Smart Cities: Fertile Ground for World-Changing Innovation

It’s 2016—there’s a good chance you have a smartphone, and you use it for tasks that you’ve come to take for granted. But take a moment and really think about what you can do with your “phone.” You can find directions, engage in social media, and much, much more.

Your phone doesn’t do these things out of the box. It’s all possible through apps, developed by people from all over the world.

Smart cities aren’t so different. We can build the digital infrastructure that collects data, but turning that data into meaningful solutions to the problems that cities face is another animal entirely.

It’s why smart cities need a robust app ecosystem that functions something like the apps available for your smartphone. Where you might need Gmail, Snapchat and Instagram for staying connected at work and in your social life, a smart city needs apps that can lead to traffic and parking solutions, urban planning, crime prevention, trash collection, public safety, transportation, and much more.

No single person or organization can reach this potential by itself. And it’s why in these early, formative stages, Current, powered by GE, has been active in engaging the developer community to help create new possibilities.

Building an App Ecosystem for Smart Cities

Today, we’re in the early stages of what we call Smart Cities 2.0. It’s my view that the ability to take the data offered through digital infrastructure and transform it into meaningful, effective apps today is a skillset comparable to that of HTML coding back in the early to mid-90s. The smart cities market has been estimated at $125 billion globally. The skills that turn smart cities into a reality need to be cultivated, fostered and supported.

Current has hosted several hackathons over the past year, because the developer community is a critical part of driving economic growth and accelerating outcomes for our citizens with smart city technology. It’s how we’re challenging developers around the world to the create solutions—the apps—to help solve problems cities face.

With each hackathon, we offer developers access to GE’s real-world datasets, catalog services on the Predix platform, engineering support, and a ton of additional developer resources. What we’ve seen at these hackathons is always impressive and frequently surprising. Here are just a few of the apps we’ve seen:

·        Marauder mApp: The winning app at our most recent hackathon is a community-based application that recommends a safer route and provides a virtual escort to enhance pedestrian safety.

·        Hearth: Second place at that same hackathon, an intelligent cities platform that connects sensor-enabled street lights and traffic signals to create a real-time, city-scale social network for intelligent traffic management and emergency services offline.

·        Ciklum: The winning app at our first hackathon, Ciklum is a defibrillator app that alerts 911 when in use and guides its user through lifesaving procedures. The app can pinpoint emergencies and deliver a photo or video of the medical scene for situational awareness.

·        Valet: Honorable mention at our first hackathon, it provides virtual parking assistance that guides users to a geographically ideal, available, metered parking spot in crowded cities.

There are far too many to list here, but this sampling gives you the idea of the breadth, depth, and potential for what we can accomplish with the data available via digital infrastructure. These are the ideas that can change the way cities work and function for the better.

Engaging the developer community in such a way is critical. Smart cities don’t become a reality without the work of many people, organizations and ideas. A smart city doesn’t meet its potential without the apps. Just like your smartphone.

Want to learn more? Check out the latest Current, powered by GE webinar to hear why Smart Cities 2.0 strategies are already within reach and how companies experienced at putting real equipment in the real world are changing what’s possible right now.

About the Author

Jim Benson, GM Global Marketing, Intelligent Cities

Jim leads a comprehensive global strategy for Current’s intelligent cities solution which focuses on helping cities build the digital infrastructure they need to build the intelligent city of the future.