MrSeb writes: "When we think of computer networks, we think of routers and servers and fiber optic cables and laptops and smartphones — we think of the internet. In actuality, though, the visible internet is just the tip of the iceberg. There are secret military networks, and ad hoc wireless networks, and utility companies have sprawling, cellular networks the track everything from the health of oil pipelines and uranium enrichment machines through to the remaining capacity of septic tanks — and much, much more. What if we connected all of these networks to the internet, to form an internet of things? What if we then put a massive computer at the middle of this internet of things and used this wealth of data to power smart cars, smart homes, smart supermarkets, and smart cities? Unsurprisnigly, IBM and Cisco are already working on such smart cities. For nearly two years, Rio de Janeiro’s utilities, traffic systems, and emergency services has been managed by a single “Ops Center,” a huge hub of technologies provided by both IBM and Cisco. With 300 LCD screens spread across 100 rooms, connected via 30,000 meters of fiber optic cable, Ops Center staff monitor live video from 450 cameras and three helicopters, and track the location of 10,000 buses and ambulances via GPS. Other screens output the current weather, and simulations of tomorrow’s weather up to 150 miles from the city — and yet more screens display heatmaps of disease outbreaks, and the probability of natural disasters like landslides. There’s even a Crisis Room, which links the Ops Center to Rio’s mayor and Civil Defense departments via a Cisco telepresence suite. This sounds awesome — but is it really a good idea to give a computer company (IBM is not an urban planner!) so much control over one of the world's biggest cities? What if the machine stops?"
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