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Most of What We Need For Smart Cities Already Exists

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the using-what-we-have dept.

Earth 65

An anonymous reader writes "Looking to a day when modern infrastructure is network addressable, Glen Martin considers that, lacking only requisite content and relatively simple augmentation, most of what we need for smart cities already exists: 'Using smart phones, pedestrians could "wake up" the objects by accessing codes generally used by the city to identify street items that required repair. Each bit of infrastructure would make some kind of declamatory statement — sometimes gracious and welcoming, sometimes didactic, sometimes peevish. The "interlocutor" would then respond, and a brief exchange would ensue. The object would then invite the passerby to return for more conversation.'"

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huh (5, Insightful)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 4 months ago | (#46895363)

What?

Re:huh - PANOPTICON (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 4 months ago | (#46895517)

PANOPTICON

PANOPTICON

Hey! Welcome to your 24 hour, digital prison, fellow technophiles! It's COOL! I knw, 'cos there's a TED talk about how you will never be worried again in a Smart City, and WIRED magazine had a profile on it, too - from a real MIT PhD, with a research grant from a CIA funded think-tank.

BTW: Here's your ankle-bracelet. The health club provided it free, for your exercise routine! Keep up - or your insurance rates will skyrocket... You have Facebook, right? Better. That's the deal that Aetna cut with your employer.

What We Need (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895659)

is Smart People. Invest in education.

Re:huh (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 4 months ago | (#46895897)

I agree. He seems to have the idea that a "smart city" is about having conversations with lamp posts, and not about enforcing our role as a cogs in the mchine. I say both are stupid. The point of a smart city, like a smart toaster or smart thermostat should be to anticipate what is needed and adapt to changing situations. All he's discussing is an interactive art exhibit.

Re:huh (1)

sound+vision (884283) | about 4 months ago | (#46896763)

Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin? I've come to watch your flowers growin
Ain't you got no ryhmes for me? Doo doo doo doo, feelin' groovy~

Re:huh, smart-ass cities of the Future (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 3 months ago | (#46897801)

Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin? I've come to watch your flowers growin
Ain't you got no ryhmes for me? Doo doo doo doo, feelin' groovy~

You beat me to it, you insensitive clod!

At least I get to supply the link: HELLO LAMPOST [youtube.com]

Forget the talking lampposts and Wifi enabled potholes. Although it would be cool if traffic lights broadcast riddles and puzzles, awarding an immediate green light to the first driver to solve it.

My idea for a Smart City would be to re-vamp and modernize the CB radio concept, every vehicle would have a short range hands-free digital two way radio so drivers could speak to other drivers in close proximity: you could make general comments to all or incline your head towards a particular car and send a more private message. With a certain gesture after a reply was received, the system could 'lock' the connection so you could continue the conversation even after you leave the zone.

It's easy to see this as an absurd novelty that would be used to pass on road rage... and there would be a shake-down period in which that may be its most common use... but thinking past that I find a lot of promise in the idea. Pedestrians could join in. Cafes or other buildings could have a corner in which one could hear road-talk, or even participate. Little billboards would soon pop up, like a new era of Burma-Shave, that try to suggest topics or invite a response.

In other words, the Smartest thing to do is not award some sweetheart contract to a tech firm to 'redesign' the city at all. Don't mess with the damned city. Use technology to find new ways for the people in the city to communicate with one another. Every time we develop new technology that allows strangers with mutual interests to meet who would not otherwise meet (such as academia or the Internet) we take human evolution up a notch.

The only Smart City that I'd really want to live in would be one where all the buildings and road signs were on hydraulic struts, and everything bobs and dances like Toon Town.

Re:huh (1)

fche (36607) | about 3 months ago | (#46898807)

You just need some Genuine People Personalities software from Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

Re:huh (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about 3 months ago | (#46899475)

share and enjoy

Re:huh (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 3 months ago | (#46900379)

You just need some Genuine People Personalities software from Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

I'm a personality prototype! You can tell, can't you?

Re:huh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46896149)

What?

Uh, the ratings system here is just a bit off when a single word is labeled "Insightful".

I mean, yes, the summary was a bit overly techno-confusing (which is saying a lot considering the audience), but fucking seriously...put a little effort into it already.

Shit, at least Fuck Beta was two words worth of effort.

Re:huh (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 4 months ago | (#46896605)

Why?

Re:huh (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 3 months ago | (#46897803)

Exactly!

Smart device / dumb user (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46897117)

Smartphones are "smart", that is, they can do a lot of things.

But smartphones can become very dumb when the user who use the phone is dumb.

So many users take their own naked photo using their "smart" phone and end up having their naked photos being circulated online

In similar vein --- smart cities, if filled with dumb residents --- will still end up to be dumb.

Stupid people will forever be stupid, and they will forever misuse the gadgets they can put their hands on.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46898089)

> Most of What We Need For Smart Cities Already Exists ...except smart people

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46899491)

hello #dogpoo

Do you want to get your phone stolen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895369)

Because that's how you get your phone stolen.

Camazotz! (3, Interesting)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#46895379)

For some reason the summary reminds me of Camazotz from "a wrinkle in time" -- mainly how out of place someone without a lojack/smart phone would feel walking around .. noticing people talking to fucking streetlamps like a PCP addled loony.

Real question is.. why? what purpose does this serve? Oh right tracking+advertising -- the holy grail of modern civilization.

Re:Camazotz! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46895893)

Ultimately, we come to the inevitable conclusion that a manhole cover doesn't need to be "smart".

Re:Camazotz! (1)

NIK282000 (737852) | about 4 months ago | (#46896101)

Wasn't there a bit in the Hitchhiker's Guide about how its a bad idea to give personalities to infrastructure? The Guide never lies, leave the machines dumb.

Re:Camazotz! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46899495)

its actually quite dumb. all it knows is that Joe the maintenance worker left it open yesterday and didn't leave the cones out. it warns the traffic system that it is open, so cars don't drive down and wreck. it the manhole has an automatic cover it will close it automatically.

What we really need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895387)

is to build cities on rock and roll. Bernie said to.

What (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895391)

What in the name of Jesus Christ is the summary actually talking about?

This comment is rated both 'Declamatory' and 'Peevish'.

I don't like it (4, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46895415)

If everything in life synchronizes for me as well as this summary, April Fool's will be a nightmarish Groundhog's Day with no Bill Murray.

I'd rather have a flying car... (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 4 months ago | (#46895429)

Being tracked and pestered because I'm walking around with my mobile on, to activate stuff, would be a nuisance (I feel it's a nuisance that it rings, it's for me calling people, not the other way around ;-)

And like it or not, you'd be tracked, even if everyone promised you were not being tracked.

Why would I want to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895437)

converse with a pothole when I can just call up the city Public Works Department right now to the same effect?

really? (4, Interesting)

epyT-R (613989) | about 4 months ago | (#46895443)

It seems like all this 'smartness' is just being used to make things as annoying and publicly pressured, tracked, and monitored as possible. This would just further encourage me to NOT carry any cellnet devices. I'll pass, especially if the taxpayer has to fund it.

Also, because the leaderships in our supposedly 'free' nations have repeatedly proven themselves too immature to handle that kind of power, I don't want them given any more metrics than they already have. Networks like this can always be used to surveil the nodes connected to them.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895515)

Upvote parent

Re:really? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46895533)

It seems like all this 'smartness' is just being used to make things as annoying and publicly pressured, tracked, and monitored as possible. This would just further encourage me to NOT carry any cellnet devices.

Why come you got no tattoo? Are you unscannable?

Re:really? (1)

Livius (318358) | about 4 months ago | (#46896323)

It was all about networking things that don't need networking - what's supposed to be smart about that?

Using smart phones? (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46895505)

Nobody really knows what a smart city is, but it nominally means networked, efficient, and sustainable. Efficiency doesn't include shitting on people when their phone battery dies. It's about aggregating information and acting on it, basically business intelligence on a city scale, to enable people to go about their business. It should be completely transparent to the people in the city. Automated systems would count pedestrian and traffic flows in different areas and adjust light timing, add public transportation units and generally make life easier for the populace. But also, net heat producers feed net heat consumers and so on, it's not so much a thing you build as a level of development you reach. It's not like we're needing whole new cities; indeed, several nations have whole cities standing empty, and whole cities' worth of houses standing empty mixed in besides.

Re:Using smart phones? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46895561)

Goddamn it.

Your comment is way more crafty than mine.

Re:Using smart phones? (2)

penix1 (722987) | about 4 months ago | (#46895731)

As long as you have property ownership, you will never have a true "smart city". Why? Because people will do what they want with their own property and if it doesn't profit them in some way personally then they will not do, or more importantly fund, the things they don't see as immediate personal profit. Cities own the property that is considered "public spaces" and there is no immediate profit for the city in making the changes you suggest for the city government. In fact, there are tremendous costs associated with what you suggest. Good luck getting voters to think long term when they can't even think 15 minutes into the future.

Re:Using smart phones? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#46897369)

As long as you have property ownership, you will never have a true "smart city". Why? Because people will do what they want with their own property

People are already not permitted to do just anything they want with their own property. Laws will be passed that require them to play nicely. When they don't, someone else will notice, because they will be directly affected, as opposed to just being one of billions of people slightly inconvenienced by each person who acts selfishly until there's no culpability chain but everything is crap anyway.

In fact, there are tremendous costs associated with what you suggest.

As I said, it's not something you do all at once but something that happens eventually. The costs are spread out over time. Much or all of this (and more!) already happens in some cities.

Re:Using smart phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46898779)

As long as you have property ownership, you will never have a true "smart city". Why? Because people will do what they want with their own property

So people who don't want to be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered won't be? Sounds like a feature rather than a bug.

Re: Using smart phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46896201)

I would be happy with a town with reasonable restrictions on firearms like NYC, coupled with strict enforcement. Safe cities should not be an option.

Re: Using smart phones? (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#46897215)

I would be happy with a town with reasonable restrictions on firearms like NYC, coupled with strict enforcement. Safe cities should not be an option.

Safe cities are not an option when they are occupied by a hostile military known as the NYPD.

Re: Using smart phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46898697)

The distribution of firearms in my town is fairly even across socioeconomic groups but the only place they are a genuine threat are the places where socioeconomic status is low. Perhaps you are solving the wrong problem given the other benefits of raising socioeconomic status?

Re:Using smart phones? (1)

motorhead (82353) | about 3 months ago | (#46898093)

What could go wrong?

True and Hackable (4, Interesting)

retroworks (652802) | about 4 months ago | (#46895519)

I've seen presentations by serious believers, who were mounting a smartphone-dialed-infrastructure-repair campaign in Providence RI. The people were genuine, and the blighted repairs were real. But it seems that plumbers and pothole-fixers and infrastructure repairers could hack the system and get work where and when they wanted it, and the mob history of public works in the Northeast isn't fiction. Just as the wikipedia articles of interest to big interest groups eventually get written "correctly", and just as the longshoreman's union is not to be crossed, this too will be infiltrated like bad code - unless like a good software writer they go into it saying it's difficult, not easy.

Moronic idea. (4, Interesting)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 4 months ago | (#46895535)

Instead of this pointless and down right weird crap how about you think about something useful? Maybe integrated traffic signal networks that can detect buildups via peoples cell phones and then adjust traffic light timings to break it up. Or use the fine grained data that you would have for assessing the effectiveness of public transport systems.

Solar Power on the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46895545)

20 years ago I saw an article published in Air & Space describing a bold NASA plan to cover the moon in solar panels to collect energy and beam the power via a network of microwave relays in satellites to receiving stations around the globe; you could shut down every power plant in the world and provide enough of the world's energy needs several times over. It would only have cost a paltry $20 trillion in 1995 dollars.

Just because you can technically do something doesn't mean you can practically do it. Logistics, distribution, and dissemination of technology is a far more challenging and important mountain to climb than surpassing the technical challenges.

Art vs Utility (0)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 4 months ago | (#46895553)

I'll take safer streets and a good economic environment over all this high-tech fluff, if you please. Yes, smartphones are convenient and all, but "smart cities"? What's the point, really? Let's leave this to entrepreneurs to figure out how to do the bleeding edge stuff. Government is never best at that sort of thing. This guy is basically taking about art, not utility. At the moment, that seems an egregious waste of scant tax dollars when the government is already barely able to fulfill it's most basic obligations, and has been running deficits for years.

Granted, this was talking about a city in England. Maybe they have money to burn. Here in the US, our government has been running in the red for years, and it's not looking like that will change anytime soon.

My dog is already smart (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | about 4 months ago | (#46895555)

and he interacts with fire hydrants just fine. What is the problem being solved again? I had trouble understanding the geeklish in TFA.

We need smart management first ... (3, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | about 4 months ago | (#46895735)

All of this technology is great, especially if you focus upon the stuff that will make actual improvements in the quality of life and ignore the fluff. Yet most of the cities that I've lived in have management problems rather than technological problems. These problems include the failure to make decisions, the failure to do proper planning before implementation, the failure to communicate between (or even within) departments, and the failure to allocate resources. And all of those failure assume city managers are making an honest effort to fulfill their responsibilities. In reality you have to also factor in everything from sloth, to corruption, to over-zealousness.

While some of those issues can be diminished by the technology behind "smart cities", none of those issues can actually be solved with technology.

The only thing missing (4, Insightful)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 4 months ago | (#46895889)

Smart people.

Re:The only thing missing (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 4 months ago | (#46896125)

Exactly. What do we need to do to get Smart Governments in these smart cities?

More good news for crazy people (3, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | about 4 months ago | (#46895977)

It's been noted that Bluetooth did wonders for the mentally ill--the schizophrenic talking to himself or imaginary creatures is now presumed to be using the headset on the other side of his head. This allowed them to fit in better with the rest of society.

Now we have the possibility that you can talk to a wall or a lamp post and be regarded as perfectly sane and normal.

It isn't really done though, until we come up with a way to interface with technology that requires screaming at the top of your lungs and urinating in random directions. Get on that right away.

Re:More good news for crazy people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46896905)

'until we come up with a way to interface with technology that requires screaming at the top of your lungs and urinating in random directions.'

Yeah... iPee and iScream...

Re:More good news for crazy people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46897111)

that you can talk to a wall or a lamp post and be regarded as perfectly sane and normal.
Watch other people in traffic. They are usually yelling at the light to change...

Re:More good news for crazy people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46897643)

Yes, but they don't "hear" the light post talk back to them....

Re:More good news for crazy people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46897139)

Well, if someone can sort out the 'urinating in random directions' part, the screaming can be easily tacked on by the use of certain STDs.

I guess you haven't heard of Santander Spain. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46896079)

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/santander-a-digital-smart-city-prototype-in-spain-a-888480.html

No, we can't. (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46896223)

For the simple fact that there is a massive pre-existing stuff which doesn't have this.

It is either a gimmick, and won't catch on -- or it's going to require the entire infrastructure to be rebuilt around it, and won't catch on.

A lot of these futurist things are hypothetically feasible on a small scale. But on a really large scale it falls apart, because nobody could ever afford to do anything with it.

I predict it won't get much past the level of geo-caching ... you can seek out a device which you can interact with, and that will be geeky and cool. But in terms of becoming widespread of practical, it's pure speculative "wouldn't it be cool if".

It sounds cool, but it will never happen in any meaningful way.

Re:No, we can't. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#46897283)

Proposing the use of smartphones and maintenance ID stickers is either proposing a system that would be trivial to implement; but actively less than useless, or patting yourself on the back for having solved what is overwhelmingly the easiest problem in building a (nightmarish, dystopian; but at least genuinely powerful) 'smart city'.

You want to give random inanimate objects grating artificial personalities that suitably masochistic people can access over the internet? Ok. We've been poking at chatbots since the mid 1950s, and some of the ones available now are vaguely convincing. If you want to assign a differently configured one to every class of object, or every object, you could have that spun up in relatively short order and for not much money. It's just that it would be totally pointless. You might as well assign the bots to any collection of numbers that happen to be handy, it'd be as useful.

To begin to approach utility, you'd need to solve the (conceptually simple; but there is no hell like the integration of two or more data storage systems that weren't designed to play nicely with one another from the ground up, even if the city in question already has a very, very, nice municipal mapping and infrastructure issue-tracking system to pull from) problem of connecting the bot to (ideally non-obvious) information that somebody might be interested in, serving as a pointlessly inefficient interface to municipal maintenance records or the like.

To actually qualify as 'smart', the sky is the limit on the amount of mesh networking, interconnected sensors, and who knows what else you'd have to throw at the problem.

Re:No, we can't. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 months ago | (#46897351)

It is either a gimmick, and won't catch on -- or it's going to require the entire infrastructure to be rebuilt around it, and won't catch on.

The way to go about doing this (if it requires an entire infrastructure) is to find one small piece to start with, that will be moderately profitable. That is what Nest did, instead of building an entire internet of things, they built a designer thermostat. Then they built a fire detector (which apparently doesn't always detect fires, but hey, modern technology). Their goal is to eventually build an entire IoT. My hope is they won't destroy the world with their insecure programming, but different people have different goals.

Same thing here. If you try to build an entire new infrastructure from scratch, you will fail. So start with smart parking meters [sfpark.org] .

Buzzword (3, Informative)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 4 months ago | (#46896281)

This entire article is one long buzzword, I feel like I'm sitting in a motivational seminar just reading it. I like the general idea of giving everyday objects an ability to query and be queried, but to be any more than a novelty you'd need to automate the query code somehow (OCR, Bar code/reader, RFID, etc). But you've also got a pretty big cataloging & logistical issue, you have to code & catalog everything you might use (lamp posts, manhole covers, post boxes, stores, etc) and maintain that database. The next big problem is keeping it going over the long term, I work in local government and given the history in my field (mapping) I can tell you that there is a tendency for the interest in maintaining a project to ebb and flow quite significantly. Back in the 80s a massive amount of money was spent (at the state/federal level) to create some pretty detailed mapping, most of which was put on a shelf and forgot about, then in the 90s interest returned and tens of thousands of dollars were spent to digitize our information (local), then it sat on some hard drives for a decade and a half gathering dust, then interest returned & I was brought in to, convert, update & maintain the information. Each time the data had to basically be completely redone due to changes in format, methodology and/or technology. And each time significant amounts of money, time & resources were lost. Its all fine and dandy to create this kind of information/interactivity, but you have to make sure that its kept current, useful & active. Otherwise it is doomed to failure.

Re:Buzzword (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#46897305)

It would be extra tricky because you'd need a system that is not only current and active (which, as you say, is easier said than done on a continuing basis); but you'd need a system that can tell somebody standing right there, who probably doesn't have a specialist interest something they don't already know; but would want to.

If I'm sitting at municipal maintenance HQ, a map/information system that can tell me where all the streetlights are, whether their bulbs are fine, dead, or in predicted-failure, when they were last changed, and what lamp type they require, that's very useful: I can't be everywhere at once, and when I send out the guys with the bucket truck, I want them to have the right lamp the first time, and ideally I want them to arrive shortly before a lamp failure; but not waste money on excessively frequent precautionary swaps.

If I'm a pedestrian, standing next to street lamp #53583, even if your 'smart' agent has access to all those data, what can it tell me that I don't already know and do care about? Am I a lightbulb fancier who just wants to know the FRU number for that particular fixture? Am I standing there at noon, fretting about whether this particular lamp will be functional when it gets dark?

When you are doing infrastructure work, having good data about the state of the world is invaluable in trying to stay on top of constant demands with limited resources while minimizing downtime and waste. That much, I couldn't agree more. If that isn't your problem, though, it's substantially harder to think of cases where such records, even in very good shape, would be of interest to more than a few eccentric hobbyists.

We've got black armored police (0)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 4 months ago | (#46896531)

And armed drones so I guess that's a start.

Smart Cities, Smart Growth (1)

xdor (1218206) | about 4 months ago | (#46896669)

Just euphemisms for big brother is watching and we own all your base.

A less abstract discussion.. (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 3 months ago | (#46897237)

A less abstract discussion about interacting with random stuff found on the street is currently held as "Car-To-X" communication. And that has an actual use.

That's the stupidest 'smart' city ever... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#46897243)

In what possible sense is taking a bunch of chatbots with different apparent personalities and assigning them to the object codes in a city a 'smart city'? Would using your GPS coordinates as seed values for customizing your chatbot give you a 'smart planet'?

I'd like to present some sort of cogent refutation; but the sheer magnitude of the 'what? I don't even... why?' leaves nothing to argue with...

LA Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46897427)

Hasn't this already been done by Steve Martin?

But why (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 3 months ago | (#46898745)

Why in the world would anyone want to do that?

My lamp called (1)

motorhead (82353) | about 3 months ago | (#46900403)

ten thousand times to tell me I left it on.

... except smart people. n/t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46901903)

n/t

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