Buzz’s Blog: On Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web

May 22 2009   9:33PM GMT

The New Web and the U-City.

Roger King Roger King Profile: Roger King

The Internet of Things, ubiquitous computing, and something amazing.

The goal is for every posting of this blog to be understandable as a standalone posting, and so let’s review a few things quickly.

In previous blog entries, we have looked at the definition of an an advanced web app. And we’ve looked at some specific advanced apps.

And in the last posting of this blob, we looked at the Internet of Things, and how it might interface with advanced Web applications.

As a reminder, the Internet of Things refers to the use of tracking technology such as RFID tags and other wave-based devices. Computers can easily be programmed to coordinate the use of everyday objects and track their movements. RIFID tags, which are cheap and can be mass produced, have been used all over the world to track products and components in factories and warehouses. They are used to catch shoplifters, as well.

In the previous blog posting, we also took a quick look at “ubiquitous computing”, which refers to the spread of computing technology into every aspect of our lives.

Multilevel integration of computerized tasks.

What’s the lesson?

The world of advanced web apps is merging with the worlds of ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things. We see a future emerging where computing is deeply integrated into every facet of life. This includes such things as law enforcement, supply chains, manufacturing processes, retail shopping, and education.

Importantly, with multiple levels of computing working in unison, complex tasks will be performed online, and humans will not have to intercede to keep things going. As an example, from the initiation of a shopping session by a web user, to management of the tiny parts that make up a complex product that has just been ordered, the process of shopping will be automated.

All of this will deliver great power to the lone web user.

But is this future a faraway dream, one that depends on technology that has not yet been developed, or is it being built right now?

New Songdo City: the U-City.

The answer is yes, it’s here.

There’s a new, model city being built in South Korea. Much of it is already in existence. It is called New Songdo City, and it is touted as the “u-city” of the future. The u stands for ubiquitous. There are other ongoing developments and many other planned developments throughout the Middle East and Asia.

The concept of a u-city is disturbing to some people in the west, because of privacy concerns, but it’s probably unavoidable.

Importantly, New Songdo City isn’t an existing, older urban area that is being “computerized”. Lots of existing cities around the world (including the United States) are introducing city-wide wifi, adding dynamically-changeable subway and bus routing, and providing information kiosks for visitors and businesspeople.

But New Songdo City will be a mid-sized city, built from the ground up according to a design paradigm that has as one of its primary goals the smooth introduction of computing wherever it seems useful. This city will be the home of several tens of thousands of people, will employ a few hundred thousand, will have a high tech centralized business district, and will have several cultural facilities. There will be a high tech hospital and a golf course.

And computing technology will be everywhere, visibly and invisibly.

For example, a single, integrated smart card, armed with an embedded microprocessor, will get residents, visitors, and workers rides on the subway, time on parking meters, and access to movie theatres. A smart card will even get the free loan of a city bicycle.

In New Songdo City, there will be an Internet of Things that serves every citizen. It’s not clear exactly what will exist when the city is complete (perhaps in a few years), but one often-repeated promise from the New Songdo developers is the use of RFID technology that will credit people every time they toss a bottle into a public recycling bin.

The U-City as a laboratory.

The potential uses of RFID technology are almost endless, and in fact, New Songdo, with its ubiquitous computing infrastructure, will actually serve as a giant Internet of Things experimental platform. People, city services, and countless RFID tagged objects will be part of the real world laboratory.

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