It’s a Smart World After All

Last week’s Economist (November 8, 2010) includes a 14-page special report on smart systems. “It’s a Smart World” (read the intro here) provides a snapshot view of smart system growth worldwide. Smart technologies touch everything from phones to oil exploration, and from power grids to city management. In today’s world, anyone and anything can become a sensor, with enormous potential impacts upon industry and the very ways that people live their lives.

New cities such as Masdar, Abu Dhabi, and PlanIT Valley, Portugal, are smart from the get-go. Projects like these are popping up all over the world, and they all aim to integrate the variety of available smart systems to better manage the urban environment.

Take Songdo City near Seoul, Korea. Everything in its FirstWorld apartment complex is wired – front doors, air-conditioning, security systems – with a central command system keeping tabs on, and reacting to accidents throughout the city.

Sound a little too Orwellian? Most existing cities here in the U.S. will not be built from the ground up, but will follow a step-by-step approach, integrating one smart system at a time. Yet this diversity of projects will eventually need a common platform that streamlines data gathering, makes use of data from a variety of sources, and mines it to improve public services and security.

In future posts, we’ll examine the Economist’s take on hurdles to global adoption of smart technologies, and concerns about unintended consequences.

Photo credit: Jim Boud