Things connected to the internet have far exceeded the number of people connecting to the world wide web, and this number will continue to grow.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the rollout of web and mobile based services that promise better service delivery and experiences from e-government, m-commerce, mobile payments to content and day to day tools, all riding on the new wave of connectivity.
As we continue to enjoy the benefits that this connectivity brings and grapple with the challenges it also presents, we need to continually think about the future. Currently we are working to ensure people are connected, and this has resulted in better communication which is essential for both business and societal growth. We now need to think about connecting things in ways that will allow us to better leverage real-time data to further improve our quality of life. What best captures the possibilities here is the recent release of UrbanOS, an operating system that is being positioned for use to run cities. In the same way that your computer needs Windows, Linux or OS X and your mobile phone uses Android or Symbian at its core to run services and manage peripheral devices, UrbanOS could be used to mange entire countries. Using a number of data collection mechanisms from sensors, to cameras and perhaps even cellular data, the OS would monitor systems and keep them working; adjusting where necessary, say for example figuring out the best route for an ambulance to use when responding to a distress call, or automatically diverting traffic from the scene of an accident. As an operating system, innovative third party applications could be built on top of the data collected to offer additional niche services.
Already smart devices have been used to monitor elderly patients who opt to stay home as opposed to sterile hospital rooms. Sensors around the house give crucial feedback to caregivers who can respond quickly should an anomaly in room temperature for example be detected.
While we still have a long way to go, with inconsistent power, poor urban planning and less than optimal supporting infrastructure, we must at least begin to think, research and experiment on the possibilities and paint our own unique picture of what our implementation of smart cities and towns would be. The benefits of a well thought-out UrbanOS would be numerous, from energy saving resulting in lower power bills, better time management due to efficient services, better emergency response mechanisms to better management of public parking spaces which has been a consistent thorn in the flesh.
Konza would be my best bet for testing our own version of UrbanOS, so that it goes beyond being a well connected city for techies to play. With large communities around various open source platforms , a vibrant developer pool, varsities that are keen take education to the next level and a government eager showcase Kenya as tech destination, let us dream, let us create.