One of the topics that I will address at the QITCOM 2012 conference in Qatar next month is: Smart Homes/Smart Cities and in particular the need for a holistic approach in order to successfully create smarter social and economic structures.
The concept of smarter homes, communities and cities encompasses a range of policies and strategies that need to be developed parallel to each other.
Smart infrastructure is needed for communications, energy, transport, etc. The key element in ‘smart’ is its ability to gather data, analyse it and provide intelligent feedback.
Communications is an essential element in all smart activities. Currently all the silo-based sectors operate separate and independent infrastructure, which of course creates significant financial waste and a lack of interoperability.
Without sound government policies to actually direct the various sectors to share utilities-based infrastructure nothing ‘smart’ will happen in the near future. We call this the trans-sector approach. Leadership from the top is needed to direct the sectors to work together, share infrastructure and provide a seamless service for the customer. This involves:
- people – and empowering them to take control over, for example, the management of their energy use, e-health requirements, e-education, etc; and
- things – as in sensors and devices that collect data and process this in real time. The combined data from, for instance, the weather bureau, the transport authorities, energy companies, local authorities can then be analysed (also in real time) to supply instant information to users. This can be in relation to natural disasters, traffic jams, energy prices, energy efficiencies of buildings, personal healthcare information and so on.
Currently most of this information is collected and stored in silos, often on incompatible systems and most of the time not shared with others. It is highly unlikely that these sector-based silos will readily agree to work together. They will all take cover – rightly or wrongly – behind security, privacy, reliability and so on. Only a leader at the top (President, Prime Minister, Emir) can provide the overall leadership that is needed to create a trans-sector policy that will bring together the various infrastructures and application policies.
Once the foundation is established, industry will jump on board, operating in accordance with clear policies, guidelines and regulations. Governments can promote this further with policies that will see some budget redirection from the various sectors (healthcare, education, energy, environment, transport) towards the development of e-services.
Through positive incentives private industry will develop strategies and come up with most of the investments needed for the building of these smart systems.
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