Social networks and smarter cities

Today’s Face to Face Friday marked the first repeat topic in Face to Face history. By some form of mis-communication, Maria Rojas and I picked the same topic: IBM’s Smart Cities Series. The article was originally presented on Mashable ( Fortunately, I can’t think of a better way for these presentations to have played out. I discussed the specific implications of smart cities while Maria talked more about the broader concepts associated with the IBM-sponsored smart cities.
The most interesting take-away from Maria’s presentation was that before the Internet and global expansion of the Web, cities were the most massive organization available. They provided a way to combine economics, health care and new development.  Now, we are seeing this trend manifest itself in the form of online social networks that are specific to various geographic locations.

Users can log on to networks such as the Sex Offender Locator, Zilpy and Crime Mapping to find out nearby areas that are unsafe, or places where crime has recently occurred. The concept of safe travel also ties in with the notion of social networks as areas to promote smarter citizens. HopStop, PublicRoutes and Crashstat allow users to view the safest walking and biking routes, as well as gain information about public transportation systems in the town. Swine flu illness-tracking map are also available—as are maps that outline other outbreaks such as the common cold, or a virus.

Aside from keeping the public informed, police and the FBI are using Facebook and MySpace as avenues for crime investigation. Criminals have been tracked down thanks to YouTube postings and blog conversations about specific crime details.

Just as social networks are helping to bring back the original long-standing concept of cities as “real-world” social networks, this trend has also been observed in the marketplace. Traditional markets featured many stands with goods available for purchase. These markets became virtually obsolete with the advent of the industrial revolution. Now, the Internet is helping to make the obscurity of traditional, pre-Internet markets a reality. Users can interact with individuals and even demo products/chat with individuals prior to purchasing that product.


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