23. Internet of Things – A Connected Future

In December 2015, the UK Government announced Greater Manchester had won a £10 million technology competition to become a world leader in ‘smart city’ technology (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/manchester-wins-10m-prize-to-become-world-leader-in-smart-city-technology). The project, known as CityVerve, aims to test better services using Internet of Things technology – of which Manchester Metropolitan is a partner. Examples given in the bid include talkative bus stops, letting bus operators known when commuters are waiting, and sensors in parks and along commuter routes that would encourage more physical exercise.


This all sounds very promising, and occasionally, when you think of how your living space will change as technology evolves, visions of a Blade Runner type city spring to mind (Episode 2 – Blade Runner). But what exactly is Internet of Things?


Imagine a world where every piece of technology around you communicates with each other. Where your car is hooked up to live traffic info and your phone is able to switch on the heating in your house before you arrive home. These concepts are not too far away from a reality (with these examples already possible). As Internet of Things becomes further developed and integrated, as each piece of wearable tech, each vehicle you travel in, each building you visit and each lamppost you walk under are able to talk simultaneously to each other, experts suggest we will become more efficient with time, more accurate with resources and economically better off. As integration of technology continues, are we going to be more physically active with on schedule buses, or will we end up in flying cars surrounded by neon lights?


However, what does all this mean to our cities? Will they evolve with flying highways and robot taxi drivers (hint: probably not)? To help us discuss the future of smart cities, we talk to Professor Tom Jefferies, Head of School of Architecture and part of the CityVerve team. The movie of choice is the 1920’s, silent, German classic, expressionist, epic science fiction drama film Metropolis, describing a future city containing a divided society and a futuristic view of technology.

To find out more about this 10m project into Manchester, visit the CityVerve Website, or listen to the ‘CityCast’ podcast.