‘Smart cities will change everything’: Extending the Internet of Things to create smart cities

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‘Smart cities will change everything’: Extending the Internet of Things to create smart cities

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Posted By Barb Edson
General Manager, Marketing and Business Development

At Microsoft, we’ve been talking about—and creating technologies around--the Internet of Things for years, but occasionally, we’re reminded how rapidly this market is evolving. My colleague Kevin Dallas recently commented about the mixed-bag news that the term “Internet of Things” is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The downside of this pop-culture milestone is that the OED still calls the technology “proposed.”

Barcelona is considered by many to be a world-class “smart city,” powered by Microsoft technologies. Read more on the CityNext website.

That would be news to the hundreds of enterprises across major industries already realizing value from the vast promise of the Internet of Things, by deploying intelligent devices as part of intelligent systems. Many businesses have been reaping the benefits for several years, and as these technologies continue to mature, the possibilities seem ever-more limitless; lately, exciting opportunities have been emerging in the burgeoning field of “smart cities.”

What’s a smart city? Technology analyst firm Gartner defines it as city in which “multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real-time information shared among sector-specific information and operational technology systems.” *

In a nutshell, the “real-time information” is big data; the “sharing” is the done by all of those intelligent devices that populate the Internet of Things. The outcome? An intelligent system that makes that city more livable, more economically competitive, more sustainable. Imagine connected city grids that keep the lights on with increasing efficiency, intelligent offshore wind farms that produce clean energy, and car and rail traffic solutions that reduce congestion and air pollution.

Smart-city technology is rapidly gaining momentum; in fact, it’s now the subject of an annual Gartner “hype cycle” report (find a link on our website). Recently, I watched an excellent Gartner webinar, given by analyst Alfonso Velosa, which addressed the business opportunities and challenges of building smart cities via the Internet of Things—the ROI story behind all of the sustainability, innovation and automation. (You can view the Gartner webinar on-demand, free of charge, after registration.)

To create a city of the future, you need one thing besides technology and money: true leadership, in the form of visionary technology champions who can drive consensus and acceptance of a complex web of interlocking technologies across an organization as incredibly heterogeneous as a city. Microsoft knows this well, after executing on a “smart-city” project on its own Redmond campus—a solution so successful, it’s spreading to other cities. (Microsoft’s “smart city” project was mentioned in Velosa’s webinar.) “Smart buildings will become smart cities, and smart cities will change everything,” says the project’s lead (and resident technology champion), Darrell Smith, Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy.

Pioneering solutions that enable sustainable and more economically competitive cities is a commitment that Microsoft is putting muscle behind. Earlier this summer, Microsoft’s CityNext initiative was launched; visit the CityNext website to read about how technology is changing the way people work and live…now, and in the not-so-distant future.

*Gartner, Hype Cycle for Smart City Technologies and Solutions, 2013, Alfonso Velosa, Bettina Tratz-Ryan, July 29, 2013.

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