Living in Smart and Connected Communities

Image of Community Members with Smart Phones
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UMD iSchool Research in Living in Smart and Connected Communities

To create livable, sustainable and equitable environments, connected communities integrate people, data sources, physical devices, infrastructure and anchor institutions such as Universities, schools, libraries hospitals and municipal governments. Citizen scientists and data sensors feed scientists information about the conditions in our cities and towns, opening an app on our phone lets us access government services from a park bench, and our professional and educational communities are increasingly virtual. These new abilities to connect offer solutions to an array of problems from protecting native wildlife to preventing traffic jams. Connected communities allow people to pool knowledge without regard to physical boundaries and provide more people access learning opportunities than ever before. In this changing environment, new technologies, systems, and tools are needed to facilitate communication and make data usable.

iSchool researchers work with communities to improve connections, identify issues of concern and develop solutions. Our researchers improve data quality and participation in citizen science and other crowdsourcing activities. Advances in public libraries are improving their capabilities as information educators and facilitators equipped to help citizens navigate the changing landscape of information. iSchool researchers advise government leaders about information policies in smart and connected communities, research the most effective ways to create and use online communities, and study digital and virtual capabilities in education.

The iSchool’s expertise in smart and connected communities can assist in:

  • Creating and managing effective online communities for crowdsourcing in diverse areas such as citizen science and open source software development
  • Understanding the changing role of the public library in the 21st century
  • Developing policies that ensure that smart and connected communities are useful and equitable
  • Exploring the ethical and privacy concerns raised by ubiquitous data collection and highly connected communities.

Research Projects


In the age of big data, pervasive digital technology is reshaping the innovation landscape, dispersing innovation activities toward the periphery of organizations


Individuals and organizations increasingly use online communities to broadcast difficult, unsolved problems to the crowd.


Next-generation broadband infrastructure has the potential to spur significant economic and social improvements throughout the U.S.


Open online communities (OOC) have emerged as significant drivers of innovation and social well-being.

The Community-Driven Environmental Projects (C-DEP) model is a multi-university research endeavor funded by the NSF AISL program with an objective to engage members of diverse communities in local nature and environmental conservation projects of their choosing.