Here’s a new step in the effort to retrofit our cities so they run on ones and zeros.
Lea County, New Mexico was selected this week as the site of a billion-plus dollar test location for new urban technology called the Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation. The plan is to build a city from scratch on more than 17 square miles of desert west of the city of Hobbs. It’ll be big enough to house tens of thousands of people. But all those buildings will be mostly empty.
A private company, Pegasus Global Holdings, with a background in militarizing commercial technology is behind the project. Managing Director Robert Brumley says this moves Pegasus into the multi-billion-dollar smart cities market. Brumley tells NPR the plan is to create a place where businesses, government and universities can take ideas out of the laboratory and try them out without affecting the people or the infrastructure in a real city.
He envisions testing self-driving trucks without the danger of running anyone over, testing energy storage without risking a power outage for residents, or testing wireless electronics without inadvertently causing people’s garage doors to open and close.
Brumley says CITE will be a “dumb city” in construction, outfitted with “copper, dsl, cable, coax and fiber. But underneath,” he says, “we’re going to wire it up with state of the art technology.” The first step is basically to dig a gigantic hole in the ground.
Local and state officials are welcoming and thrilled at the prospect of the new business this could generate. New Mexico’s governor turned out for the press conference. Says Brumley: “you’ve heard of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard). We have never confronted that in New Mexico.”
Final signatures are not on the real estate deal yet, but it involves a big land purchase and a supplemental 25 year lease from the county. The plan is to break ground for construction in June.
- Franklyn Cater