Cities are alive. They are para-living organisms. Living organisms require cells to protect them. These cells are active defenders of the system and help to keep order. Cities have cells. These cells are the emergency services.
By looking at cities in the light of a living organism we can improve a cities cells. Unlike with humans where it is not possible to improve cells we can improve the way a city lives, to help it breath. We can biochemically change the way a city is alive.
Social media is a large part of our lives. Before people call 999 they pull out their phones and SnapChat something, Tweet it or message someone about it. Humans are social animals by nature and you can try to change this feature all you want or you can use it to your advantage.
Imagine a city which monitors the public social feeds of everyone in that city. The social feeds are the nervous system of the city. If a fire happens and it’s reported on social media you can send a drone to the place where the fire is happening to inspect it, monitor the fire with the miriad of CCTV. What if the drone was actuall a fire engine, or we had autonomous fire engines that drove to the location? Well, nothing can beat the people.
If there is someone trapped inside it is a fire persons job to locate and rescue them. But it’s costly to have fire stations everywhere. Imagine if we could have autonomous emergency services such as fire engines that can reach the scene before the actual fire brigade do, to save the scene.
With the social media feeds as the nervous system we get a sense of how the city is feeling. The sentiment of the city itself, as a city. If the city is sad the city can react to it.
If there is a lot of traffic on this motorway then the city can redirect the traffic. Humans by nature are ever changing, why live in a city that never changes?
You can use machine learning with data sets of fires caused to predict where the next fires will be, you can take precautions to prevent fires before they happen. You can do the same with crime. If an area has more crime than another area then deploy some drones to keep watch as CCTV.
The city can see what car parks are full and what carparks are not. It can redirect people to non full carparks. The city can see what roads are the bussiest or carparks are the most popular and deploys builders to improve these services.
By monitoring the way the city is interacted with the city can improve itself. A desire path is a path created by people because the original path sucked for whatever reason. Take this image:
The normal path is to go down the stairs, walk and then go up the stairs. But you can see people would rather just walk around them completely. A city can monitor where people travel to and create desire paths to improve the efficieny of the city.
In the startup world you’re often told to fail fast. Get the product out there, receive feedback and iterate. Previously with cities you had years and years of planning and they still get some things wrong. What if we were to fail fast with cities? Citizens seem to walk this path a lot even though this isn’t an offical path? Cool, let’s build a path there.