Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has bought a huge swathe of land in Arizona’s West Valley, on which he intends to develop a smart city to rival Silicon Valley.
A smart city is a technologically advanced, highly connected city which uses locally collected data to manage services and resources automatically and in real time, for instance, in traffic management. Smart cities are often associated with emerging technologies such as self-driving cars and other devices which could make up the Internet of Things (IoT).
Now, Gates has acquired nearly 25,000 acres of land west of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, on which he intends to develop a smart city named Belmont. It is estimated that he will spend $80m (£61.1m) on purchasing and developing the land.
3800 acres will be dedicated to business spaces and shops, 470 acres for public schools, and there will be homes for 80,000 residents. According to a statement, everything about the city will be “forward thinking”.
“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centres, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” said Arizona-based Belmont Partners – one of Gates’ investment bodies – in a statement.
Ronald Schott, an executive at the Arizona Technology Council, told Fox News that the proposed I-11 freeway, would run through Belmont, connecting it to Las Vegas.
“I think [Gates] picked the right place. He’s coming to Arizona. Finally, Arizona’s getting recognised for being a place of innovation.”
In recent years, Arizona, which borders California, home of Silicon Valley, has been positioning itself as a welcoming place for innovators. By relaxing state regulations, for instance, Arizona has encouraged Waymo, Uber, Lyft and other companies to test drive their self-driving vehicles on its roads. This has allowed the tech-friendly state to reap some benefits: Waymo will be piloting its self-driving vehicles in the state before rolling them out to the rest of the US.
Belmont could be the second smart city in the US after Columbus, Ohio, which acquired $40m funding from the Department of Transport to transform itself into a smart city. Few smart cities are built from the ground up with the intention of becoming smart cities. In October, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia announced a $500bn (£382bn) project to create a high-tech megacity, Neom, in the north of Saudi Arabia.