The word of the past decade has invariably been “smart”. The advent of smartphones has given way to smart, well, anything. Companies have begun catering to the demand for intuitive technology in every part of their lives, from smarthomes, like the Nest home system, to wearable technology. Innovative technology has always been hyper-individualized, focusing on the singular consumer before implementing it as something of a widespread asset.
Whether the consumer is being used as an independent test case, or whether widespread innovation is often too convoluted a bureaucratic process to make it worth the time, it’s clear that tech is looking to change the world closer to one person at a time.
Welcome to Smart City
It’s possible that 2018 will see the birth of what some analysts are calling the “smart city”. And it’s starting with AT&T, who announced at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it was in the testing phase of a new “Structure Monitoring System” intended to help cities monitor the stability of their bridge infrastructure. The system is intended to be rolled out city-wide, state-wide, and to transportation companies who are hired to monitor urban safety.
The sensors are battery operated, able to be applied easily to all bridges types, from railway supported to footbridges. The sensors will collect a wide array of data, from the width of cracks along the surface to the temperature and joint movement of the bridge, and any chances in angles due to high winds or heavy use. The data is collected automatically in eight hour intervals, and transmitted through AT&T’s city-wide LTE network into the IBM cloud. AT&T plans to roll out the system to cities and companies in the first quarter of 2018, and will give them the choice to either buy and manage the systems themselves, or buy the system but have AT&T handle the data management for them.
AT&T at CES Expo
This is part of a series of big announcements at the CES expo, an event which brings together a number of high profile companies who compete for the attention of the techradar as they announce bold new products and company innovations. It is also the latest move for AT&T, which has been on track to develop smart cities for a couple years now.
Just last year, the company announced its “digital infrastructure solution”, which aimed to outfit cities with energy-efficient street lights, smart sensors and cameras. The sensors can help trigger lights so as to keep electric costs down across the city, but they also monitor pedestrian movement, air quality, noise pollution and traffic. AT&T has worked to utilize its broad data storage and transmission software to help cities better respond to needs. Their Shot Spotter app alerts officials when there are reports of a gunshot, and tracks the decibel levels of the noise to better distinguish between faulty reports.
Shared data for better communities
AT&T has high hopes for the project, hoping that it will inspire community members to share information for entrepreneurs to create apps to can share the collected data with the citizens. And the project seems to be working. Since announcing the beginning of the Smart City project, AT&T has seen cities like San Diego deploy as many as 3,200 digital infrastructure sensor nodes; Atlanta has reportedly “deployed 200”, according to Mashable.
AT&T has been one of the first major establishment companies to push for the dream of interconnected cities to become a reality. The future of the modern city might be more than just flying cars and holographic billboards as far as the eye can see. Cities are celebrated for their sensory explosions—the lights, sounds and scale are often unparalleled—but the nuances of their infrastructure are often hidden out of sight. AT&T’s push for a smart city is a way to build on what has already become a hallmark of the modern metropolis: the quiet efficiency of a machine, the productivity of a beehive, all humming below the city but just out of sight—efficient and invisible.