Connecting campuses
to find climate solutions

As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability,
AT&T is helping to power research
at universities where students
and faculty bring innovative
5G-enabled climate solutions to life.

Near the northeast corner of the University of Missouri campus sits Stanley Hall, a multi-use building with labs, classrooms and administrative offices, where students and faculty pour in and out every day. Just half a mile to the west, students are busy monitoring an exact replica of Stanley Hall, but this version won’t be found on any campus map. At the Innovation Space in Cornell Hall, Mizzou students are tracking a “digital twin,” or virtual model, of Stanley Hall. Digital sensors in the physical building capture information, from real-time building occupancy to lighting and temperature levels, and transmit the data back to the digital twin via 5G connectivity.

In collaboration with 5G industry leaders, the Innovation Space and research hubs like it at universities across the nation are discovering new ways that connectivity can help solve the world’s most pressing problems. For AT&T and the students at the University of Missouri, that means working toward the goal of a world with net-zero emissions.

As part of its Connected Climate Initiative, a program aiming to help businesses eliminate a gigaton—1 billion metric tons—of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, AT&T is collaborating with several academic research institutions. Bright minds with new ideas make these campuses hotbeds for innovation and a natural fit for climate research. The next generation of leaders—the students learning about the power of broadband in AT&T-connected labs—can utilize new and emerging technologies to help curb the mounting threat of global warming.

“Universities are where innovation and collaboration begin,” said Matt Hickey, vice president for public sector and FirstNet marketing at AT&T. “5G has the opportunity to revolutionize education and we are seeing exciting implementations and ideation from colleges and universities across the country.”

AT&T is working with leading technology companies, small-to-global businesses, nonprofits and research colleges and universities to develop innovative new use cases that tackle climate change on a global scale. But educational institutions in particular can create an ecosystem of innovation that will foster advanced research, technology development, product and application testing and hands-on career training, Hickey said.

This kind of research has never been more important. In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2021 was the world’s hottest month on record. A recent United Nations report warned that global warming will intensify over the next 30 years, with only a short window to prevent devastating consequences like extreme weather events, rising sea levels and heat waves that present imminent danger to agriculture and human health. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity.”

The Connected Climate Initiative launched shortly before this year’s United Nations COP26 conference, where the goal was to find a path forward to a net-zero world by midcentury.

Take a Deeper Look
Inside The Labs

The Purdue Research Foundation is working with the Indiana 5G Zone lab to explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing industry—a particularly relevant field in Indiana, one of the top industrial states in the U.S. Their research is specifically focused on implementing industry 4.0 applications like IoT-enabled sensors that could create more efficient and effective power management with the aim of reducing overall power consumption—with the added benefits of lowering costs.

The students and academics at The Texas A&M University System’s RELLIS Campus are examining ways 5G can help reduce the impact of industries with particularly high emissions, like transportation. For example, with high-speed connectivity, smart vehicle routing could help improve traffic management, leading to less congestion. Precision navigation could also give a boost to agriculture, where farmers could create more efficient harvests with less fuel.

Faculty and students at the University of Missouri are exploring how 5G technology can power energy-efficient buildings through their research at the Innovation Space. Their goal is to eventually develop a dynamic system that adjusts a building’s operations in real-time in response to the information collected by the sensor data. “The system might dim a room’s lighting or turn down the intensity on the cooling system,” said Jong Bum Kim, an assistant professor of architectural studies at the University of Missouri. “There’s a lot of data that needs to be processed, and we’re exploring how 5G connectivity can help enable that work to be completed.”

Take a Deeper Look
Inside The Labs

The Purdue Research Foundation is working with the Indiana 5G Zone lab to explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing industry—a particularly relevant field in Indiana, one of the top industrial states in the U.S. Their research is specifically focused on implementing industry 4.0 applications like IoT-enabled sensors that could create more efficient and effective power management with the aim of reducing overall power consumption—with the added benefits of lowering costs.

The students and academics at The Texas A&M University System’s RELLIS Campus are examining ways 5G can help reduce the impact of industries with particularly high emissions, like transportation. For example, with high-speed connectivity, smart vehicle routing could help improve traffic management, leading to less congestion. Precision navigation could also give a boost to agriculture, where farmers could create more efficient harvests with less fuel.

Faculty and students at the University of Missouri are exploring how 5G technology can power energy-efficient buildings through their research at the Innovation Space. Their goal is to eventually develop a dynamic system that adjusts a building’s operations in real-time in response to the information collected by the sensor data. “The system might dim a room’s lighting or turn down the intensity on the cooling system,” said Jong Bum Kim, an assistant professor of architectural studies at the University of Missouri. “There’s a lot of data that needs to be processed, and we’re exploring how 5G connectivity can help enable that work to be completed.”

“In order to reach this goal, we will need radical collaboration from the whole of society, including business, government, NGOs and academia, and the AT&T Connected Climate Initiative stands ready to do our part,” said Charles Herget, assistant vice president, global environmental sustainability for AT&T, who leads corporate environmental sustainability efforts across the organization.

With the country’s brightest minds on the job, the future looks promising. AT&T has tapped researchers at not only the University of Missouri, but also The Texas A&M University System’s RELLIS Campus and the Purdue Research Foundation.

Each university has a unique strategic initiative to use 5G to drive climate solutions in high emitting industries. While the University of Missouri is focused on energy-efficient building environments—hands-on training for future designers—at the Purdue Research Foundation, a team is exploring how AT&T 5G can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing industry. The Texas A&M University System’s RELLIS Campus is working to use 5G to overhaul emissions-heavy industries like transportation.

“The Connected Climate Initiative gives
Purdue students opportunities to work with real companies on real challenges”
— Troy Hege, Vice President
of the Innovation and Technology
at Purdue Research Foundation

“By understanding traffic patterns and being able to proactively adapt to other vehicles’ behaviors, connected and autonomous vehicles interacting with other vehicles on the road as well as infrastructures, such as traffic signals, streetlights and cameras, can reduce carbon emissions,” said Dr. Srikanth Saripalli, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor Systems at Texas A&M University. “We are excited to be working with AT&T to study, analyze and develop algorithms for carbon abatement using 5G for connected and autonomous vehicles as part of the AT&T Connected Climate Initiative.“

It won’t be easy, but AT&T believes it has the technology to bridge the gap to a net-zero world. Based on calculations by the Carbon Trust, an independent expert organization that helps businesses accelerate to a net-zero world, AT&T found that its connectivity enabled select businesses to reduce emissions by more than 72 million metric tons in just three years. At the universities, students and faculty are working to find ways to scale those same results across more industries and geographies.

The innovations coming out of these labs aren’t just a benefit for society at large; university students are also gaining valuable experience.

“The Connected Climate Initiative gives Purdue students opportunities to work with real companies on real challenges and provide them a real-world learning experience that extends beyond the classroom and the lab,” said Troy Hege, vice president of the Innovation and Technology at Purdue Research Foundation. “We’re excited to be involved in this work to see where our solutions may be able to make real differences.”

These students of sustainability will hopefully bring a fresh perspective on how the world should look as they enter the job market.

“Students will be able to broaden their perspectives on how emerging technologies can rapidly shift the sustainable industry,” said Bimal Balakrishnan, associate professor and chair of the architectural studies department at the University of Missouri. His students, he hopes, will value the kind of research-based design that creates more sustainable buildings.

The weight of this contribution and its potential for our future leaders is not lost on AT&T. “We want to be the connectivity cornerstone for the next generation to impact the world for better,” said Herget. “Working with universities is a natural place to extend our reach to the brightest minds, start-ups and global firms.”