Trying to travel around central London’s creaking transport network right now, it might seem farfetched that journey times could become easier in the future rather than more difficult. While big infrastructure projects such as Crossrail will help alleviate some of the pressures of the city’s growing population, a solution comes from smart city initiatives that optimists expect will revolutionise the way we get about.
It’s happening already in cities such as Helsinki and Singapore. The former has launched a Mobility-as-a-Service initiative that allows users to buy a “mobility” ticket to their destination via text message or app and the service will plan the ideal route combining public transport, on-demand services and private vehicles. There’s little doubt that public transport, in particular, is becoming smarter. From apps that let you buy a ticket and keep it on your phone, or buses that change route based on who wants to be picked up, many cities are beginning to change to reflect what is possible in our new age of big data. This means that cities can keep the flow of people moving much better than before, and we get quicker and cheaper public transport because everything can be JIT.
Combine this with the wireless charging now available to buses in South Korea, and Google’s driverless car and we could see a bus that never needs to stop, that drives itself, and knows where to go based on demand. The crazy thing is that this is possible, and happening in some places, today. While London might be lagging some places on getting its smart infrastructure in place, further opportunities could also come from the natural evolution of health wearable technology in the NHS.
The technology is already available and is being trialled for a remote non-intrusive constant medical monitoring system that could tell you and medical professionals when you have something wrong. Using biosensors to collect data and machine learning algorithms it is possible to detect subtle patterns based on general information within the system on chronic conditions. So, for example, heart rate or blood pressure data can be pushed to a cloud-based engine that analyses it and notifies doctors when needed. If this information was then combined with the smart public transport above you could end up with a system that flags medical emergencies, dispatches an ambulance, drives there, picks you up, takes you to A&E and then goes onto the next patient. The full implication then of the adoption of smart cities seems to be happening in front of our very own eyes, revolutionising the way we live our lives.