Your next mayor: a computer

April 23, 2012 | Source: Salon

In May 2009, some residents of Paris were given La Montre Verte (“The Green Watch”). The watch is actually a watch, and it also has two sensors to detect noise levels and ozone levels, a GPS chip, and a Bluetooth chip. As people went about their day, the watch recorded the noise and ozone in their environment. The data was transferred to a companion mobile phone application, regularly uploaded to a central server, and crunched into maps like this. (Credit: Fing)

Three years ago, 100 Parisians volunteered to wear a wristband with a sensor in it. The sensors measured air and noise pollution as the wearers made their way around the city, transmitting that data back to an online platform that created a virtual map of the city’s pollution levels, which anyone with an Internet connection could take a look at.

This was a peek at ab urban future when “smart cities” will collect data of all kinds (in all kinds of ways) and use it to make themselves better places to live.

With the market projected to be worth $16 billion by the end of the decade, big companies like IBM and Cisco have much grander — and more profitable — ambitions: they’re going all-in on smart cities, with designs that supposedly do everything from end traffic jams to prevent disease outbreaks to eliminate litter.

“Almost anything — any person, any object, any process or any service, for any organization, large or small — can become digitally aware and networked,” said IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano at the 2010 SmarterCities forum in Shanghai. “Think about the prospect of a trillion connected and instrumented things — cars, appliances, cameras, roadways, pipelines …”

The goal of these companies is not just to participate in the evolution of smart cities, but to connect and control virtually everything with massive operating systems that will run these cities in their entirety.