Finally, a hi-tech solution for Ireland’s ghost estates

11 May 2012

Researchers in New Mexico are constructing a US$1bn hi-tech ghost town that will run by itself without any humans. Surely someone must convince Pegasus Global Holdings that they can save some of their dosh by making use of the vast tracts of ghost estates in Ireland instead. Seriously!

The green and fertile land of Ireland has had its beauty marred in recent years by forlorn ghost estates strewn like toys scattered across the landscape by an angry child.

There were more of these ghost estates built during Ireland’s housing bubble than schools – go figure – and it is estimated that there are anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 houses sitting idle.

Designing smart cities of the future

In the US it has emerged that US firm Pegasus Global Holdings is constructing a billion dollar ghost town in New Mexico to research and test futuristic gadgets and systems such as intelligent traffic systems, smart grids and even self-flushing loos.

Known as the Centre for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE) the ghost town will cover 15 square miles and US$1bn will be invested.

Modelled on a typical small-sized American city it will have roads, buildings, water, telecoms, etc. Building the ghost city will generate 3,500 indirect jobs.

The centre will allow private companies, not-for-profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test future technologies in real-world infrastructure.

The boffins here at reckon, however, that Pegasus could save itself a lot of money by perhaps looking at all of these ghost estates here in Ireland as a place to trial the latest technologies.

NAMA could get a look in and retrieve some of the money gambled by developers building houses for a population that doesn’t exist.

Town and urban district councils could retrieve value for their communities as the technologies such as smart water meters, smart electricity grids, etc, could be gifted back to the community once proven.

Indeed if Pegasus isn’t interested perhaps Ireland’s science and technology community could contrive a way to use the ghost estates in Ireland to develop products for the smart cities of the future.


Real estate for start-ups

As well as the blight of housing estates (we have a tradition of this in Ireland, a legacy of poor planning; the ghost estates were preceded by bungalow blight) there is also the problem of the zombie hotels. These are five star styled hotels that were built to the highest specifications in the most rural of locations with golf courses, helicopter landing pads, executive meeting rooms, chandelier laced ballrooms etc that wouldn’t have been out of place along the Amalfi coast.

Why not use some of these zombie hotels as free accommodation and incubation space for start-ups across the country. Just hook them up to broadband and away we go!

Think about it, a hotel facility has everything young up and coming businesses could ever need: smart meeting rooms, catering, bar, gym, parking, etc.
So, Pegasus, NAMA, the government,whomever; we’ve got the stuff already built, let’s get busy.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years