UTD: Students Take on Challenge of Helping Make Cities Smart

Naveen Jindal School of Management grad students proposed solutions to make cities smart and improve city responsiveness for the AT&T Smart Cities Initiative.

UTD students

Graduate students in an entrepreneurship class at the Naveen Jindal School of Management conducted research and made suggestions for the AT&T Smart Cities initiative. The experience put students in the middle of how technology is transforming cities.

Smart Cities is a framework of interconnected technologies that use wireless networks, and telecommunications networks in general, to help connect communities with city infrastructures. Smart Cities addresses issues in dense urban and suburban areas — congestion, parking, energy-intensive streetlights — as well as safety and security and larger infrastructure issues such as power outages. A Smart Cities app, for instance, might send an alert to get garbage collected or a streetlight repaired. Or it could tell a driver that a parking spot has become available. Cities, in turn, can monitor outages and notify citizens in near-real time.


As part of the class, the students focused on helping AT&T Smart Cities identify and develop potential business opportunities in five key vertical markets: energy and utilities, transportation, citizen engagement, public safety, and infrastructure.

“Smart Cities is about connectivity and collaboration,” said Mike Zeto, general manager and executive director, AT&T Smart Cities. “The Jindal School is known for fostering innovation, so it only made sense to collaborate with the school to identify solutions that would help us address challenges in these key verticals.”

“Smart Cities is about connectivity and collaboration.”

Mike Zeto 

Students in the class split into groups, each in charge of a region within the U.S.: Northeast, South Atlantic, North Central, South Central, and West. Students first identified companies that provide connected solutions to cities from their assigned regions, as well as the value chains and value propositions those companies could offer.

Employees from AT&T Smart Cities and Internet of Things business units were available to student teams as domain experts and consultants. Students also benefited from seeing how the city of Dallas is rolling out its own Smart Cities effort in collaboration with AT&T.

“The methodology is there,” said Rajiv Shah, Ph.D., who teaches the graduate class. “There’s a lot of research and analysis that’s gone into this project. Mike Zeto and the other AT&T Smart Cities project members we worked with will already have a solid case to take to their managers to explain why they should roll it out in each one of those cities.”


The students that participated were in The University of Texas at Dallas class The Entrepreneurial Experience. They told AT&T, using its Smart Cities framework and internet of things innovation, what products and solutions would work with different iterations in new cities. The cities selected by the five teams were Providence, R.I.; Columbus, Ohio; San Jose, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Orlando, Fla. Although there was no guarantee that AT&T would roll out Smart Cities in those cities, the company nonetheless benefited from the students’ findings.

“The solutions proposed by the students in Rajiv’s class reveal high levels of creativity, intelligence, and academic rigor,” Zeto said.

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