Virginia Tech and Arlington County Join MetroLab Network

Published on May 03, 2016

  • Partnership to accelerate local government innovation

  • Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships

  • Addressing urban challenges

Virginia Tech and Arlington County have been accepted into the MetroLab Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships that works to bring data, analytics and innovation to local government. Members of the network research, develop and deploy technologies and policy approaches to address challenges facing the nation's urban areas.

MetroLab Network was launched by 21 founding city/county-university pairings in September 2015 at the White House as part of the Obama Administration's Smart Cities Initiative.

"Becoming a part of this national network of local governments and universities will spur innovative solutions for our community," Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. "It will be exciting to watch this partnership use data and technology to improve the County's infrastructure, and enhance both economic development and the quality of life for all who live and work here."

"Virginia Tech's partnership with Arlington County and the MetroLab Network is a wonderful way of extending our land-grant mission to urban innovation," Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. "It further strengthens our longstanding relationship with the County, offers our researchers an opportunity to address issues and challenges that significantly impact the future of urban society, and our students can engage in hands-on, problem-based learning that will open the door to future careers."

MetroLab Network Interim Director Ben Levine welcomed the Arlington-Virginia Tech partnership.

"We are thrilled to welcome Virginia Tech and Arlington County to our network," Levine said. "Their focus on transportation and data analytics will help drive progress in the cities, counties, and regions that are addressing similar issues across the country. Furthermore, their collaboration with our extensive national network will accelerate progress in Arlington County on many of its priorities."

Local government testbed for university research, development

Through MetroLab Network partnerships, the university serves as a research and development arm, and the local government serves as a test-bed for technologies and policies. Faculty members and students gain access to real-world laboratories to develop and test tools and programs that use information technology, data analytics, sensing and more.

Their technical expertise leads to solutions for local governments that reduce the cost of infrastructure and services, make cities more sustainable and resilient and improve residents' quality of life. MetroLab Network members are working on more than 100 "research, development, and deployment" projects with broad impact on areas such as improving transportation and water systems, reducing the energy footprint in cities, advancing health and public safety goals.

MetroLab Network connects these city-university partnerships via a collaborative national platform designed to facilitate the sharing of information and the scaling of technology and solutions across the country.

By becoming members of MetroLab Network, Virginia Tech and Arlington County have signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to undertake at least three research, development and deployment projects:

  • Rosslyn Transportation Characteristics Analysis — This project will observe Rosslyn intersections and collect data on pedestrian, bicycle, bus and vehicle movements at intersections. The data will help develop smart city protocols that Arlington County can use to make informed decisions about planning and operational investments in dense urban areas.

  • Crystal City Sensor Networks — Partnering with Vornado/Charles E. Smith, this project will implement and collect data from "Internet of Things" sensor devices on rooftops in Crystal City, in addition to utility and building automation data. Monitoring building envelopes for energy and environmental parameters will identify opportunities for improving sensing and control of infrastructure and increasing building energy efficiency and environmental quality.

  • Engineering Smart Cities Capstone Design Projects — A new capstone course will be developed and designed for Virginia Tech Electrical and Computer Engineering students. They will spend two semesters on a smart county/Internet of Things project where they will utilize emerging technologies, collect data and perform analysis on specific problems of interest to the County.


MetroLab Network is supported by a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a research enterprise that uses data and information technologies to better understand how cities work and to improve the urban condition. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is the fiduciary of MetroLab Network during its incubation period.