Spokane: Building a healthy, clean, and smart city

Spokane is  an example of a smart city leveraging partnership and innovation with a focus on the use of technology and data to improve the quality of its citizens lives.

What is Urbanova?

  • A non-profit organization, Urbanova is a living laboratory to design cities for the future.
  • It was founded by Avista, the City of Spokane, Itron, Washington State University, McKinstry and the University District Development Association.
  • Located in the University District near downtown Spokane, its mission is to harness data to gain insights, empower people and solve urban challenges in new ways.

Spokane is beautiful and smart.

The picturesque city in Washington is deploying a network of air quality sensors on streetlights to monitor neighborhood pollution in its University District called Urbanova. It also plans to use Internet of Things technologies to tackle urban challenges like noise, traffic, and pollution.

This week, Spokane won the Smart Cities North America Award in the sustainable infrastructure category. The award will be conferred by global research and intelligence firm IDC at its Smart Cities New York event in May.

The City of Spokane, Washington Credit: Urbanova

“This is tremendous recognition for Spokane and Urbanova as a leader in leveraging partnerships to achieve sustainable infrastructure solutions,” said Spokane Mayor David Condon.

Spokane is among 16 cities – out of 70 submissions – recognized nationally for their smart city initiatives. Winners of the award illustrate best practice examples of urban innovation with a focus on the use of technology and data, unique partnerships, funding models and/or community involvement, according to IDC.


“The city is very fortunate to work in collaboration with utility infrastructure, smart metering and communications, higher education, energy efficiency, population health, and urban planning partners for the betterment of the community.”


Installing Smart StreetLight with air quality sensor Credit: Avista
Smart and Connected Streetlights

Urbanova, a 770-acre zone living laboratory, has several programs underway that rely on data to gain insights and solve urban challenges.

Under its Smart and Connected Streetlights initiative, Urbanova installed sensors last June on streetlights across the University District. Subsequently, it began collecting data to gain insight into energy savings and efficiency while also measuring climate and hyper-local air quality data, used to investigate how air pollution and events such as wildfires affect the health of cities.

Itron’s OpenWay® Riva IoT solution currently provides the foundation for Urbanova’s connected devices and smart city applications, including the Smart and Connected Streetlights pilot.

“We are intentionally leveraging the advantages of a mid-sized city to identify solutions that are scalable, sustainable and replicable in other communities,” Kim Zentz, Urbanova CEO. “Urbanova innovates through the strength of its unique partnerships.”

Installing Air Quality Sensor Credit: Avista
A Living Laboratory

Apart from the Smart and Connected Streetlights pilot, Urbanova’s other projects are Shared Energy Economy Model and Gallup People-Centered Analysis Research.

Founding partners are Avista, Itron, McKinstry, University District, Washington State University and the City of Spokane.

For instance, Avista will work with partners on the Shared Energy Economy pilot to allow various energy assets — from solar panels and battery storage to traditional utility assets — to be shared and used for multiple purposes, including system efficiency and grid resiliency.

Urbanova also has partnered with Gallup, the global analytics and advisory company, to uncover public priorities that smart city projects can and should address. The partnership will co-develop a system of citizen predictive analytics based on the integration of data sources available on Urbanova’s open data and analytics platform.

“Each partner brings expertise and leadership in their respective fields,” Heather Rosentrater, Avista’s vice president of energy delivery has said.

“Aligning our efforts will support projects that can enhance the livability, workability, sustainability and quality of life in cities, starting with Spokane. It will also create a testing ground for companies and innovators who are working on smart city solutions to be replicated around the world.”

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