Digital City Testbed Center

Urbanization is the biggest demographic trend of the 21st century. Over the past decade, governments, companies and universities have been exploring how technology can help cities “smartly” accommodate growing populations while increasing efficiency, economic opportunity, social harmony and environmental sustainability.

The Digital City Testbed Center (DCTC) at Portland State University establishes a network of campuses in the Pacific Northwest where smart city innovation can be carefully tested before being deployed in communities at large. A primary goal is to balance the promise of new technologies against concerns about security, equity, ethics and possible monopolization.

DCTC testbeds initially will focus on questions of accessibility, resilience to natural disasters and public education. PSU plans to work with local and regional governments on this project.

Center Goals

  • Establish testbeds on academic, corporate and non-profit campuses. The testbeds will be used by cities, startups, technology companies, non-profit organizations and the public to evaluate sensor- based systems, software and policies.
  • Bring together interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students from across PSU to carry out research and analysis of smart city projects on other campuses of contrasting size, mission and urban character.
  • Promote understanding of smart city technology and its implications in domains including technology adoption, behavioral responses and preferences, and values.
  • Engage PSU students in research that promotes responsible technology adoption.
  • Educate and inform the public about how technology can improve cities.

Research Activities

  • Explore applications and public acceptance of technologies that make transportation and other city services more accessible, economically viable, safe and just.
  • Identify and evaluate policies and practices that improve the health of people and the environment.
  • Discover how technologies can help people with disabilities as they navigate cities.
  • Explore how to optimize wireless communication to increase safety during natural disasters.
  • Develop methods of measuring innovations and their acceptance by the public in terms of user- friendly design, public values and preferences, and economics.
  • Assess smart city projects already underway in Portland and across the Cascadia region.

Center Director

Jonathan Fink, Ph.D., Professor, Geology - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Funding Source

Portland State University is providing $1.5M over three years to support the launch of the center.


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