FAQ 2017-07-24T16:57:52+00:00


What exactly is a smart city? 2016-09-26T15:25:31+00:00

A smart city uses data to develop tailored strategies that enhance livability, workability, and sustainability — empowering citizens with the resources necessary to transform and improve their communities. Why? Because cities are growing. Combined with challenges like aging infrastructures, shrinking budgets, and the need to better manage vital resources, citizens and employers are seeking better services, resources, and livability. Take a look at Itron’s “10 Tenets of a Smart City.”

But what does a smart city actually do? 2016-09-23T18:40:49+00:00

A smart city improves infrastructure and services like transportation, energy management, traffic and mobility, public safety, and water and waste management; empowers people to engage more effectively with local government through better communication networks, and to access and share data and information that can help ensure equity in service delivery; and attracts investment and talent by providing entrepreneurial opportunities, quality of life, and vibrant connected communities. Learn more at smartcitiescouncil.com.

Has any of this happened yet? 2016-09-23T19:27:18+00:00

Yes! A smart building project at the Port of San Diego uses sensors to detect energy consumption and translate it into real-time data. Smart streetlights in New York City provide weather, traffic, transit, and other information through a smartphone app. Downtown buildings in Charlotte, North Carolina use technology and encourage behavioral change to conserve energy and water and reduce waste. Portland, Oregon is working on a smartphone app that would allow residents to compare transportation options and pricing on the go. Read more at cityminded.org.

How does Urbanova fit into this picture? 2016-09-23T19:28:27+00:00

Urbanova is a living laboratory for businesses and innovators to partner in the design of technology and applications for the cities of the future. We harness data to gain insights, empower people, and solve urban challenges — enabling healthier citizens, safer neighborhoods, smarter infrastructure, a more sustainable environment, and a stronger economy. Read our Executive Summary (PDF).

Where is this “living laboratory” located? 2016-08-30T20:07:02+00:00

Urbanova is just west of downtown Spokane, Washington, in the city’s University District: 770 acres of academic and mixed-use buildings, residential neighborhoods, and both undeveloped and underdeveloped land. Its geographic footprint offers a blank canvas of opportunities for developers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and community partners. Six higher education institutions operate in the University District, which is already a center for health sciences education and research.

What’s the story behind your name? 2016-11-07T15:05:29+00:00

In his introduction to SMARTCITY.spokane : Fall 2015 (Washington State University, 2016), Darrin Griechen writes that “advancements in the fields of information and communication technology have created a new era for the urban environment.” It is in this spirit that Urbanova was named: Urban + nova (Latin for “new”).

As technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives,  Urbanova is leading an effort to use that technology to build a smarter, more livable, more equitable city; to synthesize data in such a way that it actually improves the socioeconomic conditions of those who live and work in communities around the world. It’s a new way of thinking about what a city is – and what it can be.

What’s so unique about Urbanova? 2016-08-30T20:03:32+00:00

Partners include not only research experts and municipal service providers, but also global leaders in their fields. The small and contained footprint of the University District provides an ideal proving ground for prototyping applications, solutions, and business models in a faster and more cost effective way. This is further underscored by Urbanova’s shared governance model — which enables its partners to have a much higher impact than if they were working alone — and an open technology platform that encourages innovation and collaboration among researchers, citizens, and entrepreneurs. And Urbanova’s location in the heart of Spokane’s health sciences education and research center and adjacent to the largest healthcare hub between Seattle and Minneapolis provides unique research opportunities.

But…how will Urbanova empower people? How will it solve urban challenges? 2016-09-23T19:38:18+00:00

The use of a smart city platform for exploring, visualizing, and downloading location-based open data will drive innovation. Researchers, citizens, and entrepreneurs can use this data to develop and test apps, inform urban planning, and, ultimately, make systems work better for citizens. For example, Detroit has a smart phone app that allows people to report problems that need to be fixed — including potholes, water main breaks, and illegal dumping — while San Diego created a pilot project to test solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations. Technology can address issues like resource scarcity, traffic, safety, and health:

  • the ability to collect and analyze data on traffic and pedestrian patterns can influence the development of road improvements and walking paths
  • the ability to collect before and after data can tell us how infrastructure improvements could affect population health
  • the ability to provide neighborhoods with data can drive improvements to public safety and mobility

Take a look at govtech.com/fs/ to learn more.

What are Urbanova’s goals? 2016-08-30T20:05:07+00:00

To improve the economy, environment, and well-being of our community; to become a leader in enabling the design of cities of the future; to create a living laboratory to test smart city solutions that are both scalable and replicable. Ultimately, we’re aiming for:

  • healthier citizens — data, research, and tools that will positively impact public health
  • safer neighborhoods — tools and data that will support public safety and livability
  • smarter infrastructure —systems that last longer, work better, have greater capacity, and operate more efficiently
  • a more sustainable environment — projects that help to increase conservation of scarce resources and support a healthy environment
  • a stronger economy — increased investment and jobs in the region and opportunities for developers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and community partners
What has Urbanova accomplished so far? 2016-11-07T15:05:29+00:00

The Smart and Connected Streetlight Pilot is the first of Urbanova’s smart city projects and central to its participation in Envision America’s yearlong technical support program. Among other things, the pilot aims to intelligently manage and control streetlights to increase energy efficiency. It will also feature a human-scale urban air quality R&D component, measuring the quality of the air at different sensor points throughout the district and assessing its role in a healthy city. The pilot will play a key role in helping define how to develop and design a living laboratory, from establishing a data governance platform to understanding how to architect a shared platform – while also working through issues such as who owns the data, who controls it, and how it is shared.

Urbanova founding partner Avista was recently awarded a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce and Governor Jay Inslee’s Clean Energy Fund to demonstrate how a Shared Energy Economy can benefit Washington energy consumers. As part of the grant, Avista will work with several partners to pilot a Shared Energy Economy Model in the University District. Partners in this endeavor include UniEnergy Technologies, McKinstry, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State University, and Itron. The Shared Energy Economy Model will allow various energy assets – from solar panels and battery storage to traditional utility assets – to be shared and used for multiple purposes, including system efficiency and grid resiliency.

Researchers in the WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture are leading a five-year, $1.5 million initiative to develop a framework to monitor, predict, and control energy and air quality in an urban environment and to record resulting health impacts in Spokane’s University District. Funded by Washington State University (WSU), the multi-disciplinary initiative is part of WSU’s Grand Challenges in smart systems, which aims to harness technology to improve quality of life. The initiative will link researchers in WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center, the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, and the Institute for Sustainable Design with Urbanova and its public and private sector partners. The initiative will help build capacity within WSU to pursue smart city solutions and funding. In addition, Urbanova partners have applied for several other grants and opportunities to catalyze initial efforts.

What’s the connection between Urbanova and Envision America? 2016-09-23T19:39:28+00:00

Envision America is a national nonprofit organization focused on challenging America’s cities to accelerate deployment of innovative technologies that tackle energy, water, waste, and air challenges. In 2015, Envision America selected Spokane as one of the first 10 cities to participate in a yearlong program to collaborate on smart city planning and project implementation. This designation recognizes Spokane as having the ingredients necessary to develop smart city technologies and strategies to tackle the challenges faced by cities around the world. Read more.