In our previous post, we discussed that, although we don’t exactly know what a cognitive city will look like, we do, however, have a general idea of how it would behave: a cognitive city will be more resilient, adaptable, and efficient than both smart and safe cities, and would not only improve security, safety, and city operations but also to more generally improve the lives of the city’s residents.
In today’s post, we’re going to explain how the focus beyond the technology itself is key for cities to transition from being smart to becoming cognitive.

Smart cities continue to confront old challenges

One of the reasons why a firmer concept of cognitive cities remains so elusive is because the idea of smart cities hasn’t been fully realized. In the opening installment of our recent three-post series on the transition of smart cities to cognitive ones, we hinted at one of the reasons why:
“There is one major caveat to smart city solutions: the data tends to flow in one direction from what are ultimately surveillance devices to government officials… leading to tensions between personal privacy and government goals of safety and higher efficiency”.
This tension is not the only root of a lot of the pushback and criticism of smart city initiatives, including very tech-savvy media outlets.
times square
Here are two others:
Does social-media driven transition to cognitive cities serve ALL citizens? Even with wireless broadband connectivity becoming cheaper and faster, and sensor and processing technologies getting more affordable, it is likely to be limited to certain parts of the population, for at least some time. Consider this article from Wired which describes an ambitious smart city project, backed by Google, in Toronto as likely to only serve technologically-capable millennials, and ignore the other citizens such as the elderly, the disabled, and the poor.
Data doesn’t analyze itself: Another reason why smart cities have yet to widely appear is the fact that people with real data science, statistical, and programming skills are required for a city’s data to work for its people. Again, a very non-technical roadblock arises, as a recent article from the same publication points out, which is the challenge of hiring knowledgeable people who can actually “separate the data wheat from the data chaff”.
Cities trying to mature from safe to truly smart will encounter these and other constraining realities, but it’s just as important to remember that even cities which will have become cognitive will also encounter these same realities.

Moving from safe city to smart
Maturity from safe to smart is complex

How cognitive cities tackle complex challenges

The advantage of a cognitive city lies in the fact that data collection won’t be limited to electronic sensors, information sharing will occur over more than just copper wires or strands of glass fiber, and decision making will be distributed over residents, civic groups, elected officials, and other stakeholders.
All of a city’s fluid, often competing, and overlapping constituencies and systems must sense, adapt, learn, and remember together. This is a key insight from our previous post: collective and individual responses to change and challenges become ingrained habits, a key mechanism behind memory formation in a cognitive city. Those habits – namely citizens’ interaction with ICT systems and each other – can become the means by which the next challenge is met.
Objective data can provide a lot of insight into the practical ramifications of any decision a city makes. Data combined with advanced predictive analytics can help us more intelligently allocate limited resources. Big data, cloud, social, IoT, and machine learning can help make a city smart, but much more is needed to make it wise.

So where are we currently, in terms of cognitive cities moving from a conceptual stage to becoming a reality?

The technologies for enabling this transition are already here. However, the maturity of a cognitive city depends on a lot more than employing the latest tech or popular platform to improve safety, city operations, and the general well-being of the city. More time and patience are needed. They are needed for such technologies to become available and used by more sectors of society. They are needed in order for community values to be taken into account when considering how and to what extent a city should make use of the technologies for a safer and smoother city life for all.
The technologies and practices to move the cognitive city from the conceptual stage to an actual being are progressing, as are the social processes described in this article. We are sure to keep a watchful eye and share our insights.

How Suspect Search helps reduce search time from hours to minutes

All over the world, safe city initiatives are popping up. Today’s abundance of captured data, connectivity, analytics, and computing power have made the once futuristic concept of a smart city an increasingly common reality. But perhaps it is the smart safe city that has been its biggest enabler as it has allowed us to apply, test and prove the basic principles of the concept.
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, a safe city is a core element of a smart city. There is no more fundamental and important public issue than security and safety. And it is with this understanding that India has approached its increasing global domination in this arena.
In June 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nation’s “100 Smart Cities Mission”. India’s government has approved a total of 15 billion US dollars towards the effort, which includes the development 100 smart cities. The initiative is true to the principals of a smart city, as funds are distributed by a competition-based method, wherein citizens are integral in the planning and interpretation of ‘smartness’.

Nanded City India

An excellent example of this is from Nanded City, in the Maharashtra state. The city’s leadership determined that in order to monitor the entire city, as they wanted, they would need an innovative approach. And thus, the C-Cube project was conceived. The integrated command, control and communication center, is powered by Qognify’s Safe City solution that includes Situator, (PSIM/Situation Management solution), Video Management and Analytics.
It’s the innovative use of technology has made Nanded a benchmark smart city in India. With 24/7 monitoring of the city, situation and disaster management, predictive and prescriptive guidance, the city has experienced a significant improvement in safety, security, and operations.

Kohlapur India

In Kohlapur, another city in India, the need was more specific. A heavy influx of religious tourism created increasing safety and security issues. The city sought to mitigate the risk of that is associated with these types of spikes in the population. Through the use of Qognify’s Video Management and Video Analytics, law enforcement and city management have been able to monitor, manage and prevent unfolding events.
Control Room at Kolhapur India
The Control Room at Kolhapur

Navi Mumbai India

While Kohlapur is an ancient city, Navi Mumbai is a new planned township, designed to handle the population overflow from Mumbai. Without any limiting restrictions posed by existing infrastructure, city planners and leaders were able to design a ground-up smart safe city solution with Qognify technology.
The solution monitors all the critical points within the city such as public transportation, schools, heavily traveled traffic junctions, city entrances and exits, open-air markets, and utility infrastructure and more. Additionally, by integrating third-party systems and sensors, the city has a complete operational view of everything that is taking place or potentially unfolding.

Smart and Safe Cities around the world

While India has embraced the smart and safe city concept as a nation, cities all over the world are doing tremendously innovative initiatives of their own. San Francisco named the Greenest City in the U.S. in 2011, declared a goal of achieving zero waste by 2020 and carbon-free by 2030. They intend to meet those objectives through a range of smart initiatives that include things like making building operations more efficient, reducing energy use, streamlining waste management systems, and improving transportation systems.
Chicago has declared it wants to become ‘the most data-driven government in the world’. One of the initiatives they’re using to get there is called the Array of Things or AoT project. Mounted on traffic signal poles will be sensors that will measure everything from temperature and carbon monoxide to ambient sound intensity and pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The collection of all of this data will be used to improve quality of life in a variety of different ways – making Chicago healthier and more livable among other things.
Smart and safe cities are no longer a trend, but future of our urban areas. We’re just discovering the many different applications and forms this may take, but one thing that seems to characterize them all is their intention and purpose.