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IBM and USC open $25m centre for IoT research

Steve Rogerson
April 20, 2016

Last week, the University of South Carolina and IBM celebrated the opening of the $25m Center for Applied Innovation in Columbia, South Carolina. The centre will support university, IBM and private sector researchers, including Fluor, who will collaborate to develop real-world applications for the IoT using cognitive computing, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance software.
Initial projects will include developing ways to enhance and personalise tools in higher education, make aircraft more reliable and supply chains more efficient.
The IoT represents a new frontier in applied research and relies on gathering and integrating large amounts of data taken from an array of interconnected sources to improve how they all function together. It holds the potential to reinvent the way people drive, make purchases, get medical treatment, and even how they get energy for their homes.
“This new centre places the university squarely in the mix with some of tech’s hottest areas – cognitive and the internet of things,” said USC president Harris Pastides. “It also represents the potential for strong public-private partnerships to advance our educational mission and significantly raise our research profile.”
Located in USC’s Innovista research district, the Center for Applied Innovation was formed in 2014 to provide application services to public and private sector organisations across North America specialising in analytics and higher education industry. Together, IBM and USC have been working to create personalised learning tools for students and educators using analytics to align intelligent content, student assessments and learner data.
The collaboration builds on USC’s Center for Predictive Maintenance (CPM) and McNair Aerospace’s expertise in IoT research for predictive maintenance. USC is using predictive analytics to make maintenance on a host of military aircraft more efficient and reliable. Coupled with IBM Watson IoT expertise and technologies, the centre will also house university, IBM and other private sector researchers dedicated to creating IoT applications, including interconnected health equipment and intelligent supply chains.
“IBM and USC are working together to provide organisations across industries with the research expertise and tools needed to manage, analyse and more deeply understand massive amounts of data from the internet of things,” said Chris O’Connor, general manager for IBM Watson IoT. “Bringing together cognition with the IoT is revolutionising our joint research on compelling use cases for connected assets and better asset health, for example, including ways to utilise predictive maintenance to minimise costly downtime using technologies that sense, reason and learn.” 
Fluor is also a partner in the centre. The engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction and project management company serves as a strategic advisor, providing insight into emerging trends and requirements that will drive offerings delivered from the centre. Fluor also has a major operations centre in nearby Greenville.
"Fluor is pleased to partner with IBM and the University of South Carolina on this facility, which will keep the university at the forefront of innovation for decades to come,” said David Seaton, chairman and CEO of Fluor. "We look forward to accessing the knowledge, innovations and skills gained by USC students and graduates working with, and as a part of the Center for Applied Innovation, to help provide state-of-the-art methods and techniques, supporting leading edge technological advancements in the integrated solutions we provide to our clients."
Construction on the 10,000 square metre Center for Applied Innovation began in February 2015. Developed by Holder Properties, it is the second public-private building developed on the campus.
South Carolina Department of Commerce secretary Bobby Hitt praised the opening of the centre as an economic catalyst for the region. “In South Carolina, we win because all of us work together, and this Center for Applied Innovation is a terrific example of the collaborative approach that has made us so successful,” Hitt said. “A huge resource to the Midlands community and our state as a whole, this centre will help us prepare our students for today’s dynamic job market.”