Artificial intelligence and the ways we as humanity can profit from it are sometimes a bit hard to grasp – especially if you’re not part of the tech industry. But it’s exactly there, outside the high-tech-bubble, where the effects are already most noticeable. And over the course of the next couple of weeks (or months – we’ll see) I’d like to shed some light on these areas, one after the other. First up: Our Cities!
For years and centuries now, more and more people are migrating to their nearest city in search of jobs and other benefits they can offer. In fact – as the United Nations report – the number of people living in cities already swelled to half the globes population by 2016. But the constant growth of course puts quite some pressure on the cities governments, as they must do more than just providing more and more homes for everyone. The solution: they are leveraging modern technology in order to get smarter and make better use of their scarce resources.
Many of those projects are rather simple, like in the British city of Calderdale between Manchester and Leeds, where a new online chat system allows citizens to get in contact with city representatives 24/7 and without leaving their homes. Other projects however are already upping the ante a bit. Buenos Aires for example, a city often threatened by flooding due to their geographical situation, has just recently installed a sophisticated network of sensors in their underground flood drainage system. This did not only enable them to better warn their citizens of a potential flooding, but also provided important insights on where and how the drainage system had to be altered in order to avoid flooded streets altogether.
And then, there’s the champions league of smart cities. Those who are using AI. The possibly most spectacular example here is probably the Chinese city of Hangzhou and its “City Brain” Project. In a living and pulsating city with over 9 million people, an elaborate AI system got access to pretty much all the data available: water supply, traffic congestion, even the peoples social media activity, purchases and movements. Then, after some time of learning, it started taking decisions. The result? Traffic congestion, road accidents, and crime are all down.
Admittedly, giving an AI access to our very personal data might be a bit to intrusive for western taste and the system therefore not necessarily the most sought-after option for Cities in Europe or America, but its an interesting use case for sure. And to some degree a certain example of things to come. Here are four areas, which will, in the very near future, be changed in our cities using AI solutions:
Self-Driving vehicles will be widely adopted – not only for our cars, but also for delivery trucks or drones. Additionally, the concept of “self-driving cars as a service” and the fact that they will be able to share information about traffic and parking space situations in real time, will allow for completely new opportunities in terms of parking and traffic flow efficiency.
Learning will become much smarter. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) will interact with intelligent tutors and other AI technologies to allow personalized education at scale. Of course, that doesn’t mean that classrooms will be replaced by computer-based learning but enhanced by it. As AI-enabled systems will learn individuals’ preferences and provide further insight into their progress, education research will be able to come up with new tools and techniques – probably also making use of Virtual Reality.
3. Low-Resource Communities
Not only could AI help distribute excess food from restaurants to food banks and shelters before it spoils, it could also let government agencies better allocate limited resources by helping them forecast environmental hazards or building code violations. Additionally, they could help weed out discrimination as they would not only be much easier to hold accountable than humans, but probably also be more objective.
4. Public Safety and Security
AI-systems in smart cities will be able to detect and even predict crime. Based on the analyzed material from CCTV and drone footage, anomalous behavior can rapidly be spotted. Law enforcers would be able to react or intervene much earlier.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how AI already has or soon will change our everyday-lives. Other areas, like employment and workplaces, entertainment, healthcare and our homes will also face drastic changes. Not to mention the business sector, where AI solutions are already capable to provide massive improvements in a company’s efficiency and unlock new business intelligence.