How Carnegie Mellon helped transform Pittsburgh into a smart city playground

The trash cans are part of a larger effort to transform the former Rust Belt manufacturing center into a tech and entrepreneurship hub that acts as “a model of what the new economy and environmental standards should look like,” says Santiago Garces, director of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance. The city has undergone a number of smart transformations over the past decade, often in partnership with the world-class engineering and technology departments of Carnegie Mellon University. The university’s 10-year-old Metro21: Smart Cities Institute uses the city as a living laboratory for pilot projects, many of which the city adopts to full scale (see sidebar). “We show the realm of the possible,” says executive director Karen Lightman. When late local billionaire philanthropist Henry Hillman asked Metro21 to tackle the inefficiencies of timed traffic lights, for example, the institute developed interactive smart lights that react to traffic volume in real time.