In what sounds like an episode straight out of Black Mirror, a US organisation is planning to create an entire city dedicated to testing out innovative new technologies.
Hailing from Washington DC, the telecommunications and defence equipment vendor known as Pegasus Systems has revealed its blueprints for the proposed testing grounds. The project is set to cost the company a whopping $1 billion, but the ROI could be colossal – after all, we live in a world increasingly saturated by IoT technology, and as such, there will undoubtedly be plenty of companies willing to cash in on the opportunity to potentially turn their seemingly outlandish inventions into a reality.
Hello, and welcome to the Centre for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation
Christened ‘CITE’ (which stands for Centre for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation), the urban testing ground will purportedly mirror your average mid-sized 20th century American city, only with one major difference – no actual humans will populate the place. Instead, it will be used purely for testing out all those ideas for tech inventions that up until now, have been contained due to their potentially dangerous nature.
We’re talking things like driverless freight trucks that are totally controlled by wireless networks and delivery drones zooming through the air to drop packages on doorsteps. In the real-world, the presence of humans would inevitably interfere with such experiments. In a ghost city, however, virtually anything is possible.
Introducing the first-ever technological testing ground of this scope
Though it’s been in the project pipeline for several years now, CITE remains huge news for tech developers, who have previously been restricted in terms of their digital playgrounds. Harnessing all the features of a typical urban environment yet functioning solely as a testing ground, CITE will supposedly be designed to accommodate a population of around 35,000, sprawling across almost 10,000 acres of land.
Complete with urban, suburban and rural zones, the fabricated city will encompass “split-level suburban homes straight out of the 1960s and big box stores on the outskirts from the 1980s”. Add to this a smattering of high-rise buildings, urban canyons, farms, ranches and a road system, and you have yourself what looks like a perfectly normal city.
By rendering the city as realistic as possible, Pegasus aims to significantly reduce the variables for testing and enable much greater accuracy, thereby providing “customers the unique opportunity to test and evaluate technologies in conditions that most closely simulate real-world applications”, according to CITE’s website.
But how exactly will CITE work?
To gauge a better idea of how this ghost-city testing ground will operate, let’s look at the four key areas it will be divided up into:
- City Lab. This essentially refers to the “full-scale, fully-functional test city” of CITE. Occupying approximately 400 acres of the entire region, City Lab is designed to enable researchers to collect data from system-wide scenarios featuring “ubiquitous wireless and fixed-line communications and infrastructure”.
- Field Lab District. Here, a significant portion of land will be devoted to public or private labs for testing and evaluation. The Field Labs will be located on the perimeter of the City Lab, most likely delegated into industry-specific districts – energy, water, agriculture and development.
- Backbone. The Backbone Hub can regarded as the nervous system of the entire facility. This underground operational hub will be where the city is connected, controlled and monitored from.
- Research Campus. Combining advanced laboratory amenities and an office space, CITE Campus will be a highly-sustainable centre focusing on three core functions: administration, research development and meetings. Separate from the Field Labs and City facility, CITE Campus is designed to attract key project stakeholders such as researchers, universities and investors.
When can we expect the project to lift off?
We haven’t heard much more news about CITE since last May, so it’s hard to project an ETA on the facility’s development. While Pegasus Systems appears to remain confident that CITE will get the go-ahead, some prominent figures in the scientific community have picked holes in the tapestry of this unique idea: for instance, Steve Raynor of Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities has suggested the absence of human interaction will yield unrealistic results. Furthermore, other complications that have hindered the project from getting off the ground include acquiring land (Pegasus has chosen a location in New Mexico to build its proposed testing ground upon; however, issues in securing said location prevented development from getting the go-ahead back in 2012).
Should the project eventually materialise, the ramifications will be mammoth for society. All those crazy ideas for IoTs that have been tossed aside due to inadequate testing grounds may finally come to fruition, totally transforming the way we interact and operate on a daily basis.