Collaboration to bolster public safety with smart building technology

SOURCE: Timothy Eberly/Unsplash
Smart building technologies have the potential to help emergency respondents to easily locate and aid victims.

By U2B Staff 

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The Centre for Innovation Technology (CIT) and George Mason University (GMU) are working together to provide new insights into smart building technologies that will help first responders save lives and improve public safety. 

The four-year collaboration received US$19 million in funding from the US Department of Homeland Security, and is conducted under CIT’s Smart City IoT Innovation (SCITI) Labs programme. 

SCITI Labs provides an avenue for next-generation research, bringing together expert innovators in the smart building/Internet of Things (IoT) sector, GMU’s academic researchers and emergency management communities to address crucial issues faced by emergency responders and law enforcement. 


According to a press release, the programme recently held an operational test in an event at GMU’s Fairfax Campus. 

During the test, 70 first responders, law enforcement personnel and volunteers were put through a threat training exercise to understand the significance of technology in enhancing public safety and response effectiveness in emergencies. 

GMU researchers and leadership, along with the CIT-led team of technology innovators and Virginia political and business leaders, were also present at the event.  

Public Safety
First responders can use smart technologies to save lives in a more efficient manner. Source: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash.

Among the technologies involved were sensors and displays designed to improve operational and energy efficiency of a targeted area, and under normal circumstances, provide additional services to patrons. This includes apps that can tell users the length of concession lines. 

Under emergency situations, these technologies quickly become useful tools for first responders to determine the location and type of emergency, locate victims and save lives in a more orderly and efficient manner. 

The operational test provides ample opportunities for GMU’s new Centre for the Advancement of Human-Machine Partnerships (CAHMP), which will look into real-world cycles of research regarding the use of these innovative technologies. 

“Smart building technologies need to be tested and evaluated by first responder teams and their leadership to provide direct input related to the viability and trust of current and future systems,” said CAHMP Co-Director Brenda Bannan in the release.


GMU researchers will work directly with CIT and SCITI Labs throughout the four-year contract, conducting research and evaluation on these smart technologies and how they can best be applied to real-life practices. 

“I am thrilled that Mason has been able to contribute to such an inspiring collaboration and cutting-edge research on the intersection of smart technology and emergency response,” said GMU Interim President Anne Holton.

“I am confident that together we can forge a future where such technology interacts with humans and our environment in similarly complementary, sustainable and progressive ways.”

“Smart communities are an important next step building on top of our universal broadband access because they enable better local government services to everyone in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce & Trade Brian Ball.

“The SCITI Labs research, using smart buildings to improve public safety, is a key example of how this can work. The program is a showcase for the power of collaboration among federal, state and local government, and our university and industry partners.” 

Smart communities are interconnected regions that leverage the use of smart technologies to benefit its citizens, businesses, and organisations for socio-economic growth and environmental sustainability. 

This includes active and ongoing research on the implementation of smart technologies to address challenges in economic development, budgets, infrastructure, energy and environment, and public safety.