Tacoma Tideflats 5G Innovation  

Tacoma Tideflats 5G Network Study

The Tacoma Tideflats area is uniquely poised to insert itself as an early adopter of private, enterprise scale 5G network and edge computing technology  and set itself as a trailblazer on the path to innovation and sustainability to foster a growing maritime economy. The Tacoma Tideflats would benefit from the digitization of transportation, real time awareness of the port area, just-in-time arrival of vessels and lower carbon emissions due to  shorter waiting times for port calls.

The study shows both the business value and the technology pathway to build and use a private 5G network across the Tacoma Tideflats to modernize the ecosystem, and become a global leader in advancing port operations, advanced manufacturing, and environmental services. 


Project Scope

Partner with the 5G Open Innovation Lab and major technology partners to bring state-of-the-art edge computing power to the Tacoma Tideflats area and disseminate access to that computing power across the Tideflats region via 5G towers.

Launch a jointly promoted Maritime Blue/5G OI Lab Field Lab with the intention of making Tacoma a destination for startup innovation, industry collaborations, and academic research.  Collect the data we need to address the major difficulties we face so that the Port can make data driven decisions.


Tacoma would instantly become the most technologically advanced regions  in North America.  Tacoma could more easily recruit companies, knowing infrastructure existed to prove their concepts, and Tacoma could become a global leader in new technology in the maritime sector.

None of this leads to replacing existing companies and employees.  This project does not promote port automation or push out companies who do not need technology.  It simply provides massive quantities of real-time, persistent data that can be used by anyone who wants to make Tacoma a better place to work and live.


September 2021 – December 2022 and beyond

Core Partners

Produced by

Four key themes emerged from the feasibility study which was conducted over 3 months:

  • Orchestration and Efficiency: Working together in new ways (enabled by data and technology) to create efficiency and transparency across the Tideflats, offering an end-to-end view of the supply chain.
  • Infrastructure Modernization: Improve the physical and virtual  infrastructure including where equipment is moved and stored, traffic management, connectivity dead zones, siloed data, manual processes and cybersecurity.
  • Improving Safety: Concerns for worker and community safety and the desire to consider new ways of operating to put safety first.
  • Enabling a Sustainable Future: Put ecological and community  health at the forefront of Tacoma Tideflats operations, technologies and processes.

Recommendations and Next Steps

Washington Maritime Blue is prepared to further engage with coalition partners  to pilot a private 5G network. This allows constituents to see what’s possible by establishing a network proof-of-concept (POC) zone and testing a subset of key uses cases that benefit a broader group.

Opportunity 1 – Center for Urban Waters & 5G Open Innovation Lab for Ports

In order to meet the use cases laid out by the City of Tacoma, University of Washington – Tacoma, and Washington Maritime Blue’s Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator, we would ensure that Zone 1 of the above network layout has dense coverage including the location of edge computing hardware. Providing access to a private network to innovators and startups seeking to apply IoT technology to blue economy sectors will amplify the Tacoma area as the prime region in North America for tech development. The Field Lab would also allow Washington Maritime Blue and partners to facilitate and convene specific technology challenges that address key use cases benefiting from shared data and utilization. It would also enable further development of the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Port of Tacoma’s vision for a “Port Community System”.

Opportunity 2 – Husky Terminal 

Building out dense coverage over Zone 4 enables early adoption and pilot use cases for Husky Terminal and allows a broader set of stakeholders to see value in the network for their own operations. It would begin to generate vast data sets that could be used to inform shared data solutions. This also begins to open up markets for current and future solutions providers. 

Opportunity 3 – Other interested port operator or manufacturer 

If, during early planning, another early adopter is identified and ready to build on a slice of the network, we could provide appropriate coverage based on the details of the proposed use cases.

Through knowledge sharing, collaborative project development, and enabling an ecosystem for innovation, the Tacoma Tideflats will collectively realize a shared vision for a sustainable and equitable economy and port community.