The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University (iSchool), the City of Syracuse, and Microsoft today announced an innovative initiative that positions the entities as collaborators in a hub for Smart Cities technology development, research, and training, and for advancing the City’s energy use, public safety, job creation, and wider economic development goals. 

Under the umbrella of the City’s “Syracuse Surge” initiative, the collaboration has already explored a series of high-impact, community-focused projects in education and training; public safety and security; accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities; and economic development and job creation. The partners will now further evaluate and begin work on them over the next 12 months while also considering other project possibilities. The parties are also seeking involvement from other public-and-private collaborators toward building a smarter, safer, and more economically prosperous Syracuse.

Representatives of all three organizations met recently at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters to explore the arrangement and to outline specific ways the multi-year collaboration can advance and reinforce their individual interests, while working to improve the quality of life and economic prosperity of the Syracuse area, including the creation of new jobs tied to the information and technology economy.

Arthur Thomas, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the iSchool, Professor of Practice and Director of the iConsult Collaborative at Syracuse University, stated of the opportunity: “While our students learn the principles of such transformative technologies as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and data science in our courses, this opportunity will help students across Syracuse University to gain new levels of career experience through application of these technologies in real-world community projects. Having Microsoft as a continuing partner and working closely with City project clients, our students will have a unique opportunity to prepare themselves for their future careers while contributing meaningful solutions to community issues that will bring about the digital transformation of the City of Syracuse.”  

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “Syracuse University and Microsoft have stepped forward to help the City drive the Syracuse Surge forward with greater impact for real people. This partnership will help us explore and deploy Smart City applications that will make city services better and more efficient while also improving quality of life in our neighborhoods.  With this collaboration, we can more rapidly accomplish our goal of making Syracuse a growing city that embraces diversity and creates opportunity for all.”

Microsoft’s Jack Ryder, chief financial officer, Americas, and a member of the Board of Advisors for the iSchool, commented: “The mission alignment of Syracuse University and Microsoft make a clear case to leverage Microsoft cloud services to enable experiential learning and 21st century skills development for student success in the modern workplace. We are thrilled to partner with the University and the iSchool to establish an AI center of excellence that empowers the next generation of leaders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Unique Approach, Unique Partnership

The iSchool and Microsoft have had a relationship and interactions for several years, including the company’s recruitment of iSchool graduates and attendance at iSchool career fairs, as well as the involvement of Syracuse University alumnus Jack Ryder, Microsoft’s Americas chief financial officer, as a member of the iSchool’s Board of Advisors.

The iSchool has worked with Syracuse city projects and community organizations for a number of years through its faculty-led and student-worker based iConsult Collaborative. Several iSchool faculty members have specialized in research on Smart Energy and Smart Cities, and the iSchool has a Smart Grid Research Center. It also has faculty and researchers whose research interests are focused on smart energy use, data science, artificial intelligence, and the IoT. In addition, the iSchool offers a data science minor which is open to all students at Syracuse University, and a master’s degree in applied data science.