2017 Semifinalist
County of Montgomery, MD
January 1, 2017

The Thingstitute is a first-of-a-kind living laboratory for internet of things (IoT) technology, providing an unparalleled testbed for start-ups, established companies, and research institutions. Housed in Montgomery County’s Offices of the County Executive, the Thingstitute designs and operates test beds to enhance the quality of life for local residents. In 2014, the County launched its first IoT Project, Smart Community Alert Network (SCALE), in NIST’s GCTC. SCALE was envisioned as a testbed to pilot IoT Technology that would help seniors aging in place live independently longer and have easier access to services. Interest in SCALE grew quickly and it was eventually recognized by the White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park at a GCTC event. Based on this positive response the County Executive decided to expand the project, and the Thingstitute was created. Announced in January 2015, the Thingstitute is the first initiative of its kind in a local government. Its sole focus is to create IoT testbeds that help attract the latest technology resources to the County through innovative pilot, prototype and proof of concept projects that help improve the lives of County residents. To date, the Thingstitute is operating three projects: SCALE, Smart Agriculture (enhancing economic opportunities in small-scale agriculture), and Smart Transit Spotlight project (improving transit rider experience and exploring connected vehicle technology). The Thingstitute has also integrated community education into its mission. To address concerns regarding privacy and security, the Thingstitute works with residents to help build awareness and acceptance of smart city, IoT-based deployments. The Thingstitute delivers workshops and media that help explain what new technology can and cannot do. Most importantly, the testbeds make the technology real. Policymakers, residents and community organizations can see, touch and experience the technology firsthand. This goes a long way towards building public trust in technology that could save lives if deployed.