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Episode 1

Launch of the Virginia Smart Community Testbed

  • Indu Singh
  • Senior Scientist, OST, Inc.
Aired: March 6, 2023

Indu Singh, Ph.D., Senior Scientist from OST, talks about the first smart city testbed in Virginia powered by an IoT platform fully integrated with 5G launched by OST in partnership with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) and Stafford County. He also discusses the importance of public-private partnerships and why they’re essential to accelerate innovation in the United States.

View Transcript


00:10 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Welcome, everyone. I'm Ajit Kahaduwe General Manager of MITRE Engenuity Open Generation. This is the first in a new monthly video series called Open Dialogue Wavelengths to keep you informed about the groundbreaking work that Open Generation 5g R&D Consortium is doing to advance 5g innovation for public good. This year, we're expanding our R&D focus to Smart City initiatives. To kick off these new efforts, we want to tell you about the launch of the Virginia Smart City Community testbed. This is the first smart city testbed in Virginia powered by an IoT platform fully integrated with 5g and this is a groundbreaking endeavor which was made possible through the work of OST Incorporated, who is a member of our Open Generation 5g Consortium and is in collaboration with the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation better known as “VIPC” and Stafford County, Virginia. The community testbed was honored in 2022 with a Smart 50 Award. This is an annual award in partnership with Smart Cities Connect, Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite. This recognizes the top 50 most innovative and influential smart city projects in the world. Today we're joined by Dr. Indu Singh, who is the Senior Scientist from OST, Incorporated. Dr. Singh is an internationally recognized technology and business management executive known for his expertise in systems engineering, cybersecurity, smart cities and smart airports, as well as geospatial intelligence and business and investment strategy and acquisition. As a senior scientist at OST Incorporated, Dr. Singh focuses on Smart Cities projects, including cybersecurity smart cities, smart airport, smart health, and smart campus initiatives. And I guess in his spare time, he also manages the Virginia Smart Community testbed located in Stafford County. So good afternoon, Indu, first I want to congratulate you on the Virginia Smart City testbed being recognized as a top 50 Smart City.


02:15 | Indu Singh

Thank you, Ajit. I'm glad to be participating in this interview. And on behalf of OST, please accept our gratitude for allowing us to partner with you. So we're very excited about what you're doing. And we look forward to contributing to your endeavor.


02:33 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Yeah, it's great to have OST in the consortium, this now starting your second year with us. And we're really excited to see what we can do in smart cities. So thinking back, why was the project attractive to OST when you were looking at partnering with the Stafford County to build a smart community to testbed


02:54 | Indu Singh

So you know, obviously OST has been involved in building a smart infrastructure around the world for some time. About few years ago, we had a visit from the governor, past governor, and he came to OST and our president within area really made a commitment to him, that OST will lead development of smart cities across the Commonwealth. And at that time, I came to OST, I joined it. And I was really asked to lead. And so we were fortunate to have our first smart city engineering and design project for Stafford County that was funded by VIPC. At that time VIPCs name was “CIT” VIPC is now the new name. And so we successfully completed that, and that was the greenfield, Smart Town Center Project that Stafford County wanted to build. And we did that. And after that, in a way, I had a casual meeting with David Ihrie, who is the CTO of VIPC. And and they will say, Well, what's next? And I said, let's, let's build a smart city testbed. There is none in the country. And that is the right thing to do. And David in five minutes, David said, I like it. Let's do it. And so this test was born, we went to Stafford County. And we said, this is the idea since you will be building the first smart town center in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are going to stand up this testbed, which is going to be a solution engineering center will bring all the technology to have the solutions and those solutions could be implemented right in your on your project and will also be available across the Commonwealth for any county or city that want to use it and it evolved to be a partnership. And since then, we have been busy.


05:05 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Okay, that's an amazing story. So for the viewers, why should people care about this testbed versus any of the other test beds that may be coming up around the country?


05:17 | Indu Singh

So, you know, that's a very good question. I think, you know, I personally have been building and designing smart cities around the world for the last 20 years. I have designed 21 Smart Cities. Starting with the Singapore intelligent Island, that was my first project. And you know, until very recently, nobody wanted to talk about a smart city in America. For the last three, four years, now, every city in America wants to be a smart city. So what had changed? Something had changed. And, and what really had changed that people finally, and particularly the government officials, the public service people at the state and county level, they came to realize that technology is going to be the ultimate tool for economic development. And for me, smart city projects are not technology projects, sometimes people misunderstand. The way I design and build a smart city is based on the philosophy that every smart city is an economic development project. It helps communities develop in terms of quality of life, in terms of security, in terms of public service, health, education, security, you know, public safety. And so you know, I think it's very important because the Stafford County testbed, which is really supported now by DHS, Department of Homeland Security, VIP seat, which is the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Stafford County, and there are other 24 private corporations. It's very unique in the sense that it is not an R&D center. It is what I call solution engineering center. So our approach is what I call rapid prototyping, pilot testing and implementation. Anything we cannot implement, we don't spend time on. So that is why it is very unique. And there is a direct benefit to the community. So our focus is how we use these technologies, including 5g, which is in our testbed how we use this technology, and that can benefit the community directly. And so all the labs that we have, we have very famous and important labs around the country, owned by the government, the private sector, but not unlike the smart city test in Stafford County, because it is focused on community development using modern technology.


07:56 | Ajit Kahaduwe

That's, there's some really interesting points, I loved how you changed around the smart city being about the technology to be more about the economic development, because I think, as an industry player, everyone's focused on the technology pieces. So it's really refreshing to hear that take about how that really benefits the community and citizenry in general, by enabling Smart City solutions. I think you brought up some interesting points. We want to dig into some more. Can you tell our viewers more about this, how this private public partnership is working in with VIPC in the private industry?


08:31 | Indu Singh

So you know, I think, you know, this is the 21st century. And we cannot do things the same way that we have been doing. Right. In the past, the smart city projects have been overwhelmingly dependent on the government, whether it's the federal government or the state government or local government, right. And I came to realize that even though the government is a catalyst for economic development, government cannot be the sole responsible entity for community development. And so I think the ultimate success of a smart city, in any part of the country, or the world for that matter, is really going to be driven by a public private partnership. Because these two have separate roles. The government has certain role and the private corporations have certain roles, but private corporations bring the technology and the know-how, right? That's why we have innovation, and the government brings the support financial and other support that is needed. And when you put those two together, the projects are successful, right? Rather than doing independently so so in a company like Verizon or AT&T or Sprint can go and build a smart city but we don't want it to be totally technology driven. We want a proper balance between technology and public welfare. That's what a smart city is all about. And so the partnership really makes a lot of sense.


10:15 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Yeah, I think it's a really great point. Because in the internet, we think talk about over-the-top services, you don't build an over the top smart city, because that's, and that's why you need the government and  industry working together, right?


10:27 | Indu Singh

Yes, yes.


10:29 | Ajit Kahaduwe

So tell me a little bit more about what are the kind of benefits companies can have when they're collaborating with public entities? And joining, let's say that this Smart City project that you've been working with?


10:40 | Indu Singh

So you know, I think there are various stakeholders in any smart city, as you know, so you have the government, you have the public sector, you have the private sector, and you have the citizens, right? And a successful design for a smart city, an implementation of a successful implementation of a smart city really hinges upon a very collaborative approach, right? And if you will create that, then you will be successful. But the private corporation plays a very important role, as we move forward with what we call this new infrastructure bill, right? At least in the United States, we're going to spend a lot of money, we're not going to build dumb infrastructure in the future. Okay, what I call the smart cities are really built on advance intelligent infrastructure, right? And that can only come from the private corporations. And, and again, just one company is not enough, because the smart cities are built upon a multitude of technology, different technology deliver different things. And today, you have the cloud, you have the AI, ML, artificial intelligence, machine learning, you have drones for public safety, you have drones and 5g for healthcare. I mean, you at MITRE, you're doing all these things, right. And you know, that the value of this so so I think, you know, just like just like, you know, what you have done in Open Generation, that you have leading corporations contributing different knowledge base and bring in different technology. In a smart city, it has been established, we have done exactly the same thing. So the Verizon, we were the first, we were the first city or county in the nation to have 5g in the testbed, okay? We brought in the drones, and we did the public safety, the drones for public safety, pilot projects, very successful pilot projects. Now the next phase will be more advanced, integrating 5g into it and doing other things. But the public safety is a big area, not just for Stafford for all counties and cities across the country. And so different corporations can play different roles. And the way the Stafford is smart city test, is designed that a corporation can come in, a private company can come in and really propose a pilot project bring their new AHA new technology. And then we create the public private partnership, even for the pilot projects, and do it together to demonstrate the benefit to the community. So different portfolios and have different roles. And it's not just the large corporations keep, you know, you should keep that in mind. We also have entrepreneurship. And and we are helping a smart startup companies in the testbed, particularly in the technology area, who can develop this smart smart city products and services that can be implemented, and we give them the platform to test it. So the large corporations have the same platform that is small corporations and vice versa.


14:02 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Yes. Excellent. What you're saying Indu, because yeah, one of the things we say open generation is we want to work on problems that no one company can solve alone in a smart city is certainly a place where it's not just companies, but the government has to be really partnered together to bring their capabilities. And startups are, are certainly key here because the newest ideas and the most innovative are going to come from startup companies and they need a place to be able to test.


14:29 | Indu Singh



14:30 | Ajit Kahaduwe

So thinking a little bit more about what your company has done, tell us a little bit more about what OST does, and the contribution to the testbed.


14:40 | Indu Singh

So OST is a systems integrator. So we have multiple responsibility in the testbed. Of course, we are the founding stakeholder. So there are three founders for the Stafford Smart City test – that’s OST, VIPC, and Stafford County. So we're funded. Secondly, we have the contract from the very beginning to be the systems integrator for the testbed. Because in the testbed we have a myriad of technologies, different partners, right? No one company can really provide their service only systems integrator can do that, right? Because we, we bring in different capabilities, we know how to put technology together how to develop the solutions. So the OSTs role is to really develop the use case, that leads to the pilot project, bring in the various partners, put them together, write the test plan, then we go and help conduct the pilot project. And then we also write the technical report on the basis. So that was the second role. We also were responsible for creating public private partnerships. So OST was successful in bringing Verizon and Cisco and, and a myriad of other companies. Enclave Network in cybersecurity. So there are several companies that came in. So the third role that we played is the creating that foundation for their public private partnership. And all of these seem really led to bringing in DHS. Now, of course, VIPC has established relationship with DHS, but we have been blessed to have Department of Homeland Security to come and be a partner, they are literally a partner. So you truly have in Stafford County testbed, this is the partnership that is very unique. So you have the federal government, you have the state government, and you have the county and cities, okay, on the public sector side. And in the private sector, we have a small and, and large companies and very innovative company, bringing in different technology. So, you know, OST was very active in terms of creating the vision and the strategy to be able to attract all these partners. And because you have to tell the right story. And we're very fortunate in that sense. And we have great support. I mean, the Stafford County and the VIPC probably the two best. And DSS, three best organizations that I have ever worked in my life, we have seamless relationship here, everybody is the same level. And and we make decisions real fast, and go to implementation. So it has been great. So OST continues to play a very important role in the testbed. And and we appreciate the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia, VIPC and Stafford and DHS, and other private partners, they have given us the opportunity to continue to play that role.


17:42 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Excellent. So let's talk a little bit more about open generation here and how you with your experience, how do you envision a collaboration with miter Engenuity Open Generation? What might help OST to go and do other smart city projects with the cities in the future?


18:01 | Indu Singh

So I was hoping you will ask me that question, because that's the most exciting part of it. So when we went to Stafford, we didn't go because we wanted to build a smart cities all over the world. First, we wanted to really put a stake in the ground where we make a living, that's Commonwealth, you know, and, and demostrate that there is a new approach to designing and building smart cities. Okay, I've been doing it for a long time. And I first smart city project I did when internet was not even available, it was private, right? And today, you know, you have so many technology, you have so many options, there are so many different types of solutions you can develop and all those things. So I think what you are trying to do through Open Generation, and, and, and, and we are part of that. So I know some of the things that you're doing, and what we're doing this and Stafford a smart city test that there is a very complementary relationship there. Okay, because you are creating the knowledge base, you are testing the new technology in an integrated fashion that we can bring to the testbed in Stafford County and other counties. By the way, it doesn't have to be just Stafford. And really bring your know how your technology your solutions to the field. We are a field laboratory. We are not an R&D center, right, like I said before, and so we can take your innovative ideas, your innovative projects, and bring it to the field and put in the real life situation where we can not only test it, validate it, but we can also implement it. And the key to success is implementation, not just testing. Neither you nor The Stafford County testbed are in, in the business of just creating knowledge base, right? Okay. And we have made that mistake in the past many labs, you know, they have accumulated tremendous amount of knowledge. But we never took it to, to really the field where it can be tested and implemented. The ultimate goal of knowledge is with the consumer, citizens, the public. And you can only achieve that if you move out of your ivory tower lab, and come to the field lab. And so the synergy between what MITRE is doing in the consortium of Open Generation, and what we're trying to do in Stafford County, I think this could itself could be very unique proposition that will have very successful outcome.


20:53 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Excellent. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to how we might be able to partner together using your experience already in smart cities as well as what the consortium and you're being part of the consortium, because it's not just smart cities, obviously we're working on we're working on other things with you on drones in the consortium. And but this working with VIPC and OST together really is quite exciting on on how we can move forward. We've talked a lot of areas around smart cities, 5g, what are other insights? Do you want to share that maybe we haven't talked about today? In some of the questions we've, we've looked through?


21:33 | Indu Singh

I think I think, you know, one of the things that we have to keep in mind is smart city has become a generic term, right? Smart City doesn't mean anymore, just building this smart city. When I designed the first smart city project for Singapore government called intelligent Island, we brought in 14 sector of the economy. And that was the national level, right? That was the national model. Here we are looking at the community model of smart city. That's where we are not everywhere. So our approach at OST has been is that we have segmented the smart city approach. And segmentation is based upon the economic sector. So smart health and connected ambulance, for example, that we're looking at, looking at drones for public safety, looking at AI/ML for delivering the service of the country and city level. So so we can look at smart eductation, right? Smart school system, right? Cybersecurity, which is a big issue right now. Because as we go through the digital transformation, and it is a force that nobody can stop is going to happen, right? But what is the biggest challenge in digital transformation? And a smart city is a digital transformation by the way, right? So we have to look at it how we integrate the data security and data privacy into everything that we do under the smart cities. So it's not just the technology. And we unfortunately, some of the other cities, they continue to make the mistake. They adopt the technology because the the modern technologies are very seductive. Okay? And it forces you to adopt quickly and make quick decisions without thinking much about the ramifications. For example, facial recognition, technology, right? We have cities, we have airports in America, and I'm talking about the United States, other countries have different rules. China can really do anything they want. We can't, right. So the city of San Francisco, San Francisco, for example. They implemented facial recognition cameras in the city, and within a month they had to take it down because citizens didn't like it. Right, right. Yeah. So remember that, right? There was another airport that did the same thing. So we have to be very careful when you go to the community level. And you bring all these very advanced, sophisticated complex technology that can do marvelous things in terms of delivering public service service in various for various economic sectors. But ultimately, in the digital era, or digital transformation, the digital trust is a key variable. Okay. And so what you're doing and what we're doing, you must keep in mind that if we do not keep in mind, the digital Trust, which is fundamentally data privacy and data security, citizens are not going to accept doesn't matter how exciting technologies or how exciting a solution is, right. So, so I think, as we move together in this and I like to see that we must keep in mind that there are non- technological considerations in designing and building smart infrastructure. Let's call that that we must keep in Mind. And so, you know, that'd be complimentary type of projects that we must continue to do not just the technology.


25:09 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Yeah, there's really an incredibly good point. I might have lived in Singapore, I think that in the late 90s, maybe you were working in this morning? Yes, yes. Yes. So it was quite amazing what Singapore was doing back then was so far ahead of its time, I think. I can only imagine where Singapore is today versus the other cities in the world. But it was a very comprehensive national plan. And I liked the point that Singapore is an island that can do a national plan on a almost like a, a large metropolitan area in America. But taking that and moving it to the Metro level is, is a very different work plan that you have to do. And this connection with the citizenry is really important. Because even with the drone flights, the public education has to be there to for acceptance, and otherwise, the technology may be nice, but the people have to be educated and understand how it will help them.


26:08 | Indu Singh

Sure. Yeah, very true.


26:12 | Ajit Kahaduwe

So I'll close up with one last question, which is more about Open Generation? And what why you joined. What, what, what do you value in being part of the R&D consortium with other members?


26:25 | Indu Singh

Of course, you know, the MITRE is a very respectable organization. So that is, that was attraction. Also other members were there. But more importantly, I think it was the point of view, we saw what we are trying to do. So we're a federal contractor, right. And our our federal government, particularly right now is going through digital transformation. At OST we decided a few years ago, our our senior management team decided a few years ago, that if we're going to be a part of digital transformation for our clients, we have to do internal digital transformation ourselves. So we really have really focused on a practice called digital transformation, and the smart infrastructure that led to this smart city testbed and all those things. And that really led to joining your consortium, because we think, fundamentally, what you're doing will have tremendous benefit in terms of bringing that knowledge to our customer base, particularly in the federal government, and the state and local government. So that was a driving force for us and for our management to really, but we're enjoying it, we're learning it, you know, we we have built teams in in various areas of new technology, AI, ML, and drones, and, and 5g and all those things that you're doing. But again, our our objective from Open Generation is, is to of course contribute to a collective success through our capabilities and systems integration. That's what we bring to the table. But also learn from the output of that consortium open generation, that we can take it to our customers. So ultimately, our customers are going to benefit from it.


28:16 | Ajit Kahaduwe

Indu, I want to thank you, again, for being part of our inaugural program, here with the Open dialog Wavelengths. Thank you for the wonderful responses that you gave. They were really well thought out and informative for everyone. The program will continue into the future as we go forward with you on the work we're doing at Open Generation with NUAIR and the drone testing, as well as how we're now trying to find some nice test cases to work with VIPC and OST at the testbed as we move forward. So we're really excited about what's happening this year and your participation and Open Generation as well and we're looking forward to more work in the future.


28:58 | Indu Singh

Thank you for the opportunity.