Smart cities: the long-term impact
O'Donnell claims that smart city rollouts happen in three phases, which he says is about "building the city from the internet up."
1. Instrumentation 2. Intelligence 3. Responsiveness.
New York is currently at the beginning of the instrumentation phase, where the immediate benefits are to underserved and under-connected members of the public. Over the next 15 years, the city will go through the other two phases, where sensor data will be processed by artificial intelligence (A.I.) to gain unprecedented insights about traffic, environment and human behavior and eventually use it to intelligently re-direct traffic and shape other city functions.
The two most transformational technologies will be augmented reality (AR) and autonomous cars. AR won't be one specific set of technologies, but many variations that will range from low-bandwidth and even offline applications to ultra HD streaming AR.
New York's LinkNYC kiosks mean everyone in the city will have network support for high-end streaming AR as they move around the city. Enterprises operating in the city can deploy top-of-the-line equipment and applications and rely on 5G connectivity on every block.
And as autonomous cars gradually roll out, New York will be well positioned to be one of the first cities to legalize them, because they'll be safer thanks to 5G, sensors and data from all those kiosks. This will enable a revolution in delivery systems, among other things.
Risks and rewards
Smart kiosks do carry risks, however. One involves privacy. O'Donnell said privacy policies aren't set by Intersection, but are negotiated agreements between the company and the city. So if a city wants to use those cameras and sensors for surveillance, it can.
But the biggest risk revolves around hacking and the theft of data, monitoring of cameras and -- a worst-case scenario -- eventual control of the "Responsiveness" phase technology, where mayhem is deliberately caused.
Futurists and tech pundits often assume that if a beneficial set of technologies exists, it will be implemented and widely distributed. But this is obviously not true. Technology revolutions require drivers to realize them.
In this case, New York City and Intersection are the drivers, showing the enormous benefits of ubiquitous high-speed wireless, as well as connected sensor stations all over a city. This will drive huge demand in other cities to replicate the technology, which will create demand for city-wide flexible dark-fiber installation, which will transform how enterprises operate.
For enterprises, the advances change assumptions about what's possible for how offices, warehouses, field service, delivery and, eventually, next-generation technologies will work.
The most important calculation is the question of where: Where should offices, warehouses, factories and other major locations be built? Answer: They'll gravitate to smart cities. Because the benefits to enterprises of ubiquitous and dense high-speed wireless, sensor-based city services and fiber everywhere will prove incalculable.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.