For a long time, many people, like visionaries, scientists or sci-fi writers, have been thinking about the future and how it will look. There are many topics worth mentioning, like the economy, people, cities, space travel and colonization. A big breakthrough in these thoughts and conceptions was the "Star Wars" film. We could see colossal "planet-cities" there, with fully automated buildings and platforms, that floated in the skies and were controlled by voice. When the first part of the film was released, no one believed that the human race was capable of creating something like that. But now, we are getting really close. A wise man once said "Everything that man invents, he is able to create - the only barrier is the time". What can we say - the time has come.
What is going on?
The Internet of Things is a concept which assumes that the Internet will be connected to many different objects, including electronic devices, buildings, cars, clothes, and more. Everything armed with sensors, software and electronics, which will allow the gathering and exchanging of data. The Internet of Things will also enable remote control. It is estimated that by 2020 the number of devices connected to the network will have exceeded 50 billion. The Internet of Things continually grows and that creates new opportunities. One of them is an idea to create wholly integrated towns - "Smart Cities" - where everything is connected.
How it works?
Smart Towns should have several important elements, in order to conform to the project concept. These elements are: monitoring, parking application systems, maps, intelligent houses and, of course, the cloud. But what exactly does it mean? Let us discuss each one of these elements.
Safety is one of the most important things that should be provided by the city authorities. Monitoring allows for better control over the city, increases the likelihood of catching thieves or helps to determine who caused a car accident. It might also prevent the recurrence of such incidents. Additionally, monitoring with motion sensors placed at an intersection can greatly help in traffic management.
Smart car parks are a hot topic nowadays. It is probably because looking for a parking spot is one of the most frustrating aspects of modern city life. Driving several times around car parks without any result is really exhausting. That is why designers developed a tool to resolve this problem. Parking places are armed with sensors, co-operating with a mobile app that shows car parks with available spots, it also supports payments for parking, and even sends a reminder when the reservation is expiring.
No, this is not about the usual maps or the GPS, but something much better. A fully completed map containing streets, parks, restaurants, public places, offices, car parks, or even important events displayed and updated in real-time.
When it comes to urban infrastructure, opportunities and ideas are even more extensive. Lighting, shutters, entrance and garage doors, heating - everything can be controlled via smartphone. Imagine dedicated, advanced and integrated software for refrigerators, ovens or blenders. Your refrigerator tells you what is inside of it, and then proposes some recipes using the ingredients that you already have. When you select one of the recipes, the oven starts to heat up to the correct temperature and the blender automatically sets the best parameters needed to knead the perfect dough. At the same time your refrigerator places an order for products that are running out.
None of these examples can be realised without a corresponding connection, so engineers have developed the cloud, providing permanent access to the resources you need, from anywhere, at any time. It is the most convenient solution which also provides Wi-Fi access throughout the city.
All of the projects mentioned above are already being implemented. Of course, the details require fine-tuning, but that phase will not last long. It is estimated that within the next 20 years, dozens of cities will be upgraded according to this model. However, we cannot forget about our own development and self-realization. Facilitation is not our enemy, but you cannot overdo it. Everyone needs a little exercise, fresh air, or a little bit of intellectual effort. Do not forget to be a human being. What do you think? Is the Internet of Things an opportunity or a risk?