5 Reasons Why Governments Should Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Science fiction has long painted artificial intelligence as the destroyer of worlds, the inevitable takeover that will doom the entire species. Although some of the dangers of artificial intelligence are real, if not dramatically overstated, there are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the ongoing collaboration between humans and cutting-edge AI. The upside is particularly apparent as governments begin to use artificial intelligence to untangle the frequently messy knot of bureaucracy, often with limited resources. Here are five reasons why governments should embrace artificial intelligence instead of running from it.

1. Predicting the (short-term) future

For the longer term, artificial intelligence will be able to give us more accurate predictions than humans can calculate manually, although that’s not where we stand to immediately benefit from the predicting capabilities of artificial intelligence. One arm of the U.S. government that is already moving forward quickly in this field is with health monitors for soldiers, which can provide a commander or physician with health updates in real-time. This type of information could be an absolute game-changer for combat and special forces units, allowing an expedited diagnosis and health predictions for wounded soldiers that could be the difference between life and death. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy is also pushing forward with its own usage of artificial intelligence, particularly while trying to maximize the benefits of solar power. Collaborating with IBM, the Department of Energy continues to work on a SunShot Initiative that will utilize artificial intelligence to calculate weather conditions and maximize solar output, with the goal being to dramatically lower the overall cost of solar electricity in the coming decades. Thanks to a wide range of potential applications, being able to predict the short-term could become an invaluable part of a healthy and functioning government.

2. Efficiency

A critique that is habitually thrown at governments in general is a lack of efficiency, as government agencies both small and large regularly have trouble keeping up with the daunting level of information to process. One example of where governments are deeply inefficient is with information call centers, which effectively turn well-trained employees into switchboard operators for basic operations that could easily be handled with artificial intelligence. With the recent advances in communication between humans and bots, as well as growing familiarity among users, a bulk of the volume at call centers could be handled by AI while skilled employees would be able to focus on other priorities that cannot be solved through artificial intelligence at this time. Artificial intelligence can not only improve efficiency and cut backlogs for various government programs, including emergency informational systems, but help ensure that you can talk to the right human for the job, if necessary.

3. Safety and reliability

Call centers are certainly not the only places where governments can rapidly improve current processes either, as electrical and transportation grids continue to bring about escalating challenges that can be eased by the advantages of AI. As transportation automatizes, correctly implementing artificial intelligence is predicted to be absolutely critical in creating a safe and reliable transportation system deep into the 21st century. Although automatizing transportation systems also comes with security concerns that will need to be dealt with, safe travel in a quickly changing world will become a much more realistic possibility if governments can get ahead of the curve on artificial intelligence.

4. A crucial supplement to rapid transformation

With the baby boomer generation beginning to retire and create vacancies, understanding and working with the benefits of intelligent automation could be crucial in filling the fairly large gap in skilled workers that continues to widen. An area where governments can specifically benefit from intelligent automation is with continually changing regulations, which can often leave an agency overwhelmed while attempting to comply. Without a major shift in the infrastructure of an agency, correct use of intelligent automation can sift through large volumes of information and provide an extremely quick analysis of a specific sector, allowing an agency to stay up-to-date with shifting dynamics despite limited resources.

5. Learning from the private sector

An unusual advantage that the public sector has is that it’s actually not on the forefront of AI discovery, as the private sector is already seeing exponential growth in artificial intelligence investments. For governments, this is actually a great development, as public officials can study the pros and cons of private artificial intelligence implementation and come up with a middle and long-term plan that better suits the needs of an agency. While the road to artificial intelligence will certainly contain many pitfalls, governments are in a perfect position to implement technologies only after they are nearing perfection.

The Best 5 Ways to Become a Smarter City

You’re going to see a lot of advice in the media explaining how cities may become smart cities. Well, we thought it helpful to gather 5 ways to become a smarter city. Read on to discover our favorites, the best five tips that you will see all year.

The City of Mississauga has been very active in the smart city movement: Wi-Fi Blanket, Public transit, public outreach, IoT

1. Collaborate with other cities and industries

The Internet of Things (IOT) demands that cities and private industries share information and technology instead of hoarding it. Lessons learned in one locality may well find value in another location. The cities who share information and technology will get ahead in 2017 and the ones who don’t will find themselves stymied and behind the technology 8 ball. The world is on the brink of a new and exciting technological age. Those who do not join the shared movement will do so at their peril.

2. Eliminate silos

On a company level, information sharing must start within. Companies must eliminate silos, departmental sets of data files or databases that do not reside within the company-wide data administration. Silos prevent critical information from dissemination to all departments. So it is with cities. There is a cost detriment to doing projects piece-meal. Such projects may also face dangerous results if crucial information is not passed along to all departments. Multiple departments must have access to the hardware, software, and tools to create multi-purpose platforms. An example is IOT sensors in the streets that “hear” reports of gun play and “see” criminal activity. To enable police and emergency assistance, IOT must share such information with other departments that have the strategic and operational capability to render aid.

3. Migrate to the Cloud

Cloud computing is an overarching theme relevant to developing smart cities. Many cities today see the value in Cloud computing and in buying as-a-service offerings but their legacy procurement policies and regulations often stand in the way. In 2017, cities must find their way to take advantage of their technicians’ desire to migrate to the Cloud if they are to become smart cities. They must begin by addressing the policy and regulatory changes they need to adopt before they can join the 21st century in the Cloud.

4. Machine Learning

No, it’s not something that’s coming only in the future. Machine learning is already here. We have Amazon’s Alexa, the household personal assistant, who can act on our verbal commands to either search the internet for information we need or to run other household devices. We have refrigerators that can tell us what items we need to order. We have smart phones that learn where we like to shop and what movie theaters we visit most. Machine learning moves now toward machine-to-machine learning (M2M). M2M learning describes technology that allows networked devices to exchange information with each other and to perform the required actions using the technology without any interference or assistance from humans. For example, the rise of IOT has put new technology in the hands of cities in the form of high-tech sensors that can collect information and store it. The next step is for the IOT to pass that information along to city departments in the effort to make citizens safer, healthier, and to help cities spot problems before they occur.

5. Leverage Big Data

Smart buildings and street sensors collect an astounding amount of information. The smart city’s challenge is to leverage all that data into new ways to make city services more efficient. That means not only collecting the data, but analyzing it to reveal insights into areas of city services in order to improve the way the city meets the needs of the people. It also means passing those insights along to the city departments that need it most and that can use the information to increase efficiencies and safety initiatives for its citizens. And that brings us back again to the idea that smart cities must collaborate with those industries creating new M2M devices to give them the information they need to create the IOT of the future.

To read more about the smart city movement, read the WallStreetJournal.com’s article entitled “The Rise of the Smart City.”

Small Cities Can Be Smart Cities: 2 Shining Examples

Smaller cities can be smart cities just as easily as large cities can, but it’s true that when we consider smart cities, our minds go to the larger, more populated, urban areas first. It’s not just because they are more famous and get more attention from the press, they also have well-established infrastructures, larger local government networks and bigger budgets to make innovation happen.

What are the smart cities doing?

Take Amsterdam for example. Their Smart City program began in 2009 and continues to make giant, innovative strides in areas based on these 6 themes:

  • Infrastructure and Technology: working to create stronger and more expansive connections between citizens and technology
  • Energy, Water and Waste: these programs follow the belief that sustainable energy programs are the future
  • Mobility: transportation by cycling, electric cars and car sharing is growing steadily
  • Circular City: programs to minimize waste and pollution by reducing usage, recycling and re-using
  • Government and Education: bringing ASC teams together with government and education to “make innovation happen”
  • Citizens and Living: these programs work together with citizens getting their ideas and feedback on how to create a more livable city

Hundreds of large cities around the world like Amsterdam, Stockholm and London in Europe; or Seattle, Boston and San Francisco in the United States are integrating information and communication technology with the Internet of things technology to become smart cities in efforts to reduce energy consumption, pollution levels, water waste and to raise the standard of living for their residents.

What about small cities?

While many still believe that smart city technology is only successful in large urban areas, the 2016 Smart Cities Survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests otherwise. Their numbers show that out of 335 total projects taking place in 54 cities, the majority (98) were in small cities, compared to 69 in large cities. Small cities beat large cities for future projects in the planning stages, too.

More and more small cities are taking part in smart city programs to control energy and water waste, to provide a comfortable, safe environment for residents and to prepare for a future that promises to include an ever-increasing amount of technology. But, according to the Smart Cities Survey, there are more advantages  to implementing smart programs:

  • new technology is easier to use and test in smaller environments
  • investing in smart technology attracts more outside investment
  • smart technology spurs economic growth
  • smart technology is costly, but smaller cities are eligible, and more likely to obtain, federal funding

Examples of successful small, smart cities

Ketchum, Idaho  has 2,728 in-city residents and another 2,700 daily commuters that work in town. In Ketchum, there are a number of smart city projects underway and more in the planning stage. The most well-known, The Walkable Ketchum Project, aims at improving the city for pedestrians. Technological improvements associated with this project include solar streetlights with sensors to control the lights automatically, according to the flow of traffic and way-finding signage for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.   Still in the planning stage as of June 2016 is a smart irrigation project which includes the use of weather and soil activated sensors. Estimated results of the project show a reduction in water consumption between 20 to 60 percent, meaning a savings of over 1 million gallons of water per year.

Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey is a small community of around 71,000 residents that has been at the forefront of smart city innovation since 2013 when the town council voted to implement a new program to monitor use of municipal resources. Their goals were to cut costs and make their systems more efficient. They became the first municipality in the United States to use a web-based management tool for projects such as this and soon became a model for other cities to follow.

In the 2016 rankings of Best Places to Live in the U.S., Money Magazine placed Cherry Hill in spot 26 out of a total of 800 and Moody’s Investors Service just gave the Cherry Hill Township a bond rating of Aa1 due to their devotion to economic growth and successful financial management. These are all proof that their steps towards becoming a smart city are paying off.

When it comes to smart cities, size doesn’t matter, the issues and goals are the same. People want to live in a city that offers a high quality of life, is environmentally aware and fiscally responsible, whether it is small or large.