Smart Cities & the IT Infrastructure of Tomorrow
This Is How IT Will Help Operate the Cities of the Future
In the past, when one would make mention of a “smart city,” they would most likely be referring to academic epicenters such as Oxford or Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the not-so-distant future, what defines a city as “smart” will be more than just the collective IQ of its citizens but rather the degree by which it is managed by technology.
While stories of self-driving vehicles and buzzing drones captivate the public’s imaginations, entrepreneurs and civic leaders alike are already planning for these cities of the future, where “smart” technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will act as the enablers of daily life.
At the center of these cities will be IT workers who manage these technologies and provide service assurance to ensure all systems are online. Here are some of the areas where IT will make big impacts on smart cities around the globe.
Indeed, it’s hard to think of an example where IT service quality will be more crucial than in emergency services, where the IT worker will serve as the first responder to our first responders."Tweet This
Powering Our People While Protecting Our Planet
The pace of urbanization is accelerating, with 54 percent of the world’s population currently living in cities and consuming 78 percent of the world’s energy. By 2050, city dwellers will make up 66 percent of the world’s population. The challenge, then, will be in developing our cities to be both increasingly smart and sustainable.
Technologists around the world are focused on new ways to keep the lights on. For example, in Austin, Texas, an experimental project called Austin Shines is developing solar panels with integrated software that offers both homeowners and businesses the choice to switch between grid and sun-charged power.
As our energy creation becomes more decentralized, sensors that monitor changes in factors like current, voltage, and temperature will help us manage our power grids. From there, AI will be able to adjust and optimize the energy resources accordingly. The ability for IT teams to observe performance “at the edge” – where a specific panel is deployed, for instance – will be necessary to detect anomalies and restore services when localized outages occur.
Self-Driving Cars and the New Rules of the Road
As smart cities develop, the way people are transportedpeople are transported will change drastically. At the recent Gartner IT Operations Strategies & Solutions Summit, Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Thomas Bittman illustrated how smarter data exchanges could impact the safety and efficiency of our streets.
In the case of self-driving cars, edge computing will take the front seat, removing data center connections (and therefore delays in information exchange) to provide immediate, actionable information back to the vehicle, guiding its operations in real-time.
Much as our vehicles will evolve, so will the roads they travel on. Integrated Roadways is one company re-inventing the road, turning vast stretches of pavement into literal information superhighways complete with wireless charging, WiFi connectivity, and intelligent sensors that can “feel” the vehicles on top of them to provide improved navigation capabilities. In order for transportation to reach “smart” status, these roads will need to be managed by teams that can monitor the health of the infrastructure and ensure our vehicles, and the people in them, are moving safely.
Connecting Dots and Devices
The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices is already being felt. Today, we use technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa to help us order extra notepads or make coffee. In the future, such technology will become even more pervasive in our day-to-day lives, impacting everything from public lighting to waste management.
IHS Markit forecasts that the IoT market will grow to 30.7 billion devices in 2020, and 75.4 billion in 2025. The amount of data that will be generated when applying IoT technology to use cases like real-time city management will be massive. If the performance of these devices is not managed correctly through the smart application of AI and ML, the amount of incoming data will be overwhelming to human operators and will ultimately pose a barrier to leading cities towards a smarter tomorrow.
Innovators like John Wechsler, founder and CEO of the Indiana IoT Lab, are among those leading the charge to make our cities more intelligent. “With smart city initiatives and IoT, a perfect storm is brewing that can create an opportunity for anyone in the world to dream up some solution that really could change the world for the rest of us,” he recently said in a conversation with Moogsoft. “A perfect example of this, and one of the coolest startups I’ve seen, is about firefighter safety and the ability for IoT and emergency professionals to know what’s going on in a building during a public safety emergency.”
Indeed, it’s hard to think of an example where IT service quality will be more crucial than in emergency services, where the IT worker will serve as the first responder to our first responders.
Establishing Our Place in a Smarter World
We’re all working together towards a better tomorrow, and with change comes complexity. As such, this complexity needs to be tamed or else it stands as the principal threat to our progress. Put simply, we know that the cities of tomorrow will be powered by technology that needs to be always on without outages and downtime, especially when you’re in the business of servicing public safety.
The men and women who will be working in the background of tomorrow’s cities – those tending to the service quality of the technology that is being built today by innovators in garages and labs around the world – may not look like superheroes on the surface. But I can’t think of a more valiant role than that of the steward of the systems for public safety, security, and social development.