Smart cities / Cisco’s smart pipes plus Teradata’s scary-smart tech

Cisco’s smart plumbing will feed Teradata’s brains, says last week’s announcement. That sounds like a no-brainer except for what Teradata only hints at.

Start with this: Take Teradata’s new Customer Journey and skew the technology away from large commercial organizations and point it toward cities.

That extra-smart beast wouldn’t just swallow Cisco’s data and feed it back into pretty dashboards. It would ingest any data anyone could possibly feed it and, with machine-like intimacy, take care of anyone who opts in, person by person, moment by moment. Each individual’s likes, dislikes, cravings, emergencies, plans, and tribes might all be sensed and considered from the vast and disparate range of data. It would guide, suggest, nudge, and remind individuals in real time, not sorta real time, with texts, emails, or calls. But only for those who opt-in, I assume.

But opt in to exactly what? It’s still early, and for now I doubt if even the real dreamers among us can see the full possibilities. To glimpse where it could go in smart cities, consider what Customer Journey does in the commercial world. A bank, for example, sees a customer spend an hour on the mortgage calculator and then drop it. It may ask why. It offers help. It might offer calibrated incentives. Or imagine a telco that knows what each customer wants who calls the call center even before rep says hello. The beast watches, knows, predicts, and prompts.

It’s not just the dreamers whose imaginations work on this, it’s those with nightmares, too. I’ve worked with some. These ever-vigilant citizen activists in every city will speak articulately in forums that matter. I know this class, having lived among them and having edited media published by environmental organizations they helped lead.

Here, they at least will have legitimate questions. Who will ensure that the the beast behaves? How can anyone be sanguine, especially with today’s threat to American democratic norms coming from the White House? What’s the cost to our culture of supplanting traditional methods with this stuff?

It’s a reason to use all public means to manage the technology, which won’t be stopped. After all, it’s just technology — no different from oil, electricity, or computer networking. Applied with transparency, the beast can can provide a catalyst for collaboration with which cities thrive.