Asking a question such as this is simple to answer, isn’t it? Actually sit down and really think about it. Do we know what a real smart city is? A Smart City … well it’s an adjective and a noun brought together as a moniker for an existential phenomena. Quite a mouthful but the phrase I have just used is probably easier to understand what a Smart City is.

I think the term Smart City is rather overused, like many words and phrases in today’s technological world. However, I think that we need to ask ourselves a few pertinent questions: do we know what a smart city is? Is it possible? Can it work?

And I say you bet your boot sits a yes, yes, yes… but we still have work to do! So I would like to add my pennys worth:

Question: What is a Smart City?

Answer: it’s a city that is Smart. Forgive my flippant reply. A city is not Smart because it houses Smart Things. A smart city has to have things within its ecology which are not only smart in an intrinsic existence but are even smarter when they work in harmony with other things. Anybody who has read my blogs or watched my discussion participation will maybe understand that assisted living is something I care passionately about and I would use it as an example.

Consider this scenario. An elderly person living alone, maintaining their independence, but a little infirm as they get older with; their family understandably concerned for their welfare, but wishes to remain remote enough to give their elderly loved one their independence yet close enough to be there should they be needed. Bring into the equation – “home monitoring” systems to detect movement or inactivity or ambient conditions perhaps using a wristband, with appropriate alerts. Body monitoring device BP or glucose or heart signal monitors, an alert for the elderly person if they get into some troubled situation and so on. These devices exist in their own right, do their own thing – and brilliant in what they do – don’t misunderstand me, they really are great devices but to the best of my knowledge don’t exist in a collective dynamic. But what if they did?

Let me speculate on a Smart City scenario which could exist (if it already does I would love to hear from, and meet, the manufacturers).

An elderly person collapses in their home and they are alone

  • They could press for an alert for help.
  • Their condition is such they are unconscious.
  • But in microseconds the Smart City goes to work.
  • The wristband they are wearing has an accelerometer which detects the fall.
  • First alert.
  • It checks the vital signs of the elderly person. Determines a medical episode is occurring.
  • It has cellular connectivity. If cellular connectivity is not available. It can use WiFi or piggy back on the utility provider’s network.
  • Notifies the emergency services, with medical data about the patient. GPS sends the location.
  • Notifies the family and contact person. Voice contact is possible.
  • What if they are not at home? In town perhaps. Other network infrastructures might be able to “piggy back” such information as electrical charging ring (cars?) or a street lighting or town management  network?
  • Imagine it is a busy city – the road traffic management systems works intelligently with the emergency services to manage traffic signals so that the traffic allows quick and safe passage for the emergency vehicle
  • I could go on and on and on… but that my friends is a Smart city!…only a tiny tiny fraction of what is possible!

Question: Is it possible?

Answer: Yes! I know. I have seen it!

Or certainly devices which could work in it are here.  It is a matter of responsibility for  organizations or governments to drive this. It’s not the thing of Star Wars, R2D2, Star Trek or whatever. The technology is here. The infrastructure is not really there yet (for reasons I will not go into today) but it will certainly require interoperability between systems, protocols and devices. A UL Specialty!

Question: Can it work?

Answer: Yes. Its got to!

Consider the elderly person mentioned above. Would you want them to get that help and the chances of recovery amplified by the operation of a Smart City? Then imagine that elderly person is you!

Smart cities are possible, the technology is here. It just needs the technologies to be able to talk to each other.