Pivot before the Pilot – Updates from the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge

Purdue University engineering students Sid Gaur, Ben Murray and Atharva Rao examine equipment while discussing their entry into the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge. They are one of three teams that received $5,000 for being named finalists to the contest. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Steve Martin)

What Team TRAWS has been up to since winning

Team TRAWS won the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge a year ago tomorrow. Since then, the four Purdue University students, now sophomores, have orchestrated a significant pivot from their winning concept. Team TRAWS stood out among the three competition finalists with their proposed solution of an IoT-based smart street sign platform that warns drivers about hazardous road conditions like black ice. However, after further conversations with stakeholders and subject matter experts, Team TRAWS set out to build a better “road safety awareness solution” focused on the most vulnerable road users – those traveling outside cars!

Team TRAWS leveraged its relationship with MioVision to begin rolling out its solution.

New Path for the Road Safety Awareness Solution

As the winner of the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge, Team TRAWS won $10,000 and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pilot their prototype with the city of West Lafayette. Instead of immediately building the prototype, Team TRAWS conducted additional research and data analysis. They talked with experts at the West Lafayette Department of Transportation and Miovision, a company that offers solutions that collect multimodal traffic data for actionable insights. These discussions emphasized that Team TRAWS’s IoT-based signage solution needed a heavier focus on protecting pedestrians and motorized skateboard users. The team learned that most accidents happen at intersections, and people tend to jump into traffic outside designated crossing points. Team TRAWS pivoted their platform to issue warnings to pedestrians and skateboarders.

This is a sample of what Team TRAW’s digital warning sign will look like.

Unique solution

Team TRAWS’s solution leverages data and IoT sensors, unlike other unconnected solutions such as rounded mirrors. It utilizes incoming real-time data to predict a person jumping into traffic and uses the prediction to issue alerts. Effectively, TRAWS’s solution adds a notification layer via a digital sign (see image). This added fail-safe protects pedestrians and skateboarders by using data and probabilities.

Another unique feature of the Team TRAWS solution is its modular set-up, meaning one intersection can be set up at a time. This model helps serve the city’s needs better by keeping costs manageable and positioning the solution for future scalability.

Team TRAWS leveraged its relationship with MioVision to begin rolling out its solution.

What’s Next

With an official new version of the idea, Team TRAWS set out to pilot the solution. Meeting with the experts at Miovision sparked a highly beneficial collaboration. Since Miovision already has equipment and street cameras installed around West Lafayette and wants to identify innovative use cases for their technology, they agreed to give Team TRAWS access to data and cameras; see Team TRAWS in action installing their software below. This collaboration saves the team a lot of money since it eliminates the need to acquire and set up all-new equipment.

Over the summer, Team TRAWS will run a pre-pilot test at an intersection to gather data, gain feedback on what works well, and make software refinements. In Fall 2023, when Purdue University students have returned to campus, the pilot will commence. The outcomes and the additional collected data will help Team TRAWS further determine their solution’s next steps.

Team TRAWS, winner of the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge, set out to build a “road safety awareness solution.

About the Team TRAWS and the West Lafayette Smart City Challenge

Team TRAWS is made up of four College of Engineering Purdue University students, Sid Gaur from Reno, Nevada; Atharva Rao from Phoenix, Arizona; Benjamin John Leith Murray from Apex, North Carolina; and Joachim Tobias Velasco Bautista from Binan, Philippines. The team is advised by Sean Brophy, PhD, associate professor, School of Engineering Education in Purdue’s College of Engineering. The West Lafayette Smart City Challenge was created by the Innovation Partners Institute at the Purdue Research Foundation in partnership with the City of West Lafayette and US Ignite. The challenge tasked student teams to develop a scalable IoT solution or software application by leveraging the City of West Lafayette’s existing IoT infrastructure and data inputs along with the Discovery Park District’s NineTwelve 5G/IoT lab to improve safety for vulnerable road users who navigate high-traffic corridors and intersections during major seasonal events.

Learn more at: https://www.discoveryparkdistrict.com/smart-city-challenge/