A city is nothing without its residents and visitors. A smart society is a vital aspect of a smart city – it’s all about social and human capital. Linked to this is the development of residents themselves, but also the level of creativity and the quality of social interaction between people. In the end, it’s about people, smart people, who collectively as a society can help shape smart cities.

Social, technological and economic developments have accelerated over the last 200 years to such an extent that they are moving faster than the ‘normal evolutionary processes’. Technological advances in M2M, IoT and data analytics are perhaps the only developments that will be able to keep pace with these changes, creating a world more intelligent and smarter communities. An example of this is Microsoft’s CityNext strategy designed to empower people—whether governments, citizens, or businesses—to transform their cities and their future

The next step in human evolution needs to be the creation of a society based on what is collectively known. This becomes available to all through open networks connected to cloud computing environments. It empowers individual people to participate, and with new smart tools, these people will have access to ‘super powers’.

Our siloed structures do not allow us to develop the knowledge and the tools needed to cross that next frontier. We need to move from the industrial civilization to the knowledge civilization, so it is no surprise that IT organizations are developing and investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence eco-systems to mine the collective knowledge that society has accumulated. This philosophy of “deep learning” is gaining momentum with Google’s TensorFlow and DeepMind systems and the first commercial cognitive computing offering – IBM’s Watson.

This become available to all through ubiquitous mobile devices and sensors using open networks connected to cloud computing environments.

Questions to consider during presentation

  1. Is it possible to combine the best of the computing and human worlds to create a smart society?
  2. What should come first?
  3. How do you view the development of cognitive computing models?
Anthony Doherty
Windows Business Group Lead, Marketing & Operations, Microsoft South Africa
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Josef Langerman
Executive Group Head for Engineering Transformation at Standard Bank
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