Smart People: Page 4 of 24

Mon, 2015-10-26 13:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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A day in your new urban life: How smart cities lead to happier citizens


How Smart Cities Lead to happier citizens

It's Monday morning, a rare day off for Josie. But when the alarm on her smart wristphone chirps, she doesn't reach for the snooze button. "Too much to do today," she reminds herself. Peeking around her bedroom's solar curtain, she's pleased to see the sun shining brightly.

"Perfect," she decides. "I can bike over to the mall, drop off the bike and pick up a car when I'm done."

Josie doesn't actually own a bike or a car; living in a city with abundant share programs means she doesn't have to. And since the café she runs is only 10 blocks from her condo, she typically walks to work – or if the weather is really lousy hops on a bus. She's proud that her city has a smart transportation system that uses advanced technologies to streamline traffic flow – and that it works.

Wandering into the kitchen, Josie pours herself a cup of coffee that started brewing when her alarm went off. Between her smart wristphone and her smart thermostat, pretty much every creature comfort in her condo is automated. She told the system her preferences, of course, but from then on it took care of the details. If it notices her overriding the original settings, it quickly adapts to her new wishes. Her shower is programmed to run at the same temperature every day and her refrigerator sends an alert to her phone when she's running low on items she typically has on hand. She just brings up the list when she's at the grocery store.

She knows she'll miss her condo when she and Miguel move into the loft they found. But the condo is on the small side for two people. Though the loft is small too, it has transformable spaces thanks to "robot walls" that can be moved to create different spaces for different needs. Josie is especially happy with the new TeleWall. The high-definition big-screen will let Miguel telecommute much of the time and she plans to use it for the online courses she's taking.

After a quick trip to the roof to check on the garden she shares with the building's other tenants, she grabs her backpack and looks at a phone app to see the closest available bike-share. Turns out, there is one just around the corner. But if Josie had been running late or faced with rainy weather, she had only to enter her destination into her city transit app to get a route plan optimized for her preferences.

Jumping on her bike, she picks her destination from her favorites list and transfers her phone display to an overlay in her glasses. She instantly sees an alert from the city's traffic system warning of a downtown parade that threatens to jam up her usual route. She picks an alternate route calculated by the system and follows the directions as they appear in her glasses.

The purpose of her trip to the mall is to find something to wear to a party. But as she walks past the virtual city hall that occupies a small storefront near the mall entrance, she realizes she can take care of another item on her to-do list.

"This is pretty sweet," she says as she sits down in a private "closet" equipped with high-definition video equipment that allows her to interact with a remote city agent. She tells him she needs a permit for a street fair her cafe is going to participate in but doesn't know what it's called. The agent quickly finds the form she needs, transmits it to the touchscreen in front of her and Josie is able to fill it out and send it back within minutes. Before she leaves the agent mentions a new waste management system the city is testing at restaurants. It's "pay as you throw" – meaning the less they throw away and the more they recycle the lower their monthly bill. Josie likes the sound of that and signs up on the spot. She asks for daily updates. Since her trash and recycling bins are monitored by smart sensors, the city knows moment by moment how much trash Josie's cafe has accumulated. It can warn her when it looks like she'll exceed the goal she set for herself, while there is still time to improve.

She spends another hour trying on dresses suggested by the store's shopping service, which taps into a history of past purchases that Josie has rated and posted for just this purpose. Then glancing at her wrist, she realizes she has to get moving. She promised to take her grandmother to a medical appointment and doesn't want to be late. As she walks toward the mall exit on floors that harvest energy from her footsteps, she passes a car-share wall display that has embedded smart tags. She waves her wristphone at the wall to find the nearest electric car– and sees there's one fully-charged just two blocks away.

During the medical appointment, Josie is relieved to see the specialist her grandmother is seeing for the first time pull up electronic records that provide a complete view of her medical history. She's heard stories about elderly patients suffering harmful drug interactions because one doctor doesn't know what the other is prescribing.

When she finally gets home that evening, it is dinner time and Josie's hoping a robot will appear with a gourmet meal – but then she sees Miguel waiting for her with a pizza box and figures that's close enough.