The deployment of technologies in rural areas will change the mentality of their residents.
All their lives, people pursue happiness, security and a safer and simpler life. One way this tendency manifests itself is by living in communities with more accessible sources of energy, means and food, providing a more secure and easier existence. People’s lives today are profoundly impacted by the development and use of technologies. We are on the threshold of an era when the individual’s need for self-reali-sation and education is growing stronger than ever before.
In times when we have sufficient resources – especially electricity and food – more than ever before we strive to maintain these standards, to improve the quality of the environment and to raise the quality of life of people in society. In recent years, certain trends have started to resonate across so-ciety and the economy – in public life we refer to them as smart cities, while in the field of resource production and manufacturing, we call it Industry 4.0. These trends have a common denominator. It is sustainable consumption, in particular the engagement of people’s minds in order to keep society in a consumer cycle and increase people’s need for a simpler life.
In consequence, the demand for resource consumption and the social, transport, economic and information infrastructure increases dramatically. Resources are nowadays centralised and therefore limited in their availabili-ty. We can feel this scarcity of resources when our living conditions deterio-rate – for instance, when the climate or the environment changes, but also when the security situation and political peace is compromised in a society.
Resources are exhaustible, but at the same time we find that – thanks to in-formation technologies – we can use them much more efficiently. Between the 1950s and 1980s, we built technologies based on the local measuring of energy production management and global energy consumption. In order to maintain production and consumption, the transfer of energy and data, together with traffic mobility, were of key importance. Just as we see sitting in a means of transport as the biggest waste of time when we are going some-where, in power engineering every megawatt transmitted by means of cables or pipelines from the generating site to the point of consumption is seen as a similar waste. Thanks to information technologies, which are connected to global synergistic information infrastructures, a fundamental change in people’s mindsets and lifestyles is about to occur in the near future.
We know that mankind started to rapidly advance once societies learnt to write. This enabled them to share and store their wisdom and experiences more efficiently. Thanks to this, humans became the most adaptable living beings, despite their high vulnerability. A similar breakthrough will come once we start using digital technologies globally to collect billions of different status data and employ powerful computer tools for quicker adaptability and prediction of life situations. We can implement this data – for exam-ple about market behaviour – in our production decision-making, which will eventually lead us to another industrial revolution and cause a shift in our values. If we can use technologies in a smart way so that we are able to adapt to environmental changes, we could remain on this planet for thou-sands of years despite the ever-increasing demands we place on natural resources, water, air and an educated population.
I have outlined the role that a smart city, locality, district, region, state and country should occupy. Ideally, a smart city consists of educated people and smart, automated technologies that use energy, information and technical means with the primary goal of simplifying people’s lives in cities and rural regions. A smart infrastructure requires locally diversified resources, and its basic driving force is its openness and interoperability.
Smart cities are not seen anymore as the centralised deployment of tools to measure and manage various technologies, or as closed systems with no room for feedback, but mainly as platforms using global information technologies that communicate with local and closed systems, connect them, analytically process information for a more synergistic energy use, minimise waste, simplify the making of right decisions and therefore make the community’s life easier.
Cities that are able to react to these needs smartly, with a ready basic infrastructure and a range of meaningful services for citizens, will be more sought after than those which remain unprepared.
All the fundamental changes in people’s decision-making have come gradu-ally, and in a similar way smart cities will also be built progressively, depend-ing on people’s awareness of their need for a higher quality life. Cities will only be as smart and civilised as their residents, and much will depend on people’s readiness to embrace technologies in order to improve themselves. In a Slovak context, it is not that important to focus on the introduction of smart technologies in cities. Slovakia is a rural country which still lacks a well-developed road infrastructure. Basically, the country does not even need it to the extent we currently think it does. What’s important is to simplify people’s lives in rural regions. Just as 70 years ago the introduction of electricity into the regions was a major driving force behind Slovakia’s industrialisation, the extensive roll-out of high-speed data networks in rural villages and valleys today will be similarly transformative. Slovak citizens will thus gain access to unlimited amounts of information and work opportu-nities without having to commute to their sources, which will substantially reduce demands on labour mobility.
In the years to come, by introducing Industry 4.0 principles, the industry’s need for a human labour force will gradually diminish, allowing people to fulfil their creative potential in culture, arts, progress, education and services, most of which will happen in virtual reality, easily accessible in every moun-tain village. At this point, there will be a change in the long-term tendency of people to move to cities, and a new tendency to seek opportunities in the regions will arise. Rural regions would become attractive again, acquiring a livelier culture and society and offering healthier lifestyle options. Cities will thus have to address environmental issues, reduce traffic emissions and increase the diversification of natural resources.
Where education is concerned, emphasis will not be placed on people stud-ying in the same building, but rather that they share the same information channel. The same would apply for culture, arts, but also manufacturing. These trends are already being realised. Just as we do not have to go to a store to do our shopping now and can buy products and hire services on-line more objectively, we will approach other services in a similar way. In the future, transporting goods will be more important than transporting people. Every city will provide easily accessible healthcare and high levels of person-al and data security, while ensuring a high-quality environment and energy sources. The sooner we realise these irreversible trends that have already started to resonate across societies, the sooner we will feel the need to use data technologies and resources in a synergistic way to support the con-struction and reconstruction of cities run by open, transparent autonomous governments, where every citizen will strive to live in a peaceful, healthy, waste-free, safe and content way. They will want to live their lives and raise their children in such a community. These are some of the goals smart cities are and should be pursuing, which will then materialise in various forms in various towns, cities, regions and countries.
Just as in the 1930s when the use of electric light provoked a shift in social mores and spurred economic progress, smart city infrastructures can now similarly revolutionise education, services, access to resources, data and energy. A hundred years ago people were seeking out illuminated streets where it felt safer at night – today, they seek the internet and virtual services for similar reasons. Cities that are able to react to these needs smartly, with a ready basic infrastructure and a range of meaningful services for citizens, will be more sought after than those which remain unprepared.
Smart cities will form an ecosystem that, based on the collected data, will be able to take care of regulation, air quality maintenance, traffic efficiency, security, and that can ensure a healthy and cultured environment. This, however, will only be possible if we do not make mistakes today when tak-ing important decisions regarding the construction of modern cities and rural regions. First, we must focus more on educating public officials, as they are the ones responsible for running our cities, towns and regions. Secondly, ru-ral regions must recognise the needs of their residents. The third fundamen-tal step is the building of a secure data and a diversified energy infrastruc-ture. None of these steps can be sped up on their own. The construction and deployment of such an infrastructure goes hand in hand with how educated citizens are, and how responsibly and professionally the local government is willing to react to their needs. Cities and rural regions will thus gain new value for people. They will be more than just places to survive and work in; they will provide them with a healthier, happier and safer existence.
Author: Eduard Kačík, Lightech