City 2.0: Using tech building blocks in tomorrow's urban centers

It's closer than you may think and is mostly a matter of connecting all the pieces

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How the cloud ties it all together

It's easy to see how the cloud could contribute to future cities. There might be a central command center for monitoring and adjusting power usage and for providing IT services over WiMax, but the actual IT operation could be "in the cloud" and abstracted from a physical data center.

Yankee Group calls this the Anywhere initiative, which is partly about making mobility in a city infrastructure more flexible, efficient and scalable. In this model, anything can be an end point, including portable gadgets, your vehicle, an office building and your home.

Jeffrey Breen, chief technology officer at the Yankee Group, says that the IP-based, packet-switched cloud model in the enterprise can apply to city infrastructure -- that is, as a vast, interconnected smart grid and social network with widespread and reliable wireless access. Mobile citizens would be a click away from city services.

"One way or another, we will get to the point in cities where anyone who wants high-speed access will get it -- and the city won't have to worry about the details of how," says Breen.

A highly connected city with smart grids, widely available wireless access and a sustainable data center is well within reach. Over the next 20 years, cities in the U.S. and abroad will likely take these and other steps toward the goal, building the infrastructure with a view towards better connectivity and better living.

John Brandon is a veteran of the computing industry, having worked as an IT manager for ten years and a tech journalist for another ten. He has written over 2,000 feature articles. He is a regular contributor to Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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