Ohio State interns help build Smart Columbus Operating System

By Chris Booker, Ohio State News

Two graduate students from The Ohio State University are helping to develop the operating system that will power the Smart Columbus project.

The Smart Columbus Operating System is the “technological backbone” of the smart cities project. The operating system is an open data platform to collect and share data. Data collected and developed as part of the Smart Columbus project will help develop programs to make connected vehicles avoid accidents, help develop a common payment app for services or solve parking problems for major events.

“So if you’re a student who wants data for a project, you can use it and then share your findings back to the operating system,” said Anirudh Ganesh, one of the interns who worked on code application and data design for the operating system project.

He and fellow computer science graduate Haiyang Shi were supported by faculty members Rajiv Ramnath, a faculty affiliate of the Translational Data Analytics Institute, and Dave Ogle in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for their Smart Columbus internship this summer. Ohio State serves as the lead research partner for Smart Columbus since the city won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first-ever Smart City Challenge in 2016.

“It has been a very challenging and also very interesting experience,” Shi said. “We worked with a lot of very experienced [people] and we learned a lot from them.”

Shi said one example of the operating system’s benefits will be managing how people use public transportation. He said eventually customers will be able to take the data created by COTA and schedule their bus ride. He said it will prevent long waits at a bus stop and make life more efficient.

Ganesh said the open-source concept will also help other cities follow Columbus’ lead and develop smart programs that help their communities.

“There’s a big push by almost all other governments around the globe to become a smart city. You can reduce accidents, you can improve quality of life,” he said. “One of the things that came out of the Smart Columbus thing I’m working on is like a chatbot that helps people schedule appointments to food pantries.”

Ogle, who worked at IBM as a distinguished engineer before he came to Ohio State, said this experience is invaluable for students. He said it helps bridge the gap from theory to practice.

“All of the things they said, you can’t get those experiences in the classroom,” he said. “I learned about this theory, now here’s the practice. It’s been a great experience which is why we’re excited and continuing through this year.”

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