Can Cities Get Smart?

Intel's Herman D'Hooge and the U of O Architecture department try to answer the proverbial urban question.

By Kristin Belz January 21, 2013


Here’s a new acronym for you, or at least for me: ICTs. Ten points to everyone who knew it stands for "Information and Communication Technologies." In a talk January 31, 2013 at the University of Oregon’s Portland Center, Intel engineer and “innovation strategist” Herman D’Hooge will describe how the latest ICTs can help us build better cities.

As to defining what a better city is, we're fortunate that the City of Portland recently spent several years asking itself (and us) that question for our city, and came up with an answer in the form of the Portland Plan, adopted by City Council last April. The 100-page-plus document boldly declares that Portland should, in 25 years, be a prosperous, educated, healthy and equitable city.

How to achieve those goals in our city – in practical, physical, real world (and real estate development) terms? That, unfortunately, is not clear in the plan, for all its "integrated strategies and frameworks." But that's where Intel engineer D'Hooge comes in. Last fall, the forward-thinking D'Hooge took a sabbatical from the Westside tech giant to teach a course at the University of Oregon's Portland School of Architecture and Allied Arts. He and students dove into how ICTs "can enable design innovations to make smarter cities," using the Portland Plan as their test case. How can ICTs help implement the goals of the Portland Plan? Since the plan needs all the help it can get regarding implementation, this is an especially important question.

The Belgian-born and -educated engineer is interested in "how technology can meaningfully impact people's lives and how user-centered methods can be applied practically to inform product innovation." Here, the product is the city. Innovation would seem to include increasing efficiency in using limited resources to reach difficult goals. But whatever the tools D'Hooge is considering for implementing the Portland Plan goals, it sounds like they are a step beyond the relatively simple crowd-sourced discussions of what common sense values Portland holds high. Those values were a given, really, though the process of discovering them had to be gone through. Now the hard work (designing "what, where and how" in our city) begins. Maybe D'Hooge and the U of O architecture students have some ways to help? I know I'm all ears.

"SMART AND CONNECTED: The Next Big Idea in Cities" 
6 p.m.
Free and open to the public
University of Oregon in Portland School of Architecture and Allied Arts
The Event Room
White Stag Block
70 NW Couch Street
Portland, Oregon  97209



Show Comments