Data and Technology Innovation Lab’s 2021 Student Showcase

The Data and Technology Innovation Lab at Technology Services (previously known as the Social Research and Technology Innovation Lab, or SRTI) was started in 2018 in an effort to build data analytics expertise and expand services within the organization. Today lab leads and students consult with campus faculty and researchers across the social and computational sciences to assist with data analytics. At a showcase in May 2021, student teams presented their exciting year-long projects!

Computer Vision

Rishi Masand is a member of Computer Vision, the student team that builds and tests computer vision applications for campus use. His group knew that people struggle with identifying cars by make, model, and generation and wanted to develop a tool to improve those skills. This technology could have implications for enforcing parking regulations and assigned parking spaces, and for identifying traffic violators, to name a few.

To address this issue, Masand and his team modified Grand Theft Auto V, a popular video game. In the game, Masand replaced in-game vehicles with their real-world counterparts. Masand chose this game particularly because it was “photorealistic…[and can] capture images of vehicles from different angles, in different environments, at different times of the day, and in different weather conditions.” With this kind of technology, machines can better identify cars that are violating traffic or parking laws, or identify if cars are in their designated spot in a parking garage. 

Another Computer Vision team member, Rohan Suresh, created an app to identify parking spots around campus and notify users of the empty space. The UIUC Parking Bot app allows students to find nearby, open parking spots. To do this, he used Raspberry Pis with cameras and computer vision software to monitor parking lots and report whether there are unused parking spots. There’s no question that students everywhere struggle with finding parking on campus! We’re super excited to see what this could mean for students in the future. 

Smart Communities 

The second team, Smart Communities, partners with surrounding cities to analyze their data or test new technology that could improve the lives of the residents. Amirtha Sureshbabu presented on the group’s current goals: identifying and addressing broadband gaps and maintaining long-term broadband equity. Ensuring that everyone has access to a broadband connection is especially important now that the COVID-19 pandemic moved a lot of work and school online. Sureshbabu developed a statistical model to identify the socio-economic predictors that impact broadband availability. Access to the internet for everyone is important, and we’re excited to see the impact this project has on the community!

Web and Mobile Application Prototyping Team

The final project was from the Web and Mobile Application Prototyping team, who creates innovative web and mobile applications for the university. Nicolas Anand developed a video sharing app, YouTube-Sync, hoping to improve online class experiences by allowing students to watch videos together, in real-time, while on different devices. All users can pause, play and skip through the video. The app even allows students to log in with their NetID and chat between users! What’s next for Youtube-Sync? Anand hopes to increase security measures, allow for YouTube playlist streaming, and add a multi-room function, where people can watch different videos at the same time.

 The Data and Technology Innovation Lab offers student opportunities to work on data analytics and use that experience for real world applications. The full-time staff of the Data Analytics team also offers services to campus units interested in gaining assistance with data collection and analysis within their own departments. To learn more about the lab and their current projects, visit the Data and Technology Innovation Laboratory website!