The Infor Blog

To pave the way for smart cities, data sharing in our connected communities must be a two-way street

By Duncan Angove, Infor president

. . . in order for autonomous vehicles to flourish, they must at least be able to trust the integrity of the infrastructure, and at best work with those surrounding structures as part of an interconnected technological web. Uber may be ready to roll out the car of the future, but according to everything we know about Pittsburgh’s infrastructure, the streets cannot support them. In fact, “60 Minutes” claimed in 2014 that Pittsburgh ‘may have the most serious problem in the country’ when it comes to outdated and crumbling bridges and roads. And Pittsburgh is not alone: According to the National League of Cities, only 6% of the country’s most populous cities have accounted for these types of vehicles in their long-term plans. Connected cars are only the beginning of a nation-wide transformation of our cities, and there is a lot of work to do in 2017.” 

This quote by Kurt Steward, Infor’s vice president of public sector, is from 6 ways cities will become smarter in 2017, a great article on TechRepublic by Teena Maddox. It really made me think about the challenges around trust and interconnectivity—and reminded me of the common wisdom that in adversity, there is opportunity.

If smart cars need to depend on reliable infrastructure to operate safely and efficiently, why shouldn’t those high tech vehicles, which are already connected to networks for the operational information they need, become double agents—providing critical, real time data back to the cities in which they operate? It seems reasonable, fair, and mutually beneficial.

As data becomes easier to harvest, analyze, and be made useful, we’re coming to an inevitable truce with our privacy versus the value of our information. We should be willing to share, if we expect to be able to access other information that is useful to us.

Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, has already proven that the community approach to data gathering and sharing works. Drivers who want to avoid traffic congestion, poor road conditions, over-priced gas, and—let’s be honest—speeding tickets, share real time observations that benefit other drivers. It’s information sharing as currency in a give-and-get economy.

So to accommodate the evolving needs of smart cars, why shouldn’t a city like Pittsburgh expect that those cars be deputized to help gather and report additional data that’s critical to the city? Not just road conditions, but all kinds of safety, security, and environmental data that could improve the overall quality of life for residents.

Global spending on IoT is projected to reach nearly $1.29 trillion over the next three years. The innovations coming out of the IoT space are exciting even for government agencies. For example, technology like ShotSpotter allows sensors to pick up noises that sound like gunshots, analyze them, and then alert the authorities, if needed. This groundbreaking system would also be able to pinpoint how many people were at the scene, as well as how many times the gun was shot.

Sensors for ShotSpotter are expected to be placed on streetlights, which are becoming smart objects themselves—they can light up when people come near them, becoming efficient money-savers for their cities. Connecting sensors to smart cars as they’re driving on a city’s street turns autos into mobile monitors that feed even more information to the network.

But none of these great ideas can work unless a plan is in place, one that is comprehensive, flexible, and scalable to support the growth of smart cities for decades to come. To thrive, a smart city needs to be not only connected, but also communicative. Every new user request for access to information becomes a new opportunity to additional data for the network.

Smart cars, businesses, government agencies, and citizens that want to have access to some or all of network’s data need to be willing to be an active participant in the collection and sharing of data.

The potential of a collective commitment to sharing and accessing data is staggering. Not only will cars be able to safely and efficiently drive themselves, but as they become one more agent in our connected communities, our cities might also approach the ability to run themselves. Connect people to the IoT, and we begin to see how technology can drive a perpetually improved quality of life. That’s a future to believe in.

 

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