27 June 2012 by Dickon Ross
'Smart' technology is the stuff of science fiction. And from Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it's funny when it goes wrong. People seem to enjoy seeing machines, as well as men, that are too clever by half get their comeuppance.
All this smart stuff is now real - or at least realisable. The Hitchhiker's guide is just like a stripped down smartphone. The world, it seems, is going smart.
What would a smart city of the future look like? To start with it would be full of smart buildings. Automatic doors and lighting are not really smart. Wouldn't buildings that could watch where people tend to congregate when and adjust ventilation, lighting, cooling or heating be more useful? Or can only people themselves know when they feel too hot or cold?
Just outside the smart city, smart factories could be the fourth industrial revolution. And smart farms are moving beyond smart milking to looking after the health of the herd.
The smart city residents will live in smart homes. Smart meters are ready to roll but how are utility companies going to persuade the public to accept them into their homes? Sean Davies hears some smart ideas.
Abi Grogan finds out what's next in smart appliances. Smart refrigerators, for example, will become 'food management systems', which tell us what we should be eating, when and how to cook it.
Home networks, music in every room and video streamed to anywhere you like were only for posh pads not so long ago. The smart, networked, wired for entertainment home has long been possible and people liked the idea they could listen to their music or watch their films elsewhere in the house than the living room. A few years ago the debate was about whether the personal computer or the television would form the heart of this multi-room entertainment. Kris Sangani finds the TV is winning in smart home technology and how Steve Jobs had one last trick up his sleeve.
People will get to work on smart transport. They may drive a smart car. Safety features like help with parking, changing lanes, smart braking and avoiding crashes are becoming standard. Consumers now want cars smart enough to do the things they do on a mobile in their cars: calling and sending messages, social networking and even shopping - as long as it is safe to do so, of course. Buttons and indicators are being replaced by motion recognition, touch, speech commands and alerts, voice biometrics and handwriting recognition. And many drivers say they would now buy cars that drive themselves. Just as well with all those in-car distractions.
For all this smart technology, are the city's residents smarter people? We might be already if we were using the powerful computers in our pockets to make perfectly informed decisions but it seems we use them to play Angry Birds and Facebook instead. Is smart technology making people smarter or dumber?
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
Edited: 03 July 2012 at 12:24 PM by Editor's letter Moderator
Posted By: Dickon Ross @ 27 June 2012 05:34 PM Introducing an issue of E&T
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