Thingstitute : IoT Living Lab

Connected devices and the data they gather are improving our quality of life and changing the way the County governs. To explore these opportunities and building from our experience in the Smart America and Global City Team challenges, Montgomery County launched the “Thingstitute” — a first-of-a-kind living laboratory for internet of things (IoT) technology, providing a testbed for start-ups, established companies, and research institutions.

The Thingstitute explores projects from transit systems to libraries to public safety — and everything in between. The Thingstitute enjoys partnerships with a variety of companies and organizations as well peer governments to share knowledge and collaborate.



Smart Community Alert Network (SCALE)

Status: Completed NIST-Funded Activities; Exploring Opportunities for Scaling-Up SCALE through Phase 2 Projects

Description: The cornerstone project in the Thingstitute is the Safe Community Alert (SCALE) Network. The Safe Community Alert (SCALE) network seeks to bring the safety and security that connected devices promise to everyone, regardless of their financial means or technical savvy. In a network that features a diverse ecosystem of devices, standards, and connectivity options, the SCALE team is demonstrating the feasibility of a new element of the public sector safety net. Being currently demonstrated in a senior living facility in Montgomery County Maryland, the SCALE network senses hazardous air and water factors as well as some facets of the physical health and well-being of our resident volunteers.

In this real world test bed we have deployed environmental sensors that detect a variety of factors including:

  • Smoke
  • Carbon dioxide and monoxide
  • Toxic gases
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Particulates

Sensors also detect water consumption and contaminants. This data complements sensed events related to the health of a resident that could come from devices such as blood glucose monitors, heart monitors, and oxygen machines and even detect events such as falls, unauthorized access to sensitive areas, or a resident that has wandered off. Once an event is sensed or data is collected, it goes to the SCALE platform where applications can be built. These applications could take numerous forms.

The SCALE team will demonstrate a text message notification system, automatically initiated conference calls with family and care providers, dashboards for first responders, and analytics for public health officials. All of this will be demonstrated with affordable forms of technology and connectivity.

Partners: Montgomery County, UC-Irvine,IBM, AT&T, Intel, Victory Housing, SigFox, N5 Sensors, Senseware, Twilio, Earth Networks, UT-Dallas, IoT Dev Labs, Intel Security, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and the University of Maryland.

Desired Outcomes: Improved safety and security for vulnerable residents


Smart Agriculture (SmartAg)

Status: Paused

Description: In Montgomery County, MD approximately a third of our land is set aside for agricultural use. As a large urban county of a million people in the Washington, DC metropolitan region, housing is also in high demand and there are pressures to develop in this agricultural reserve. So in order to create an agricultural reserve that is a financially sustainable vehicle for economic opportunity, Montgomery County is exploring Internet of Things (IoT) technologies as a service to make our farmers more productive.

Working with a series of farmers and technology partners, the County will deploy IoT devices and new forms of connectivity to test #IoT “kits” that will help farmers make their land more productive, easier to manage, and livestock healthier. In order to do this, the Innovation Program, working with the newly established Office of Agriculture, is establishing an #IoT test-bed as part of the Thingstitute, the County’s living laboratory for the internet of things. Four farmers have been selected to represent different types of farms and farmers:

  • Farmer One is a traditional farmer who has been on his land for generations. He uses minimal technology and natural practices. He operates a farm stand and relies heavily on natural pollinators.
  • Farmer Two is operates the only pasture­-raised, robotic dairy in the Country. He also operates a “pick your own” and already uses a significant amount of sophisticated technology in his operation.
  • Farmer Three is a start­up farmer. He has only recently begun farming as part of a New Farmer Program. He does not live on his land and mainly seeks to grow small table crops. Remote monitoring of his land would be very helpful.
  • Farmer Four is an urban farmer. Using a re-purposed shipping container from a start­up company, this farmer can work in his farm year round and operates in a part of the county where greens are in high demand.

Partners: UMD, Eurotech, Microsoft, Patton Electronics, Link Labs, Earth Networks, IoT Dev Labs,  FiberTower

Desired Outcomes: To deploy a diverse ecosystem of devices to test operation in a real ­world setting, build dashboards for farmers, and understand how the County could provide IoT support services to farmers across the County.


Smart Transit

Status: Nearing Completion

Description: An effective public transportation system is a critical part of managing a large urban/suburban county. Many Montgomery County residents use the RideOn bus system, sometimes using multiple buses to get to work, school, or other activities. Just building more roads is no longer an option so using technology to enhance public transportation such as RideOn or our future bus rapid transit system is important. Montgomery County understands that the ridership experience begins at the bus stop. The County and AT&T would lead a blended team of start-ups, such as MachFu, and universities, such as the University of Maryland to focus on transit/transportation innovation:

–The Bus Stop —

  • Some bus stops are no more than a pole with a metal sign indicating the route and stop. These stops don’t have the ridership to warrant a full shelter, but the pole itself can be enhanced. For example, sometimes the stops can be hard to locate, not only for the rider but for new bus drivers too. Solar-powered lighting on the pole that helps alert people to its location is an obvious opportunity, but encased in the pole itself you can also include communication relays that provide bus status or other useful information. The lighting on the pole can also change to communicate that the bus is approaching or to indicate a disruption in service.
  • Sheltered stops provide a greater opportunity for innovation because of the increased ability to collect and store solar power. These stops can potentially collect information on the following:
    • air quality
    • traffic counts through video analytics
    • residents in distress
    • the status of waste receptacles
    • acts of vandalism
    • rider feedback and more

–The Bus —

If the ridership experience begins at the bus stop, the obvious next step is the bus itself. In an efficient system, this is where the rider will spend most of their time. During this time, the County works to ensure riders have a safe and comfortable ride to their destination. With these basic needs met the County can also provide amenities. The capabilities of the bus as a platform can be broken down into two general categories:

  • Data gathering:
    • real-time bus capacity information
    • environmental conditions in the bus
    • distracted driver alerts
    • reliable bus location and mechanical status
    • roadway conditions
    • passenger safety via video analytics
  • Service delivery:
    • Wi-fi connectivity
    • information on County programs and services through digital signage
    • USB power terminals
    • passenger safety alerts
    • bus routing information and connection status

Partners : AT&T, Deloitte, Hitachi, Machfu, Big Belly, Ericsson, University of Maryland

Desired Outcomes: To enhance the county’s public transit/transportation with a focus on reliability and user experience in order to prepare for upcoming smart city initiatives.


1776 Partnership

Status: Completed

Description: In order to support our local entrepreneurs within the county, we have established partnership with the incubator based in DC for the purpose of providing additional programing and opportunity for county start-ups. In exchange, the start-ups within 1776 network get access to Montgomery County Innovation Program & the Thingstitute in order to provide them with piloting opportunities.

Desired Outcomes: Providing county start-ups access to a high-end support system in order to encourage and foster innovation.

Partners (Current and Past)


logos of partners