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Portland Smart City Work has Already Begun

Portland Downtown scaled

Today the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is expected formally to announce that Columbus, Ohio, has won the $50M Smart City Challenge sponsored by the USDOT and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures.  Along with that announcement, the USDOT is expected to announce that the other 6 finalist cities—including Portland—will receive some combination of public and private sector resources with the goal of helping those cities to get going on their respective projects.  

The Portland project, called Ubiquitous Mobility for Portland or UBMobilePDX, represented about 6 months-worth of work by a team led by the City of Portland and consisting of a variety of private, public and academic partners, including the TAO and many of its members.  We were fortunate in that we were able to leverage the nearly 18 months-worth of work that preceded the USDOT Smart City Challenge opportunity, which led to the creation a year ago of theTAO Smart City Lab and is generously supported by Portland General Electric.  The Lab was created as a result of a collaboration between TAO, Intel, PSU, and the City of Portland.  That group, which has over 70 public, private, and academic organizations participating in it, was heavily involved in the USDOT Smart City proposal and will continue to be involved in smart city projects in the region going forward. 

Just last week, members of the Lab were in Austin as part of our ongoing participation in NIST’s Global Smart Cities Challenge (GCTC), where the Portland team was selected out of nearly 100 other cities for the 2016 GCTC Leadership prize.  As a result of this win, the City will receive a $20,000 grant to apply to on-going smart city work.  In addition to the GCTC, this group is also participating in the Envision America initiative and MetroLab, as well as collaborating with a consortium of European cities utilizing FIWARE to develop and deploy smart city applications.  

Like the other 6 finalist cities, Portland is going to have to look to a combination of private, public and foundation sources for funding to realize its smart city vision.  Private companies and foundations in a number of the finalist cities have stepped up to match the $50M award contributed by federal government and Vulcan, and in Columbus it’s rumored that the private sector contributed a 2:1 match for a total of $140M in funding.  While the Portland region does not have nearly the number of large corporate headquarters that competitor regions enjoy, Portland’s smart city proposal was creative enough to attract the interest of large, global companies and local startups, not to mention the fact we beat out over 70 other cities to become a finalist. 

Soon we will learn how much federal funding (if any) the region might be able to access as a runner-up. A big test for Portland’s vision will be whether we can attract sufficient private sector and foundation support to make this vision a reality.  

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