The Hype Cycle, a concept devised by industry analysts Gartner, contends that all emerging technologies attract first hyperbole, then disillusion. The Internet of Things is no exception. Excitement at the burgeoning discussion of smart cities marks an early point in that hype cycle. The reality is still to be seen – and understood.
We know, already, that technology is helping us to save energy, streamline management of city services and create a safer environment for citizens. We can be confident that many new use cases are yet to be discovered. But what happens next is not a matter of chance. The platforms that we adopt today determine what is possible tomorrow.
“Any Smart City infrastructure (must) be sufficiently flexible to accommodate future needs and scalable to cope with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of connected devices and to manage data from a wide range of sources,” noted Margaret Ranken, principal analyst at Machina Research, in her report Future-proofing IT for Smart City services.
In most cases, it simply is not viable to develop new and separate infrastructure for every new service. Cities will be reluctant to invest in one platform for waste management, another to monitor traffic, yet another to gauge consumption of energy or water. No single use case justifies that investment.
At the same time, it is equally true that multiple use cases cannot become reality without first having a shared platform in place. In Antwerp and Eindhoven, for example, cities are becoming laboratories – a real world, real-time petri dish for innovation. Notwithstanding the hype about smart cities, early signs are encouraging.
The key to fruitful innovation is freedom to experiment. Lighting infrastructure provides that flexibility in a cost-effective way. My next post in this three-part series will argue that we are at a critical juncture for the lighting industry. As more cities adopt intelligent lighting networks, now is the time to equip them with the embedded sensors and data-sharing capacity on which smart cities are built.
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