A newly-built city in New Mexico will never have any permanent human residents. That’s because it’s been built as a tech test ground.
The Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE) will cover 15 square miles and be designed as if it were home to 35,000 people. It’ll have all the types of business, retail and residential buildings you’d expect, plus wired-up communications and utilities. There’ll also be all manner of sensors and other data-gathering instruments built in place ready for tests.
It’s not the first such test environment: the University of Michigan has built a city grid for testing automated cars in a realistic urban driving environment. However, that “city” is only a few streets and is used solely for cars.
In contrast, CITE is designed to replicate a “mid-sized American city” and cover urban, suburban and rural areas. Among its “fake” facilities will be a research campus, which will be used for real.
The idea is to test anything that needs to work in a real-life city situation. Pegasus Global Holdings, the company behind CITE, says it expects common test areas to include intelligent transport systems, green energy, smart grids, telecommunications and security.
It will be open to public and private organizations on a commercial basis. The idea is to remove the type of “legal, cultural and budgetary impediments” to testing that exist in genuine populated cities. One of the big selling points to potential clients is that they’ll be able to try out ambitious but potentially risky technologies.
Speaking to WIRED, Pegasus’s Bob Brumley says that as well as testing if their technologies actually work on a large scale, clients could ask CITE staff to carry out security tests. This could include simulating wireless interference, an attempted hacking attack, or even the extreme case of an electromagnetic pulse.
The project is expected to cost between $550 million and $1 billion. It’s been in the works for four years, but Pegasus has now confirmed a location and plans to break ground this fall. The schedule is for the utilities infrastructure to be in place in early 2017, with the completed city open for tests somewhere between 2018 and 2020.