Hello! I’m Samantha Stocks.

I’m a writer based in Bristol, UK.

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The Urban OS will enhance your life in the city

Imagine living in a city that runs itself. It can manage traffic flow, control water pressure, control the temperature of a room; it thinks for itself and is designed to constantly optimise energy, resources, environment, waste processing, and other convenience systems within a city.

PlanIT’s Urban OS running PlaceApps

This is the system currently being developed by Living PlanIT. Called the Urban OS (UOS), the system is essentially the same as an operating system used by a Mac or PC, but is instead designed to operate an entire city.

The technology behind this has been developed by McLaren Electronic Systems, the same company who create sensors for F1 cars. Taking in information from sensors around the city, the software monitors data and events. Using a building fire as an example, sensors in the affected building will be able to detect the fire and act accordingly, such as directing people to the nearest exists via smart walls, panel screens, lights, or alarms. Further to this, the system can also unlock doors and windows, manage water pressure and traffic lights, aiding fire crew to get to the site in time and ensure they have a sufficient water supply.

CTO of Living PlanIT John Stenlake explains, ‘By joining up a few simple things like this, you can literally save minutes, which ultimately save lives.’

PlaceApps

The UOS will run on a common platform running PlaceApps, a service that will operate in the way that apps run on a smartphone or tablet. PlaceApps will enable independent developers to be their own apps so services provided around the city can be increased and built upon. Steve Lewis, Head of Living PlantIT, describes that smartphone apps could eventually connect to the UOS to remotely control household appliances, energy systems, and safety equipment to monitor well-being.

The system is currently being built for test purposes in Paredes, Portugal, at the cost of approximately €8-10bn, and will contain around one million sensors. The groundbreaking new city expects its first residents around the middle of next year.

A safe, reliable system?

Should it work, this could revolutionise the way we live in cities, creating a sustainable environment within the urban sprawl, and increasing efficiency in all areas of our lives. However, I’m sure I won’t be the only person to want to see proof in the reliability and security of its operation. Having one operating system to function as a motherboard for an entire city makes me feel a little nervous; it’s like putting all of your eggs in one basket. In the event of a system malfunction or an attack from hackers, would this bring the whole city to a halt?

Lewis argues that the very fact of having one platform to manage the entire urban landscape of a city will aid quality and manageability, making significant cost savings and implementation consistency.

Steve Lewis will be speaking at Smart Cities Conference in February next year – let’s hope he’ll be sharing more of the Urban OS’ latest developments!