Consider the navigator on your mobile phone. You send data to a service company using its GPS. In exchange, you are warned about traffic jams and provided with alternative routes. This is an example of one of the potential benefits provided by the internet of things (IoT). Objects that are connected to the Web and a network of sensors generate a large amount of data which, via social networks and artificial intelligence algorithms, opens up possibilities that were inconceivable until a few years ago. Now let’s change scale, and take a look at a city like Seoul, South Korea, with its ten million inhabitants. From a single integrated control centre called the Transport Operation and Information Service, or TOPIS, a team of operators monitors street traffic, the timeliness of underground and public transport, taxi availability, parking lot occupancy, the weather conditions and any critical situations arising from accidents or operations by the fire brigade or the police. In contrast to our navigator, TOPIS doesn’t just provide citizens with an update on traffic and public transport. It anticipates problems, drawing on data from social networks and sensors.

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