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The internet of things, city-sized

Elizabeth Halweg at Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin alerted us to a fascinating, forward-looking webinar provided by Cisco on “Smart Connected Communities.” This 90-minute webinar, intended for Cisco Academies and led by Cisco executive Jared Danaraj, explores how the networked “internet of things” concept can be applied to entire communities. That is, the internet-of-things concept that controls your home thermostat might one day control your home town’s street lights.



Danaraj begins the webinar with a snapshot of the urban world, suggesting that if the 20th century was the century of nation-states, then the 21st century will be the century of cities.

Consider this:

  • 3% of the world’s population lived in cities in 1800. By 2040, that percentage will top 65%.
  • There are 21 “megacities” in the world with populations of more than 10 million. By contrast, up until 1975, there were only three (New York City, Tokyo, and Mexico City).
  •  Tokyo is the biggest megacity today with a population of more than 36 million.
  • Even going down a level, there are more than 500 cities worldwide with population of more than a million. In 1950, there were only 83. There will be more than 200 in China alone by 2025.

More and more people live in more and more (and bigger and bigger) cities. And the inefficiencies of those cities are starting to compound.

Cities traditionally operate with compartmentalized silos. Different departments handle traffic, public safety, parking, and waste management, among others. These units may or may not work together. Danaraj offers that this fragmented approach is wasteful. He proposes a Cisco solution: provide a “digital overlay” that converges these many department silos and allows them communicate and coordinate with one another.

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