Cisco CEO John Chambers is "healthily paranoid," he told the BBC today. Maybe that's why he's planning to spread sci-fi, panopticon-esque vigilance across entire cities and even ecosystems, in a collaboration with NASA with the portentous name of Planetary Skin.
"In a nutshell, Planetary Skin is a massive global-monitoring system of environmental conditions that will enable effective decision making in the private and public sectors and in communities, with data that is collected from myriad sources including space, airborne, maritime, terrestrial and people-based sensor networks, analyzed, verified and reported over an open standards based Web 2.0 and 3.0 collaborative spaces for decision makers."
Translation: Electric eyes counting traffic on roads. RFID tags tracing apples from field to market. Satellites in space tracking ice sheets and tidal flows. All of it connected through wireless networks, monitored, measured and managed with the same kind of software that a Wal-Mart would use to provide just-in-time delivery of its products from China.
This is heady stuff; fitting that it would be piloted in the city of San Francisco, launching this Earth Day. EcoMap, a localized, urban version of Planetary Skin, will connect sensors over existing wireless networks that measure what areas of the city contribute most to global warming. Citizens can go online and share their plans for reducing individual carbon impacts.