The buzz is more and more noisy, a flood of information that grows incessantly, supported by multiple surveys, hundreds of thousands of “expert” opinions, innovative initiatives that emerge like mushrooms in the most remote places. Information grows stunningly fast, “in 2020 there will be I don’t know how many millions of connected devices, I don’t know how many hundreds of smart cities in the world…”
Behind the “Smart City” concept and its concepts related “IoT”, “M2M” and “Big Data” the Net is full of information, an out of control information rush that expands like a plague, fed with a plethora of congresses, events, sessions, talks and discussions among engineers, mayors, ministers, communication managers, technology consultants, etc.
But the crossfire of theories, counterclaims, opinion articles, tweets and retweets, nobody has ever made the key question: What would a recently landed E.T. think of the Smart City phenomenon?
When you are embedded into such a devastating turmoil, it’s difficult to make a precise diagnostics about the situation. So the arrival of a being from another planet, gifted with intelligence and alien to the media pollution and saturation we suffered as earthlings, could become an interesting point of view, or provide at least some fresh air to the Smart City landscape.
To begin with, the E.T. may notice that the tags we humans enjoy, in all their versions – original in American English, translated, or acronyms – are just that: tags, useful maybe originally but after some time they don’t make sense, and do even pervert the phenomenon. Taking it to a philosophical extreme – that maybe only an E.T. superior brain can pose – is it more important to be or to do? Is physical reality really the good one, or is it the virtual one? To be or pretend you are? Be something or be cool?
The fact is that technology is transforming the world from hundreds, even thousands of years – Roman sewers didn’t analyse data in real-time but improved the lives of the citizens. The only difference is that it can be done more quickly and more efficiently now, thanks to that ability for selective information analysis. Let’s be honest: this is good for technology and industry companies since they provide an environment to develop in; for the public administration and the governments they provide a double layer, one of services for citizens and other of “commitment with sustainability”. And certainly it’s presumed to be beneficial for citizens or at least for most of them.
The E.T. may also notice that in this feverish process for tagging we tend to generalize, or better to globalize – another tag – the question. Yes, we made huge efforts for smart city initiatives, but they are only ad hoc solutions and the key players in the Smart world claim: “When will we see multidisciplinary implementations on a large scale?”
It’s true that we must tend to standardisation and towards a common model with respect to methodology, technology, and ways to use them. But before such a question our E.T. with a mega-developed brain and an overall world vision, would say probably that there’s not a single universal model, simply because every city is a world by itself. What have in common Medellín, London, or any of the 100 smart cities “planned” by the Indian government? Just a little, apart from the fact that they are places where people have joined to live together. As a result, that Smart City planning and implementation model does no longer exist, and won’t ever exist. The “smartest” decision would be that we don’t worry anymore about the definition of a smart city as a whole, and each city should create its own “smart city” metrics under common technology standards. Therefore, there will be some cities focused on telemedicine, other on safety or others focused on traffic management. Each city will have to decide by itself, and any try to put all of them together is harmful for the process.
How would we as players in the process a judgment from a superior being from another world? It would consist probably of a flood of tweets, excuses to pose new speeches, sessions or even world congresses. Everything goes fast and we risk of losing some dollars if we are not with our senses aware before such a plentiful and fierce competence.
The alien would leave in a hurry to its far planet, bored and dizzy because of the noisy buzz of social networks, understanding nothing… but if we had at least the calm or the intelligent pause of raise our eyes to the sky, before banging meaningless our screens, we would have seen the message left from its supersonic spacecraft as a farewell: Keep calm and Smart City.