Looking toward Connected Cities


As individual consumers and business owners, we can work toward connecting our homes and businesses. But is this siloed approach to connecting people, places, and systems the most effective? Lately, it seems more attention is being paid to the concept of “smart” or connected cities, and perhaps this discussion is the one with a more immediate impact.

According to Machina Research, www.machinaresearch.com, in its June 2012 report on M2M (machine-to-machine) technology in smart cities and public transport, the smart-city sector of the M2M market will grow from 59 million connections in 2011 to 512 million in 2020.

How is M2M technology currently being deployed in this sector? Across a number of public-service and infrastructure solutions, suggests Machina, including public transportation and traffic management, public safety and environmental safety, and advertising in public spaces.

At this point, the new study suggests traffic management makes up the majority of connections in this sector—perhaps reaching 446 million by 2020—while the “Environment and Public Safety” group of applications generates the most revenue.

Safety is at the core of one business on the leading-edge of connected-city technology: City 24/7, www.smartcity24x7.com. Last month, the company’s president and CEO, Tom Touchet, appeared on The Peggy Smedley Show to discuss City 24/7’s mission to help citizens effectively navigate cities via connected, M2M infrastructure being rolled out in urban centers like New York City.

In fact, New York City is where City 24/7 plans to introduce 250 SmartScreens in old payphone booths this summer, creating an interactive broadcast network that will provide the data citizens need, when and where they need it.

Behind these large, user-friendly touchscreen devices is a ton of connected technology, including free Wi-Fi, NFC (near-field communication), and Bluetooth. The devices will also serve a role in making cities safer. In emergency situations, Touchet says authorities will be able to use the SmartScreens to broadcast hyper-localized content, including red-alert information and other messaging, to a targeted area via the SmartScreens.

Touchet says the goal is to build out a network of screens across not only New York City, but across several densely populated urban areas in the U.S., ultimately helping people send and receive key data as needed.

While this and a number of other “smart” city initiatives seem to be on a fast track to success, a recent study by Pew Internet, www.pewinternet.org, says the connected home of the future may elude us for years to come. In fact, Pew suggests we may not even see this become a reality by 2020—the same year Machina expects more than 500 million connections to make up the smart-city sector of M2M.

Perhaps some forward thinking on the part of city leaders, technology providers, and other industry visionaries focused on building out “smart” city infrastructures will help solve one of the crippling hurdles in the smart-home space: consumer buy in.

As costs come down, and connectivity at home and around town becomes an expected part of life for today’s citizens, perhaps both markets will gather enough momentum to make it in mainstream society. When this happens, there will come a day when the connected city, and the connected homes within it, are more than a mere mirage.

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Connected World Issue
June/July 2014
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