Customer Engagement

Sensors Do Not A Smart City Make—Part 4

iStock-539824172 [Converted]_smart cityscape_resized.pngIn parts one, two and three of this blog series, we looked at the background of Smart City initiatives, how sensors and other devices can make life better for us all, and the role that citizens and employees—humans, in other words—have to play in making our cities smarter. 

In this final part, I’ll be looking ahead to where the rise in home automation systems and so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI) might take us in the future.

Over the last decade we have seen more and more homes become “connected”—wired throughout for data, sound and vision. These are connected to home automation systems that also allow residents to control heating, domestic appliances and energy usage—often remotely using smart phone apps or IoT solutions such as Centrica’s Hive. More recently, AI-based devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, have opened up a new front in the drive to extend where and how technologies can materially improve our lives.

The governments of Utah, Mississippi and the city of Los Angeles in the United States are already using Amazon’s Alexa Voice Services API (Application Programming Interface) to give citizens the option of interacting with various public services conversationally, rather than using menus and screen-based interfaces. This increasing availability of easily accessible, highly usable, latest generation APIs—making it easier than ever to quickly and reliably connect devices and applications to one another—will help drive the availability and adoption of AI-based services.

Checking your trash bin collection cycle with a quickly voiced question to your Amazon Echo while preparing dinner is not only effective and convenient—it can also help minimize the costs and inconvenience caused by the wrong types of refuse being put out for collection.

Similarly, imagine being able to report that your refuse collection has been missed while safe in the knowledge that this will be logged and actioned immediately and automatically. It would simply and effectively help reduce the volume of telephone and email complaints—and your report might even be transmitted to the refuse truck’s cab in real time for instant action.

In an increasingly uncertain world, such an AI assistant could also be used to both “push” (to citizens) essential safety updates about civic emergencies and security threats and “pull” (also from citizens) local situation reports that could help the authorities create a more comprehensive situational picture.

We can also imagine a world that can monitor whether your elderly grandmother has taken her daily medications, and remind her with a voice message if needed. Imagine if the same AI assistant could alert her healthcare team if medical or environmental sensors detected something worrying or out-of-the-ordinary—such as an external door left open overnight, high levels of air pollution or a gas leak.

AI and IoT technologies have the capabilities to help those with ongoing medical conditions, the elderly, disabled and many others, benefit from the additional reassurance provided by knowing that support staff are keeping a watchful eye on them 24/7. This allows them to continue living in their communities and reduces the burden on hospitals and other forms of long-term care.

This kind of “smart living” must surely be an important ingredient in the Smart Cities recipe, although it will also be important that we strike the right balance between these beneficial services and personal freedom and confidentiality.

The latest generation of configurable APIs make collection of the alerts and data provided by IoT devices quick to implement and reliable in operation. Just as importantly, configurable process automation makes it straightforward for required actions to be carried out without human intervention, removing the need for a so-called “middle office”—where “man-draulic” interfaces are required to translate and transfer the data received into the appropriate operational systems.

At Verint we work hard to help ensure that our solutions are able to take their place in a fully connected world, where AI and the Internet of Things will drive more and more of the service interactions that keep cities moving and help make life better.

To conclude this blog series, important as they are becoming, sensors alone do not, indeed, make a city smart. We must adopt the full range of appropriate technologies and other mechanisms available to us, including the living, breathing ones! And we must use the data and insights we collect imaginatively, openly and effectively—not only to drive processes and fix today’s problems, but to help citizens, politicians and officials contribute to the debate and envision how we can change our cities for the better in years to come.


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