SDSU's Center for Information Technology and Infrastructure Designated

Smarr, Welty &Frost
Larry Smarr, Bob Welty, and Eric Frost

12.10.03 - San Diego State University has announced the establishment of the Center for Information Technology and Infrastructure, known as CITI (pronounced city). CITI's directors share Calit²'s vision and have worked with the institute for some time. During his visit to SDSU on October 14, Calit² director Larry Smarr recognized this close collaboration and the establishment of CITI as a move that will enable the California State University system to benefit more directly from Calit². CITI will serve as a portal for organizing projects between SDSU and Calit² and as the nexus to mobilize relevant expertise and infrastructure development on SDSU's campus.

CITI is led by co-directors Eric Frost, professor of Geological Sciences, SDSU, and Bob Welty, SDSU Foundation director for homeland security projects. "CITI is not only Calit²-like," says Frost. "It was engendered by Calit². In fact, it was through Calit² that I started working with Bob."

CITI expects to leverage optical networking, wireless, and human-computer interaction enabled through the SDSU Viz Center, which Frost and Welty direct, to support projects in four areas:

  • Natural disaster mitigation and response
  • Global sharing of information and collaborative visualization
  • Homeland security
  • Remote sensing and environmental monitoring

C ITI is also expected to support work in such areas as student safety and transportation studies, such as related to the new San Diego trolley station near campus, the only one planned to be underground.

According to Welty, "Creation of this center had its genesis in key projects that demonstrated the potential of technology-based capabilities. The first was Shadow Bowl, organized by SDSU's Dave Warner, a 'community readiness event' planned around the Super Bowl last January to prepare local San Diego emergency medical providers with a short burst of 'what-ifs' in case the unthinkable were to happen."

A second event, FairSher (pronounced fair-share), done in conjunction with the San Diego County Fair, demonstrated the use of various technologies to enhance communication between emergency responders and decision makers in a vis center-style command center. Participants included the County Sheriff's Department, several technology companies, and SDSU and UCSD as university partners.

CITI was launched formally at a third such exercise with the County Hazardous Materials group, demonstrating local homeland security capabilities using wireless interaction among first responders in the field, SDSU's Viz Center, and the Sheriff's Department Operations Center.

Welty says that these events gave them the opportunity to showcase possibilities important to the San Diego region. They also made it possible to offer SDSU as a local-area testbed for development of infrastructure that could be scaled throughout the community. "The knowledge we gain in creating a smart campus," he says, "will be extended through our participation in development of a smart community."

"Our goal is to empower the university more generally," says Frost. "We see telecom and IT as the technologies capable of most dramatically transforming SDSU into a 21st-century university, and these practical exercises were critical to making the case to galvanize talent within SDSU."

"We all came to the conclusion that we needed a center to sustain this work," says Frost, who, with Welty, is eager to effect change. "Calit² was cited as proof that this model of activity can - and does - work," he says.

Furthermore, some see CITI as the pragmatic implementation of John Eger's theoretical work. Eger, a professor of Communications and Public Policy at SDSU and a long-time champion of smart communities, has served as chair of San Diego's City of the Future Advisory Committee.

Before CITI was founded, Frost and Welty had been working with IT professionals from many of the 22 other CSU campuses, using their Viz Center to demonstrate what's possible by linking to corporations and other academic groups like Calit². "These technical professionals have come to our campus," says Frost, "and they say 'I see what you're doing. I can do that, too.' Then they quickly wonder: 'Why are we not already doing it?'" Riny Ledgerwood, SDSU's director of Telecommunications and Network Services, has been critical to the success of this effort. Joe Vasquez, associate vice president for Business Enterprises and a long-time proponent of applying telecommunications for the betterment of the campus and community, also has been a valuable member of the team.

Associate Dean Phil Langlais (now vice president for Research at Old Dominion) was the force driving campus consensus and building the CITI effort among multiple colleges on behalf of the university. Dean of Sciences Tom Scott sponsored the idea from inception. He brought the proposal through the university as its official sponsor and provided the College of Sciences as the formal home of the new center.

Establishment of CITI follows a series of benefits SDSU has derived from association with Calit². By way of example, Frost points to the relationship SDSU had with Calit² as the foundation for an enhanced relationship with Sun Microsystems, which designated the SDSU Viz Center, as a "Sun Center of Excellence for Collaborative Visualization." More recently, Sun donated a Sun "Zulu" high-end graphics system to that facility.

When asked what's next, Welty says, "Using the power of all the tools at our disposal, we're going to start creating the smart campus, starting with a high-resolution model of the current infrastructure at SDSU to help us expand it. Joe [Vasquez] has offered to oversee this effort."

Welty indicates that the support of the SDSU administration in general, including both the SDSU faculty and the SDSU Foundation, has been unprecedented. In particular, the continued support of Barry Janov, director for Sponsored Research Project Management, Tim Hushen, chief of Sponsored Research Services, and Frea Sladek, CEO of the SDSU Foundation, have promoted SDSU's role in homeland security efforts to assist the campus and community and helped make CITI a true cross-campus, interdisciplinary entity, which in the end will enable its greatest effectiveness.

In the spirit of recent "Calit² Days" at UCSD September 24 and UCI November 3, SDSU has begun plans to hold a Calit² Day in March 2004.