The promise of the Internet of things
This is not a Maosian paraphrase but rather a commentary on a new kind of revolution that is being enabled by the ubiquity of the internet, the ingenuity of people, the intelligence of technologies and the pervasiveness of devices
The internet of things is here. Social collaboration is slowly but surely converging with device collaboration to a complex tapestry that provides what I call, presense. It is enabling people and governments to collaborate and create a crucible of unsurpassed, collective intelligence that becomes actionable. This is intelligence that predicts through patterns and algorithms rather than just report an event that has just occurred.
Presense in a connected world
On the consumer end of things, video technologies are using multi-phase pruning technology to identify visual-based clues in images and videos to quickly, filter, sift and render advertisements that are contextual to the faces it sees. For example teens see adverts on iPad and music on sale; working people see investment schemes and super saver deals from retailers.
Turn the page to Rome, where IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center is enabling city authorities to predict crowd buildups through clever video algorithms and proactively provision traffic police to set up alternate routings.
In Rio, it is helping the government predict floods and mudslides through ground and airborne sensors, thereby enabling proactive evacuations and preventing loss of life.
These cities can use semantic modeling to predict events and increase readiness of agencies to address them
Smart Homes can sense the absence of people and accordingly step down power consumption including refrigerators, air conditioners and other devices. So can smart buildings and industrial zones.
Smart Technologies call for smart use
Sure enough Web 2.0 has made significant progress in empowering individuals to engage others through their conversations in social and other platforms. The shift that is required is in using smart technologies for developmental efforts and take the benefits of technology to the digitally excluded.
Infrastructure is the key backbone of any city. With technology now available, Smart Cities can:
Plan and manage development efforts
Public works bodies can use a combination of contextual geo-mapping, workflow (to approve projects) weather feeds, and smartphones and GPRS to approve projects and monitor their progress in real time
Maintain infrastructure assets
Maintenance schedules can be made smart through integration of sensors and video surveillance which can help authorities predict asset performance throughout the lifecycle and proactively plan maintenance activities; both scheduled and unscheduled
Cut the red-tape between procedures and action
Responsiveness is the key to any event. So whether it’s a 26/11 like terror attack, the breakout of H1N1 flu or a simple mob situation it’s the coordination between different agencies that really matters. If history has taught us any lesson it is this – the story of everybody-somebody-anybody-nobody keeps repeating itself. Such technologies can, among other things:
1. Facilitate cross agency decision making and collaboration in order to enhance citizen service delivery
2. Optimize intra agency resource and task scheduling to maximize efficiency and improve service levels
3. Automatically flag event conflicts between city agencies
4. Enable utilization of cross agency resources to reduce the time to resolution of emergency and crisis situations
It is not the intent of the multiple agencies that is involved that is in question, it is the means that they have at their disposal
We the people
A city which listens and engages its people is the city that thrives. With smart phones now being carried by so many people, incident reporting and intelligence gathering can be so much more effective. Simple tweets with images of occurrences can help authorities to pin point the source and take action. It can also be used to identify resident experts whom the city can call upon to address specific situations
Services to the urban poor
Social service workers can be greatly benefitted by the intelligence gathered by city operations centers running on intelligent technologies. Initiatives like UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) can be integrated to provide services that are relevant and beneficial to the digitally excluded.
Smart Technologies need Smart leaders
With these technologies now being available and having been proven across the world, what is really required is smart leadership. A collective leadership of the government, companies and people that have the political and social will can take cities to the next level and there are plenty of examples the world over.
Care has to be taken that these technologies do not inadvertently impact privacy or civil liberties.
We sure live in interesting times. The power to transform that proverbial curse is with each one of us.