The home of the future will be bedecked with smart sensors that send their data to the cloud so you can manage the house from afar—yes, this is a story we've heard before. But now Microsoft has joined a plan to build a smart city jammed with exactly these smart homes in Portugal.
Living PlanIT, which calls itself "one of the world's leading smart city and urban development technology providers" has been working on a plan for a smart city in northern Portugal for quite a while—currently a 2013 unveiling looks likely. And its plans have been given a huge boost this week with news that Microsoft has signed up, bringing all sorts of MS tech to the table. This technology includes the Connected Government Framework and the Azure platform (more on this soon). Microsoft's former General Manager of Market Development and co-chair of its Business Development Forum is now CEO of PlanIt—which may have helped MS's decision to leap on board alongside other tech partners like Cisco.
But what exactly will the resulting urban environment be like? The houses and infrastructure of the city will be dotted with sensors and computer technology that hooks up pretty much everyone to everything, and which will be integrated into the design right from the planning stage. For example, MS's CGF will let citizens dial up to centrally administered facilities "via the cloud so they can manage their everyday life events and data." PlanIt suggests the system, which seems like a new layer of monitoring and comms infrastructure (like a city-wide OS), will "provide a rich framework for the incorporation of partner technologies" and "help improve the quality of life for citizens and industry while preserving the environment and natural resources."
Sounds pretty good. Basically the smart homes will have environmental sensors that feed data to the central management systems so that events like heating and power management can be handled more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way. This could go down to the detailed level of monitoring building occupancy, and apparently the city itself will be built along the same engineering principles as cars and aircraft. The resulting urban zone will probably be a 21st century approximation of the integrated, digital, smart cities that tend to pop up in certain kinds of future-looking science fiction, although we may expect more conventional building designs and less "big brother" behavior. That's because Portugal, where the first of these €10 billion cities will be built, is still a very traditional country that's in the process of rebuilding after a revolution in 1974—although the nation does have impressively high Internet penetration, even by high European standards.
To imagine what the dwellings may be like inside, we can revisit some of Microsoft's own research in this area—it's been examining the design and utility of smarthomes for quite some time. The company's "Vision for 2019" is interesting, born of futurist thinking. And though it concentrates on portable technology, it does highlight how people may work and live in a highly digitally connected city.
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