Well, Cisco believes there's a better way. And cities around the world are already implementing better ways. You've heard of a smart phone. Now we're being introduced to the smart city.
Simply put, a smart city employs digital technologies to enhance performance and well-being of citizens; using apps and wireless and networks to engage more effectively and actively with visitors and residents alike.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) is behind the revolution. Connected parking, lighting, and transit is what makes cities smarter. Cisco, Siemens and Schneider Electric are on the leading edge.
To start, Cisco, the tech giant behind digital connectivity and networks, wants to make real world traffic jams a thing of the past. Clearing traffic jams may be the cornerstone of a smart city. Here's why.
It turns out that over 25% of traffic congestion is "non-recurrent," according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). This means 25% of all traffic congestion is incident related — an accident, a weather event, perhaps delivery trucks un/loading or a throng of people arriving at the same time for the same event.
Really, just try to get something delivered in Boston just before or after a Red Sox game. It's easy to appreciate how solving congestion could elevate an urban experience.
How the Internet of Everything (IoE) is awesome
From a logistics point of view, the interesting thing about eliminating traffic jams is that it would mean faster goods transport, more reliable shipment and arrival times. Seems simple from an overview.
But in terms of nuts and bolts, how does it work? Optimal traffic management comes together in four areas, as follows:
- Traffic Monitoring: View color-coded, live traffic conditions on a map, including overlays of camera feeds. Prioritize camera feeds based on high-incident areas. Make it easier for citizens to report traffic hazards and incidents.
- Incident Detection and Management: Use video feeds and analytics to verify and detect traffic incidents, traffic flows, and violations. Create incident records and collect all data regarding the incident lifecycles.
- Administration: Easily configure and manage sensors, video infrastructure, and policy rules.
- Analytics: Report traffic incident distribution over time, day, and location to aid planning. Identify areas with recurring traffic and flow issues.
You can download a brochure for more information on the guts of this, credit to Cisco, who have quite a lot of great information and references on their website.
The cost of awesome
Mobile applications and devices allow cities and people to interact. For example, my smartphone can already alert me when there's an accident ahead, and advise an alternate route. Imagine if it could find me a parking spot, too (it can, actually). An integrated system where this functionality is reliable and expected is the crux of a smart city. It's as easy as G-P-S.
|Tomorrow's cities are here today|
How do cities get smart? By investing in tech infrastructure. There's no way around that. "Expand, enhance and transform," says one smart city evangelical video. In other words, find some budget for this. Big budget.
Costs depend on what's in place already and what the goals and timeline are. Keep in mind that sometimes it's better to have very little in place in terms of infrastructure. Creating a new smart system from scratch can be a simpler implementation than tethering advanced protocols onto old.
Of note: there's a conference and expo dedicated to smart cities, slated for November in Montreal. It's a global affair, not always held in North America, so Montreal is relatively close for a lot of us. (Maybe see you there, as this is getting very interesting indeed.)
Awesome security concerns
The security aspect of an Internet of Everything is not lost on anyone. How risky is it? Very.
Consider this piece by John Chambers, published January 21st, addressing the Internet of Everything and security. In the article, Chambers says that developing and implementing the Internet of Everything represents a $19 trillion global opportunity. And that there are risks.
In a startling statement he says that there are two kinds of businesses in this world: ones that have been hacked and ones that don't know they've been hacked. This has obvious parallels for smart city technology users. Any network you connect with is a relationship to be assessed, whether it's a .gov or otherwise.
We put our faith in companies that build smart city infrastructure, assuming that security measures will protect us.
The question is, how much risk are we willing to assume to get our goods delivered faster?
The answer is: we want our goods delivered faster.
And that — in so many ways — is the bottom line.