Columbia Engineering for Humanity: Smart Cities for a Greener Tomorrow

An estimated 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, creating unprecedented demand for clean air, water, energy, food, transportation, and housing. Connectivity is increasingly critical for meeting those needs and analyzing and managing services.

From its very beginning, Columbia Engineering has focused on developing technology and improving systems to help create a more connected world. In 1896, Herman Hollerith, an 1879 graduate, founded a business called the Tabulating Machine Company, which would merge with three other companies to one day become International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation. His business venture was based on a punch card system he had developed to count and sort data mechanically, an invention inspired by his work as a statistician on the 1880 U.S. Census and his belief that there could be a faster way to process data.

Today, data science is increasingly used to understand and explain connections between numbers and people. Assistant Professor Xiaofan (Fred) Jiang of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering specializes in the Internet of Things and has been designing sensors to monitor the urban environment-including buildings and infrastructure-to collect and analyze data. In Beijing, he developed a system of low-cost sensors that provided the first independent, real-time assessment of particulate pollution in the city. Along with his Columbia Engineering colleagues Patricia Culligan, the Robert A. W. and Christine S. Carleton Professor of Civil Engineering and associate director of the Data Science Institute, and Andrew Smyth, from Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Jiang is helping to create smarter, greener cities that will thrive for years to come. 


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