Montreal. February. 8 pm. During the throes of a major blizzard…
All of a sudden, you’re on your way to having a bad ending to your day. You hear the strident sound of a snow plow. Panic-stricken, you realize you forgot to move your car prior to the city’s snow removal operations. Now you have no other choice but to slip on your boots and run back out into the harsh cold. The best case scenario has you digging your car out of the thick snowy shroud created by the snow plow. The worst case scenario has you running around, trying to find your towed car, and paying a hefty fine for your trouble.
This is a scenario that has happened to many Montrealers. But worry not! This problem will soon be a relic of the past! Montréal is launching the Info-Snow Challenge, which aims to create an online solution that will inform citizens about snow removal operations in real time via their iOS or Android smartphones.
Once the project bears full results and is universally implemented, Montrealers will be better informed about parking restrictions and the progress of other road operations. Eventually, they’ll be able to avoid the above unfortunate but oh so common situation.
And smart snow removal avoidance is only one of many projects included in the 2014 Montréal, Smart and Digital City initiative. Speaking of which, did you know that Montréal, like Quebec City, Toronto, Kingston, and Winnipeg, was listed in the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Communities? And it doesn’t stop there. Denis Coderre, Montréal’s mayor, wants to see the city climb to the top of next year’s list!
What is a smart city?
According to Université Laval’sInstitute for Information Technologies and Societies (IITS), a smart city can be described as a city that includes “a range of technological solutions which aim to optimize urban areas through data analysis and data processing.”
As Les Affaires points out, this ambitious project combines many trends, including (but not limited to) automation, the Internet of Everything, mobility, and Open Data (i.e. “data freely available by way of portals, metadata, and search tools for reuse by governments, citizens, voluntary organizations, academia, and the private sector in new and unanticipated ways”). Astute readers will notice that these are topics that we regularly blog about!
Getting back to smart cities, these constructs represent a flourishing market. According to the American firm MarketsandMarkets, the global smart cities market is currently worth approximately 654 billion dollars. Ultimately, the objective of smart cities is to gather relevant data about urban environments, and to make this data both available and useful to the general public. It should be a win-win deal for both cities and their residents!
A great example of the potential of smart city tools is the Soofa. Invented in the city of Boston, Soofas are benches equipped to charge mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) via solar energy collected by the benches themselves. And that’s not all! Soofas are also equipped with sensors that record all kinds of information about the immediate environment, such as air quality, weather conditions, and noise levels. These Soofas can be found spread across a number of different places in Boston, and the data that they collect will soon be available online via an interactive map. This ingenious invention is among the first of an oncoming wave of smart, connected public devices that will dot the landscape.
One of the points of beauty underlying smart cities is that their concept and driving technology is scaleable – we can have smart homes as well! Thanks to the Internet of Everything, objects in your everyday lives could soon adapt to your usage habits to offer you a customized experience. The best example of this is probably the thermostat that remembers your preferences and adjusts the temperature of each room independently. But that’s a story for another day!
Because now, after having mentioned some serious positive points about smart cities, some discussion about management and security is merited…
As utopic as talk of smart cities can be, we MUST NOT neglect the possible downsides. One thing we need to understand is that, for smart cities to see their potential fully realized, we’re going to have to run even greater risks of having our personal data hijacked or otherwise misused. And even setting that aside, there are issues of privacy that we must mull. After all, if an ecosystem of technology is going to tailor itself to you, it really has to know you first!
We’re putting the cart ahead of the horse if we try to get into the details too much, however. After all, the smart city is still in its infancy. Pondering complex details becomes more pertinent only when there’s more smart city to see and experience. For now, suffice it to say that smart cities will require smart management.
Going back to the present moment, IT and telecom assets represent a business resource that bears smart management now. It needs to be done if you’re going to get the maximum benefit from your IT and telecom investements! You can contact us at Cimpl for useful help and advice in this regard, since we’re Canada’s leader in IT and telecom expense management!
What do you think of the Montréal, Smart and Digital City strategy? What do you think of smart cities? Please share your comments and experiences bellow!