Shaping the Region’s Smart Future

Central Illinois Living Laboratory will create a real-world testing environment for smart-city technologies. 

by Philip Lockwood, Hanson Professional Services
smart-city technologies
A “smart and connected community” synergistically integrates intelligent technologies with the natural and built environments.

Becoming a “smart city” is especially desired by public leaders seeking to leverage information to enhance quality of life, improve economic competitiveness, and support sustainability—both environmentally and financially—for their cities. According to the Smart Cities Council, a smart city uses information and communications technology (ICT) to enhance its livability, workability and sustainability. First, a smart city collects information about itself through sensors, other devices and existing systems. Next, it communicates that data using wired or wireless networks. Third, it analyzes that data to understand what’s happening now and predict what’s likely to happen next.

Smart & Connected Communities 
Hanson Professional Services has partnered with Peoria’s Distillery Labs, one of 15 Illinois Innovation Network hubs, to create and manage the Central Illinois Living Laboratory. Initially funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation with local matching contributions from Peoria County and the City of Peoria, the Living Laboratory aims to create a multi-faceted, real-world testing environment for advancing technologies and business models related to smart and connected communities. 

Adopting the National Science Foundation’s Smart & Connected Communities program description for these activities, the goal is to accelerate the creation of the scientific and engineering foundations that will enable communities to bring about new levels of economic opportunity and growth, safety and security, health and well-being, accessibility and inclusivity, and overall quality of life. 

For the purposes of the NSF program description, “communities” are defined as having geographically-delineated boundaries—such as towns, cities, counties, neighborhoods, community districts, rural areas and tribal regions—consisting of various populations, with the structure and ability to engage in meaningful ways with proposed research activities. A “smart and connected community” is, in turn, defined as a community that synergistically integrates intelligent technologies with the natural and built environments, including infrastructure, to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of those who live, work, learn or travel within it.

Platform For Experimentation
The Living Laboratory will be built on partnerships and collaborations with public agencies, private companies, universities and community organizations that will identify and develop foundational smart city infrastructure within the public rights-of-way to host experimentation of processes, products, platforms and physical environments that will shape cities for decades to come. Experiments will be developed and evaluated through a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lens, and performance will be measured against community-informed outcomes and/or benchmarked standards for mobility, economic opportunity, public safety, environmental sustainability, community health and well-being, and civic innovation.

In exchange for access to the Living Laboratory, partners will provide the ecosystem host and sponsors with access to 
data and support of the ecosystem. Ultimately, the Living Laboratory should improve lives and create technology jobs in central Illinois. PM

To learn more about the Central Illinois Living Laboratory, email

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