What does it mean to be a “smart city” in the 21st century? Portland, renowned as a vanguard of effective city planning and home to a flourishing technology industry, is jumping at the opportunity to become a living laboratory for civic innovation. In its typical non-typical fashion, the city is embracing the benefits of technological innovation while remaining grounded in the values that make Portland unique.
Last week, at the Technology Infrastructure and Civic Innovation Summit hosted by the Technology Association of Oregon and the City of Portland, I was again reminded of the interconnectivity between Portland’s character and entrepreneurial spirit. What's interesting is the way these traits play off each other in business and government to create a focus on using technology to find innovative solutions to the city’s challenges. I haven’t seen Mayor Charlie Hales speak that often, but I found myself nodding along as he emphasized Portlanders’ quality of life and described the three things that Portland is really about:
Local community with the desire to be globally connected
Sustainability and environmentalism as a lived, shared value
Promoting the common good as a means to make the entire community better off
Hales ended his remarks with the question, “How do we communicate to an ever-fragmenting society?” How can the city communicate in both emergencies and in everyday life to the community at large?
The reverse pitch came as part of an initiative by the city to put some technological thinking to challenges that haven’t gotten as much focus on Portland’s radar. City agencies like TriMet looking for ways to immediately sense major problems in the fabric of the transportation network, or a communication network that would survive a big earthquake are major pieces of what a smart city would look like, but so is an application that connects to the cemetery data and can let citizens find ancestors buried in specific plots. Some of these may be more complex than others, but they all have to connect to each other and be maintained somehow. Cloud infrastructure, complemented by applications making use of open source technologies and open data, was touted as a major factor bringing everything together.
I may be new to Phase2, and they may be new to Portland, but I can already see how well we all fit together. Phase2 recognized the opportunity that this new West Coast tech mecca offered, opening an office here in January and adding some of Portland’s most talented developers to its team. Like the city itself, Phase2 embraces growth, innovation, partnership - and above all, culture. I’m excited to be along for the journey - I believe both Phase2 and Portland are going exciting places.