New Portland State “smart city” lab first of its kind in the US

Mar 28, 2016

A new applications lab at Portland State University (PSU) – the first of its kind in the United States – promises to be a boon to the City of Portland and mobile application developers as they find ways to streamline the way Portlanders move about the city.

 The FIWARE Lab, housed in PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Sciences, will collect, store and share data about all things related to transportation in the city – transit, car traffic, parking, bike sharing, wheelchair access, to name a few – and allow users to efficiently plan their trips.

The openly available data and the FIWARE Lab also will allow data scientists to create other “smart city” applications that will make it easy for citizens to access information about city services, such as electricity, water, gas, building permits and much more.

“The idea is to greatly simplify how a citizen can interact with the urban environment, not just transportation,” said PSU Research Professor Wilfred Pinfold, who was instrumental in establishing the FIWARE Lab.

Cloud-based FIWARE nodes are located in numerous cities in the world, particularly Europe. Portland’s node, which will be up and running this month, is the first one in the United States. PSU and Pinfold’s company, urban.systems, are partners in developing its use and making it widely available throughout the region.

“Portlanders currently have a few applications on their phones, such as the TriMet app, which makes bus and light rail transit very easy to use. The FIWARE Lab will exponentially expand the possibility for other applications, helping to make getting from one place to another virtually seamless,” said Pinfold.

Portland is one of seven cities in the United States selected as finalists (out of 78 applicants) for a $40 million US Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant to develop hi-tech transportation solutions. The new lab enhances Portland’s competitive position for the grant, Pinfold said. It also will enhance PSU’s ability to attract research dollars and may help bolster Portland’s tech economy by stimulating innovation and attracting more technology companies, he added.

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