Media Releases

Students worldwide to collaborate on projects to improve cities, transportation and health care

May 5, 2011

TORONTO, ON – Faculty of Information Professor Kelly Lyons is one of the two Canadian award recipients of the prestigious IBM Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation Award worth $10,000. Prof. Lyons says she is thrilled that the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, is home to such an honour, and that her innovative approach to teaching and research is being recognized.

Prof. Lyons is one of 50 professors from 40 universities in 14 countries who have been awarded the Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation grant from IBM (NYSE: IBM).

University students around the world are working on new projects, including developing smarter urban and transportation solutions and improved health care systems, with help from IBM.

The company created and awarded the grants to help universities develop innovative new curricula that address the global challenges of transportation, health care, water, energy and other systems. The new courses will prepare students for future leadership in a variety of industries by exposing them to Watson-like technologies in the classroom, sparking collaboration and innovation.

See University of Toronto Professor Kelly Lyons discuss her new information services and design course that focuses student attention on designing energy efficient information architectures that use and replenish under-utilized environmental resources and balance the needs of citizens with environmental sustainability:

As population rates rise, civic leaders face an unprecedented series of challenges, including massive urbanization, stressed infrastructure and economic crisis. The project from Pace University, for example, “Across Cities for Cities,” involves teams of students in New York working with students from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Delhi, India, and Dakar, Senegal, developing mobile and smartphone applications for transportation, health care and education, with the solutions being implemented in each city for evaluation and improvement. These solutions will tackle problems such as identifying the closest public transportation to a specific destination or finding the nearest emergency room.

Each year American drivers waste an estimated 3.7 billion hours, the equivalent of five days each, sitting in traffic burning 2.3 billion gallons of fuel. Students at the University at Buffalo are analyzing U.S. border control data to learn how advanced technology solutions may help improve the sustainability of the transportation system. The project focuses on local highway traffic and reducing congestion around the three U.S. and Canadian border crossings in the region.

City infrastructures that deliver vital services can now rely on a wealth of new information and technologies enabling them to sense and respond intelligently to the needs of their growing populations. RMIT University in Australia is helping students explore how advanced technology and sensors can play a role in building a smarter, interconnected city. Working together with students in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, students are using local real-world examples to evaluate new urban planning and development options for vital city services such as transportation, healthcare and energy.

“We need to focus on developing more advanced skills so that students around the world are equipped to tackle real-world issues when they enter the workforce,” said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM Academic and Developer Relations. “The work of these 50 award recipients should help change the face of education by enabling students to work on pressing issues facing cities today – and at the same time prepare them for leadership in industries like healthcare and transportation.”

These new classes are being taught in the 2011-2012 school year.  Find out more about the award winners.

The fall 2011 Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation awards are now open for submissions of proposed curricula to support Smarter Commerce, Smarter Communications and Smarter Energy. More information on the Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation awards is available.

Videos of select award winners are available.Video of highlighted student projects with Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation Award winners.

More information on IBM’s university initiatives.


For more information, please contact:

Kathleen O’Brien
Communications and Development Officer
Faculty of Information (known as the iSchool)
University of Toronto
Twitter: @ischool_toronto