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A Zero-Population 'Smart City' in New Mexico Will Test New Technologies

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May 30, 2012

A Zero-Population 'Smart City' in New Mexico Will Test New Technologies

By Cheryl Kaften, TMCnet Contributor

More than half a century ago, the U.S. Army built a town in the Nevada desert—complete with homes, shelters, a radio tower, electricity, pantries stocked with food, and life-size dressed mannequins to represent the residents—and called it Survival City. The goal was to determine who and what would outlast a 31-kiloton above-ground nuclear blast, which was detonated at 8:10 a.m. on May 5, 1955. Six thousand spectators watched from a distance of about six miles away. Army troops in tanks and trenches were positioned only two to three miles from the epicenter. Cameras were installed in a variety of locations to record the event. Nearly everything, except a couple of cinderblock buildings, was incinerated.

Now, a project reminiscent of Survival City—but far less perilous and less classified—is going up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This $1 billion “ghost town” also will feature a fully functioning mid-size city and suburban area—with a power grid, running water, wireless networks, and homes—but no tenants, except an occasional coyote or lizard. Construction begins in June on about 20 square miles of open, unimproved land.

The objective of the privately owned, commercially operated project is to facilitate end-to-end testing of new and emerging technologies, such as smart grids, distributed renewable energy, home automation, electric vehicle charging, integrated traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks; as well as cyber security, and terrorism vulnerability.

This represents the first testing site of this scale and scope—offering the opportunity to replicate the real-world challenges of upgrading an existing city infrastructure to that of a 21st Century smart city, operating within a green economy.

The Centre for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE) will be built by international development firm Pegasus Global Holdings, a U.S. government-authorized prime vendor and manufacturer of defense equipment and technologies, and a leader in telecommunications in Europe and America. The company anticipates that CITE will generate at least 350 direct jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs in its design, development, construction, and ongoing operational phases

The idea for the Center was born out of our own company’s challenges in trying to test new and emerging technologies beyond the confines of a sterile lab environment,” Robert H. Brumley, Pegasus Global’s CEO explained.  “As entrepreneurs, we saw a global need and stepped up to address it. The Center will allow private companies, not-for-profits, educational institutions, and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real-world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies prior to introduction."

The Center will derive its revenue from access charges and user fees; as well as from the sale of excess utility output, such as power generation, water treatment, and wireless infrastructure.

“I am confident this innovative project would provide a great boost to New Mexico’s economy,” Governor Susana Martinez said. “We are pleased to be able to offer the resources, open spaces, and talented workforce required to make this effort a success. My administration is committed to an ongoing relationship with Pegasus that will allow the Center to thrive and create New Mexico jobs.” 

CITE Development has partnered with Advanced Insights Group, Inc. of Albuquerque to manage a public-private advisory board process comprising stakeholders from across New Mexico and established pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding with the State’s Department of Economic Development. The advisory board will review and evaluate the proposed project during its development phase and offer ideas and expertise. Members of the advisory board include leading representatives of New Mexico’s academic, national laboratory, and private enterprise communities. The CITE Advisory Board will hold its inaugural meeting on Thursday, December 15, in Albuquerque. 

CITE is targeted for completion in 2014. Interested readers can view a video of the proposed site.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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