedicated sites, including local hospitals and neighboring long-term care facilities.

About the Pollution Monitoring Network

Faculty and students from the University of Utah have created a successful citizen-science crowd-sourced air pollution project in Salt Lake City. The project includes an array of sensors across the city that are used to measure air quality microclimates and detect pollution sources. The effort took on added significance in 2020 as recent studies have shown that higher air pollution is strongly correlated to more COVID-19 deaths. A focus on reducing air pollution in areas of high COVID-19 transmission may well help reduce the infection rate in addition to improving overall air quality.

Recipient Communities:

As part of the Replicating Success strategy, air quality professionals along with community leaders and university representatives in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas; and Cleveland, Ohio will each receive a set of 50 sensors, as well as a dedicated website that reports sensor measurements, and service support from the Utah team. In addition to collaboration across the communities, university researchers in Cleveland will also work with University Hospitals to monitor comparative COVID-19 cases in pollution-reduced areas versus areas where pollution has not seen as much reduction.