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Portland reaches smart city milestone

The smart sensors will provide real-time data about how Portlanders use three of its deadliest streets

The pilot is a significant step in using data to inform critical decision-making
The pilot is a significant step in using data to inform critical decision-making

Two hundred safety sensors are being installed in the US city of Portland in Oregon as the first milestone of the Smart City PDX initiative, the urban data and technology strategy which aims to use data to improve citizens’ lives.


The GE CityIQ sensors, powered by Intel Internet of Things (IoT) technology, are installed on three of Portland’s deadliest streets: SE Division, 122nd and SE Hawthorne. They will provide around-the-clock counts of vehicles and pedestrians as well as information about vehicle speeds. With this new data, city traffic engineers can improve street safety design and support Portland’s Vision Zero goal of making the streets safe for all users.


Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was joined by officials from the Portland Bureau of Transportation and representatives from Intel, AT&T, Current by GE and Portland General Electric to celebrate milestone, described the pilot as a significant step in acquiring and utilising data to make critical decisions.”


He said: “We are at the forefront of using advanced technology to make our cities safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, helping people more easily get around, save time and reduce the possibility of crashes.”


The sensor project, which installed new mast arms and the sensors on street light poles on the three corridors, costs $1,012,000. It was funded with general transportation revenue, system development charges and contributions by the project’s private sector collaborators.


The data gathered from the sensors will be collected in the Portland Urban Data Lake (PUDL). Part of the overall Smart City PDX initiative, PUDL will collect, store, combine, and analyse data from a variety of sources including the Traffic Safety Sensor Pilot. The goal of PUDL is to provide a foundation for data-driven decision making, helping the City of Portland to harness the power of data to improve City services.


Rather than starting with a technology and looking for reasons to use it, Smart City PDX is structured to first identify inequities and disparities in the city and then strategically apply data and technology to address those challenges.


This week, Portland City Council will vote on the Smart City PDX Priorities Framework, a structured process for evaluating new technologies, uses of information, and related partnerships to ensure they provide tangible benefits to the people of Portland.


As the first project under the Smart City PDX banner, the Traffic Safety Sensor Project is helping to inform the development of the Priorities Framework.


“Designing safe streets starts with good data,” said PBOT director Leah Treat. “Until now, collecting this data was time and volunteer intensive. Now with these smart sensors, we can get real-time data about how Portlanders are using our streets. As a result, our traffic engineers will be smarter and Portlanders will be safer.”


In addition to improved data insights, the CityIQ open platform is designed to handle future growth using the exact same street lighting infrastructure, so Portland can continue adapting and developing new applications that meet the specific needs of the city and its residents.


Portland was a finalist in the 2016 Smart City Challenge sponsored by the United States Department of Transportation and has continued to expand its overall effort to use data and technology to increase safety, reduce inequities and improve the quality of life for Portlanders.


“PGE is thrilled to be working with the city on a number of smart city initiatives,” said Larry Bekkedahl, vice president of transmission and distribution, PGE. “By partnering and innovating together, we can create a more purposeful, informed, and sustainable way of living.”

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