UC Berkeley and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) are teaming up to launch the Center for Smart Infrastructure, a new research and innovation center that will apply cutting-edge technology to address infrastructure challenges our communities face due to climate change, aging systems and natural hazards. Professor Kenichi Soga is founding director of the center, which is based at UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station.
Researchers at the Center for Smart Infrastructure will develop and use remote sensors, data analytics and artificial intelligence tools, as well as other emerging technologies, to better inform decision-making among utilities and government agencies. One of their first projects is the construction of a large-scale, fault-rupture pipeline testing facility. EBMUD, which supplies water for 1.4 million people in the Bay Area, is providing $1.5 million to fund this phase of the research, which has already begun.
As part of this partnership, EBMUD and UC Berkeley staff will also develop an undergraduate course on utility infrastructure operation and management, as well as engage students in East Bay communities in the research and innovation that will come out of this collaboration.
“I’m thrilled that the center is in Richmond and will expose our communities, and students in disadvantaged communities, to the exciting work we do. These are our future water leaders,” said EBMUD board member Lesa McIntosh.
Discussions are already underway with other water utilities for future partnerships with the center.
“Ensuring the reliability of these critical systems that our communities rely upon for many decades stands as one of the greatest challenges facing engineers and public agencies in the 21st century,” said Soga. “Cascading failure events are a manifestation of the larger problem of climate change that requires decision-making on a societal scale. By connecting this initiative with other ongoing research at UC Berkeley, we can expand our insights to other infrastructure networks.”
Soga added that research at the center will leverage expertise across campus and include collaborations with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, SimCenter, Berkeley Water Center, the Institute of Transportation Studies, Global Metropolitan Studies and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society. Work of the center will also be coordinated with the activities at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.