“Smart Cities for dummies”

Within my program in Intelligent Transport Systems and Logistics at LiU, I have found the smart city/Internet of Things track to be particularly interesting and engaging. In a previous post earlier this semester, I have talked a bit about my interest in this aspect of my program, and more specifically about one project I was working on in my Smart Cities course with geofencing around local bus stations on Kungsgatan.

For our final project in Smart Cities, my group members and I developed an android application that allows citizens to report urban issues to a mock local municipality. The application first opens up to the local area of Norrköping where the cases can be seen as blue markers. When clicking on each of the markers, a picture of the issue shows up with a description detailing what the issue is. Users can also submit their own complains to the municipality if they desire, inputting a picture and other details as well. The information regarding each post is stored on a local database that the application is able to retrieve using a backend program.

  

Despite minimal experience programming in java, I worked to study the language on my own as the class went on. With the the help of tutorials and my lab instructor, I was able to create the custom info windows that appear when clicking on individual reports. Something as simple as this actually required quite a bit of programming, that prior to doing this project I would have just taken for granted!

At its core, designing technology to be utilized in a smart city should seek to improve quality of life for its residents. By implementing an application such as this, the overall community can be improved with personalized responses from residents, helping the municipality to address issues that would have taken extensive resources and time to find.

I hope as this Master’s program goes on, I can work further with the track in smart cities and IoT into my thesis work with a company or startup in the spring of 2021. This is quite a bit away in time, so until then I’ll need to keep up with these programming languages!

Student Life and Studies in the Era of Covid19

As the world struggles with the handling of a global pandemic, and our everyday lives face changes in a number of ways, the impact of Covid19 on student life and studies can definitely be felt. What used to be a week filled with familiar faces, a multitude of different classrooms and labs, and the one-on-one support from professors, has now moved to distance mode as the university adjusts to a self-isolated version of itself. Despite these changes, the reassuring thing throughout all of this is that the quality of my education has stayed the same.

I find myself most days in an array of chats on Microsoft Teams, communicating with professors to discuss different problems, meeting online with classmates to complete different projects, and listening to pre-recorded lectures to get situated in the coursework. The best part about all of this is that now you never have to miss a single word from a professor – every single lecture you can go back to for your own reference in case something was unclear!

Despite this consistent education; however, one can really start to lose their mind if they stay inside in the same room all day long, every day, for the rest of Covid19. To make up for some of the things I miss the most, and to give myself a bit of headspace, I’ve found ways to set up routine and give myself a break from my studies every day.

 

 

 

 

One thing that I have been really good about since going into self-isolation was getting myself outside and jogging to get my body moving after sitting inside all day. First it started off as a walk, but now I’ve worked myself up to a 1.5 km jog and about 30 stair climbs. From sitting inside and studying all day, this time running has turned into something that I’ve learned to really enjoy as a break of fresh air.

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing that I’ve really started to miss from everyday life pre-Covid19 are those beautiful Pressbyrån kanelbullar during fika in between class. Today we decided to make them from scratch and omg, I think I’ll never be the same. Add this with some fresh coffee and it’s as if you’re sitting in your nearest Espresso House like any other day out in the city.

 

 

 

Adjusting to all of these new changes has truly seen it’s ups and downs, but despite all of this I think we can find joy in the little things, and learn to appreciate the parts of our life maybe previously we took for granted.

I’m wishing everyone a healthy and happy quarantine out there! Stay safe!

Healthcare in Sweden

As Covid-19 continues to spread, there might be a few questions regarding the healthcare system in Sweden and curiosity about what student experiences have been like. As a student coming from the U.S. where healthcare can often feel like the Wild Wild West, my experience receiving healthcare here in Sweden is a bit different from what I am used to back home.

As an international student at LiU, you are covered under FAS+ which includes disability and death benefits, emergency medical and dental care, home transport, third party liability, legal expenses, and coverage for personal property. FAS+ does not include health insurance, which honestly confused the heck out of me considering this is usually the primary insurance you obtain as an American, usually through your employer or parents.

Your healthcare as an international student (w/ a permit of 12 months or longer) is actually the same as any other citizen or resident of Sweden as soon as you have received your personal number from the Swedish Tax Agency. This gives you all the same access, ability to schedule appointments, receive treatment, etc. and for the low cost of around 200 SEK (~€18/$20) per appointment.

To obtain an appointment at a vårdcentralen (city health center) in Norrköping, you must call the reception number AS SOON AS THEY OPEN in order to receive a spot on the calling queue. This is literally the most important step, as missing this window will eliminate your chance of scheduling an appointment that day. Upon calling you will be asked to provide your personal number, and you will be notified that a staff member will call you back within the next hour or so after. Once the receptionist or nurse calls you back, they will ask you about your reason for calling, symptoms, etc. and determine a time for you to come in for an appointment.

Once you have an appointment scheduled, it’s fairly smooth sailing in terms of receiving treatment. You then show up to vårdcentralen, check-in with the front desk, pay for the appointment, and then go to the corresponding waiting room until a nurse arrives to meet you.

Boom, bam, done. Before you know it you’re feeling in tip top shape again ready to conquer the rest of your studies!

P.S. This process is a bit different with the current situation regarding Covid-19. For information on what to do if you are experiencing symptoms, please view the Covid-19 information page here.

Voting From Abroad

Yesterday marked Super Tuesday in the U.S. for primary elections. Although my home state of Ohio has its primary election on March 17th, I filled out and mailed my absentee ballot a few weeks ago and received confirmation yesterday that it was collected. As an international student it can feel daunting to stay involved in your country’s political process from thousands of miles away but really in the 21st century it couldn’t be easier*. This post is a step by step process on how to make sure you can have your voice and cast your ballot despite the distance between you and your home country.

* Disclaimer: This is only applicable to American citizens, but every country has a different process for expats and foreign nationals to stay involved in their country’s elections. Look on your country’s embassy website in Sweden for more information!

First and foremost, if you are a U.S. citizen living abroad, you have to apply to receive absentee ballots every single year. For example, if you applied in 2019, it does not automatically guarantee that you will receive your absentee ballots in 2020 as well. You must REAPPLY every year!

You can find the application for absentee ballots on the US Vote Foundation website. Once on the website, click on “Register to Vote Absentee Ballot” shown below in the red circle.

Once you click on this link, you select “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request” for overseas citizen voters, and then click continue.

This leads you to a page where you fill out your personal information including your last U.S. residence, and a form which you sign and then can submit to your local board of elections in the U.S. You can opt to receive ballots throughout the calendar year for all elections or just the general election in November. Additionally, you have the option to either obtain your ballot via email or through the mail.

I chose to receive my ballot through the mail, because opting to receive your ballot through email requires printing the envelop out and then sending it in via post. I find it to be easier to receive the envelope via post rather than find someway to print it out.

Once you receive your ballot in the mail, fill it out, follow the instructions for sealing the ballot, and then send it back to the U.S. via postnord at your local ICA grocery store in Norrköping or Linköping. WITH THE PROPER POSTAL STAMP ATTACHED!

Included in the ballot sent to me, was a website and pin code in which I could track the status of my ballot, similar to tracking the status of a package. The overall process of submitting my absentee application, having the ballot sent to me, receiving the ballot, and sending it back to the U.S. took just under a month. This timeline is important to keep in mind as most absentee ballots MUST be received by the election day of which you are voting.

Happy Voting! #YayDemocracy #Vote4Change

A Geofencing Application for Smart Cities

One of the main reasons I was interested in getting my master’s in the Intelligent Transport Systems & Logistics program at Linköping University, was because of the serious emphasis this program places on the future developments of transportation technology and city infrastructure. Before applying at LiU, I did various grad school tours at different universities in the US and applied to multiple universities in Europe, but the curriculum in each of these programs were failing to prepare transportation planners for a future in which automation, connectivity, and technology lead the way.

Regarding Transportation Systems Engineering, the differences between LiU and these other universities were quite clear. This program not only provides an understanding of more traditional traffic planning, it also incorporates elements that are largely focused on the integration of IT and telecommunications into how transport and logistic systems will operate in the future. The focus on this within my program is what solidified my decision in coming here.

Within the curriculum, you can find an array of different topics that would normally be left out of a more traditional transportation systems engineering master’s, such as Smart Cities, Internet of Things, and Mobile Communications & Networks, to name a few.

This period in particular, I have been working a lot within my Smart Cities course. This course provides lectures with more general project ideation activities and technical seminars on sensors, but the main focus has been regarding the project work. In the labs, our projects utilize software such as Java, SQL, and QGIS, to experiment in different ways with the collection of sensor data to develop applications that can be utilized by citizens in a hypothetical “smart city”.

One project that I found especially interesting so far is this geofencing lab (seen in the image above) we have been working with over the past week. The idea of this project is to design a frontend application for an android phone in java that is able to collect GPS data, and then send this data to a database via a backend application, where it is manipulated and plotted on a graph. Within the backend application, the main objective of the project was to determine if a user of the mobile device was within a certain distance of an established geofenced area, in this case the bus stops on Kungsgatan in Norrköping. In a smart city, this triggering of a geofenced area could prompt a specific action to take place on a device that could give useful information to a nearby user.

Someone who see this and is interested in the program might look at this and think – omg, I do not know how to program in Software X … or work with Software Y. But this is okay!

The first semester of the program students are exposed to general programming logic in MATLAB and other content with GIS. For this course specifically, we operate in Java which I just started learning (through self-study) this past February! The takeaway of this course is to understand how device sensors can be utilized to collect data, store this data in a database, and then process this data into a usable application. Being a naturally great programmer in this program is just a plus ;), you will do great if you are curious, want to learn, and work hard!

Where else could studying transportation be so exciting? See you in the courses next year 🙂