Last month, I blogged about the chaos that accompanies the deployment of fundamental and transitional new technology. The bottom line is that cascading innovation means the initial steps forward will be confusing. A smart streetlight, for instance, can be discussed from the light perspective, the Internet of Things (IoT) perspective, the smart city perspective and, perhaps, others. Some vendors also will push products that don’t quite meet the proper definition.
The bottom line, though, is that real advances emerge from the chaotic mix. Indeed, the chaos may be a necessary element that stimulates entrepreneurs, investors and others. And progress indeed is being made: Yesterday, AT&T announced that it has formed “a set of alliances” with a group of heavy hitters – Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm – to create a structure for smart cities.
The initial targets, the carrier’s press release said, are Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Chicago and Dallas. The program will be structure around the IoT. The platforms will address four areas, which are described more fully in the press release: infrastructure, citizen engagement, transportation and public safety. The main takeaway is that a consortium this powerful will be able to push conceptual frameworks, specific technologies and standards-setting initiatives.
It should be noted that the rather tortured wording of the release —“a set of alliances,” not the far simpler “consortium” — should lead observers to keep an eye on how smoothly the group runs.
The AT&T-led initiative is important. It isn’t, however, the only smart city game in town. Xconomy reported yesterday that Siemens has chosen Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the first “living lab” for its Center of Excellence for Intelligent Traffic Technology. The story points out that Siemens has a long research history with the city and the designation will expand the relationship.
The story says that the Split, Cycle and Offset Optimization Technique (SCOOT) is already active on some streets in the city. That will be enlarged:
The existing Siemens systems will be upgraded to include the newest version of cloud-based traffic management software called Smart Guard, which enables cities to monitor and respond to changing traffic conditions in real time from any Internet-connected device; and improve local traffic controller software that communicates between the controller, the central system, and mobile devices including smartphones and vehicles. The upgrades will also add new features to the SCOOT system so the benefits of adaptive traffic control can be better measured.
A third example of the maturation and evolution of the smart city concept could be found at CES in Las Vegas. Panasonic, according to ZDNet, highlighted and updated progress on its program, which is called CityNow. Pilots, the story said, are being run in Denver on subjects such as energy, telehealth, security, smart buildings and transportation. The company has partnerships with Xcel Energy and Honeywell, the story says.
There are other smart city projects and programs from big players and small, of course. The sense is that a tremendous amount of work is going on. As time passes, the confusion will recede a bit and what a smart city really is will become more clear – and increasingly bring real services to the people who live and work in those cities.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.