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Contributed by Brian Gilmore, Director of IoT Product Management at InfluxData
The first two years of this decade have been challenging to say the least. While certainly not without its drawbacks, technology came to us when it was calculated. IoT and analytics-based workforce transformation, biomedical innovation and supply chain optimization have all contributed to the decades-worth digital transformation we’ve packaged over the last 20 months.
We can undoubtedly attribute this acceleration to the sudden emergence of cases rather than use cases. For readers outside of the tech and software industries, use cases are intended to prevent technologists from discovering them. We build with the use case in mind, but often only later does the true impact of our work fall on the customer. Silly putty is a good example of this. Listerine was to become a floor cleaner.
Think Zoom, which is now a household name brand. In early 2012, Zoom’s webpage promised “Group HD video calls on Facebook”. Fast-forward a year before the first Covid-19 coverage, and Zoom sat neatly in the Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) web conferencing solution, with less than 100 million daily meeting participants. By April 2020, these daily users had grown to over 300 million. While many of these new users were home-based business users, many others were using the 2012 case – looking for a better digital connection with friends and family.
We should keep this phenomenon in mind while looking at the future of Smart City. Traffic control for 3D-printed buildings and flying cars is still (and probably will be) science fiction. However, there are technologies available today that will enable the future of smart cities; We haven’t recognized him yet.
Whether over-hyped or undermarketed, here are three “dark horse” technology trends that will power 2030’s smart cities.
“The Dark Web,” peer-to-peer (often abbreviated as p2p) networks have been part of the technology landscape for over 30 years. Today’s innovations in p2p, such as Protocol Labs’ libp2p, power chat, web pages, applications and databases – generally and ideally without central authority or your standard web servers and ISPs. In communities, this capability could improve top-down intranet-style government portals and enable citizens to self-organize in a bottom-up manner. Communities will create and deliver peer-to-peer services, and the government will contribute as a participant and equal peer.
In 2030, p2p-based distributed applications could transform public transportation, access to fresh food, healthcare, energy, elder care, journalism, policing and beyond. Wise leaders will recognize the value of smart communities and increase trends. Otherwise, they may find outsiders themselves on the wrong internet.
Recommended engines and filters and algorithms that power them drive our social media feeds, access to music and movie, and online purchases. In 2030, they will likely power many of our interactions with local and municipal government resources and services.
In a p2p-powered smart community where we have complete control over access to our data and its usage, we will choose services that use our digital fingerprints along with services tailored to our needs. Social, health, financial and beyond, all government services can be activated and turn today’s painful DMV experience into tomorrow’s simple text message exchange.
Distributed ledger and smart technology through blockchain
Suppose your main exposure with blockchain and distributed laser technology (DLT) is through the lens of cryptocurrency. In that case, the fit here may not be so obvious. It has nothing to do with finance – and everything has to do with trust.
Blockchain and DLT are arguably the first use cases to serve as records of transactions in decentralized financial models such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and meme-coins such as Dodge. However, if we really consider the underlying features of the technology, the cases of its potential use go far beyond crypto.
With regard to traditional databases, all parties should rely on the owner of the database to ensure its security, anonymity and integrity. Third-party trust is especially important today in the context of smart cities, recommendation engines and peer-to-peer networks. In 2030 DLTs will lack central authority – all participants in the content will be equal contributors, auditors and observers. You will have access to read, write, and delete your personal records and who you want to share them with in the Smart City ecosystem. After all, a smart city based on DLT is a democracy of technology, where we all share ownership of our communities with the leaders and services on which we rely.
So, what is stopping us?
Like other twenty-first century projects, the successful implementation of “smart cities” balances people, processes and technology. We’re usually good at that last. However, we are still a long way from fully integrating the techniques described above with each of our communities. We need to consider accessibility as important as utility and acknowledge that these smart city investments can be just as important as access to education and access to fresh water and sanitation for an equal and just society. At this point, we should also think about maintaining this digital infrastructure as we build our roads and bridges. As recent history shows, construction is one thing, but maintenance is another.
Brian Gilmore is the Director of IoT Product Management at InfluxData, the creator of InfluxDB. Over the last decade of his career, he has focused on working with organizations around the world to drive the integration of industrial and enterprise IoT with machine learning, cloud and other truly transformative technology trends.
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