AI and smart cities

I have written quite a bit about artificial intelligence (AI) over the last 20 years – and perhaps even earlier than that. (Searches in our blog go back to 1999)

This in itself is an indication that things aren’t moving all that quickly. But looking back – in particular at the capabilities of smart phones and their apps – I can see that progress has been made. Certainly not through big bang events, but slowly and steadily nevertheless. And this is how progress should be made around artificial intelligence, because it will absolutely transform human society and we need time for that to happen.

And it is crucially important that we remain in charge of the process.

Give the way that issues relating to the environment, climate and innovations such as the nuclear energy have had a huge effect on humanity it is clear that we will need to stay in charge. The fact that we have nuclear treaties in place and have not used nuclear bombs since WWII – and that we have been making progress at COP21 in Paris – are indications that we can operate as a global society.

Looking at AI as a process of evolution, not revolution, some of the doomsday scenarios – like the prediction that robots are going to replace us – should be tempered by the fact that from a scientific point of view such an outcome would be at least a century away. This would mean that AI will continue along the lines of its current evolution, and that humanity can stay in charge. What needs to happen within the next decade is an international organisation along the lines of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Treaty (which forms the basis for COP21).

Already private industry has set up a working group to manage AI in drones and has asked the government to come up with regulations.

All of this is important and needs to happen; and the signs are that international collaboration will eventually lead to some sort of a treaty on AI.

However this should not us stop looking at the many benefits that AI will have to offer in the short- and medium-term of this century-long development, and this will be more in line with our recent smart phone experiences.

This brings me to the topic of smart cities. Those cities that are opening up their data and using the currently available AI software products (advanced algorithms, predictive analytics, learning adaptability) will be able to create new applications. Such applications and services could take you around town based on the input you provide to set up a guiding tour, shopping tour, transport suggestions. In relation to a tourist tour for example, you could look for themes like archaeology, modern history, architecture, parks, children activities, etc.

Or people planning to move from one place to another could key in specific data regarding information on schooling, age care, health care, work, etc to get an intelligent response back to where the best places are for those people to settle in relation to schools, healthcare and community facilities, transport and so on.

Businesses could find the best location in relation to the availability of the type of people they need, where the lowest rents are, the most prestigious sites, transport and so on.

Retail and trade applications that work both ways – for both the providers and the customers – are another area where AI is going to flourish over the next five years or so (the sharing economy).

This is the AI area that cities should look at in their transformation to a smart city. These AI products work well if there is an holistic strategy towards a smart city, as the applications will operate across the various silos on which most city bureaucracies are still based. Once a strategic plan is used to generate a much flatter structure, and to address the reluctance of bureaucrats to create an open government and open data platform, AI will be of great benefit in the running of a smart city and will create economic and social benefits for its citizens and businesses.

Paul Budde

See also:

We invite your comments: Comments Off on AI and smart cities

Tagged in: , ,

Comments are closed.