Howard County and Johns Hopkins APL Join Forces to Leverage Smart City Innovation in the Gateway District

Newswise — Municipalities around the world are increasingly leveraging technology and innovation to deliver new services and economic opportunities to meet the needs and expectations of citizens and residents. The Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) is collaborating with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, to plan and implement a smart, connected community concept in Howard County’s Gateway District.

A memorandum of understanding signed in April includes provisions for stand-alone systems, clean and sustainable energy, population health, and cybersecurity concepts that support the advancement of county goals and INHA research goals. APL.

“We are excited to work with Howard County on their vision for the future,” said Ralph Semmel, APL manager. “The county’s goals for smart technologies, tech ecosystems, sustainability and equity will strengthen the new Innovation District and keep Howard County among the best places in our country to live and work.”

APL and HCEDA plan to use the Columbia Gateway Innovation District as a testing ground for their smart city concepts. In its HoCo by Design update — the document that guides land use, growth and development decisions — Howard County positioned the 900-plus-acre business park as a future center of activity mixed-use that will incorporate sustainability and smart community practices.

“The goal of the future Gateway Innovation District will be to achieve its highest and best use with a sustainable infrastructure base of clean food, energy, water and transportation in common rooted in economic prosperity and affordability, said Larry Twele, CEO of HCEDA. “The APL-HCEDA MOU provides a new and exciting opportunity for collaboration in research, planning and marketing for the district.”

In April, stakeholders hosted the first “knowledge exchange” under the MOU to advance understanding of Howard County’s priorities and options for infrastructure planning and technical solutions to achieve the goals of economic growth, equity and sustainability.

“The biggest issue for smart cities is engaging community members to learn what their challenges are, instead of deciding what’s best for them,” noted APL program manager Cara LaPointe. and co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Assured Independence. , a national center of excellence for artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent autonomous systems.

APL is leading an initial project to help Howard County identify and engage stakeholders from the start. Stakeholders participating in the knowledge exchange included several county developers including Howard Hughes Corporation, Abrams Development Group and Corporate Office Properties Trust. Administrator Christine Nizer of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration was in attendance and spoke about the state’s efforts to embrace connected and automated vehicle technology.

“Because smart cities could involve thousands of autonomous systems working in concert in densely populated areas, it is difficult to create smart, connected communities in a way that is both safe and equitable,” said Professor Gregory Falco. adjunct at Johns Hopkins University. Department of Civil Engineering and Systems and the Institute of Assured Autonomy, where he holds a post at the APL.

Falco, who has been at the forefront of smart city safety and security in industry and academia over the past decade, spoke about lessons learned from working with communities around the world on the creation of smart cities.

APL and HCEDA plan to work with the county and other key stakeholders to address a variety of possibilities, such as:

  • Apply new technologies to make energy consumption in Gateway District buildings more efficient and to make energy resources more available, secure and able to meet community needs;
  • Determine how emerging autonomous transportation systems can enhance safe mobility and ensure access for all;
  • Design standards and controls that support all members of the community as intelligent systems become more prevalent; and
  • Learning from the pandemic to improve awareness and access to health.

“We are entering a new era of transformation in which residents and their surroundings are increasingly connected through smart technologies,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “This transformation will improve the well-being and prosperity of all. With our colleagues at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, we will explore ways to improve safety, mobility and sustainability in the county through innovation.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a nonprofit division of Johns Hopkins University, addresses critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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