When we first covered Ericsson’s Networked Society Project, we called it beautiful and terrifying. Their latest video shows that beauty can prevail when technology inserts itself into our lives with positive motives in mind.
The concept centers around Information and Communication Technology (ICT). As cities continue to grow at a rate of 200,000 new people born into or moving to an urban area every day, ITC integration is essential. Thankfully, the technology is growing just as quickly, if not faster. It isn’t just about people having access to information. It’s about the city itself having the data and helping to make decisions based upon what’s happening within it.
“The important thing to recognize about cities is that on the one hand, this exponential urbanization is actually the origin of this feeling of the tsunami of problems from financial markets, economies, health, pollution, disease, crime, environment, global warming – all of these have their origin in cities,” said Geoffrey B. West of the Santa Fe Institute. “But, on the other hand, the great thing about cities is that they are vacuum cleaners or magnets that suck up human creativity, ideas, culture, and so whereas on the one hand the problems are generated in cities, the solution is going to be generated in cities. Therefore, it is of great urgency that we understand cities in a profound and predictive fashion.”
Perpetual, high-quality, and free broadband is a key, but integrating the infrastructural components of a city will be necessary. Roads need to talk to each other. Buildings need to talk to each other. Cars need to talk to each other. As odd as it sounds, all of it is possible.
“Cities can create a nucleus where an idea or an innovation can start, but also a movement like the sustainability movement,” said Elaine Weidman, VP of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson.
The video delves into the political aspects of the project, knowing that it will take mayors around the world to truly make this possible. More so than state or national governments, infrastructural decisions made by mayors and other city employees can make the concept of a “thinking city” possible.
Despite having very intelligent people discussing lofty concepts, it still comes down to reality versus paradise. All of the concepts discussed would require an extremely large amount of money to implement in a small city. However, larger size may mean a higher need of resources, but it also means more tax dollars to make it happen. The video focuses on Stockholm, a forward-thinking city that has been an environmental and technological leader for a while.
Nobody knows what the future will really look like, but Ericcson’s vision is one that is realistically attainable. It would take an evolution in the way that society thinks as well as a lightening of the more pressing problems that the world faces such as economic hardships and environmental concerns, but if nobody thinks about a future where many of our problems are solved, then we have no chance of realizing the promise.
The video is nearly 18-minutes long, but it’s worth the watch (and the dream).