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It's a Smart World

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smart systems illustration

Credit: Matt Herring / The Economist

The spread of linked sensors and cameras, ubiquitous wireless networks, communications standards, and people's activities is facilitating a convergence of the real and digital worlds, and the most significant factor driving this intersection is the smartphone and its applications. Smartphones are packed with sensors collecting data, which is fed back into the network, while apps are miniature iterations of smart systems that perform a broad variety of functions. Smart systems have been identified as the next major technological breakthrough by information technology companies.

Meanwhile, many nations have been spending large portions of their stimulus packages on smart infrastructure initiatives. For instance, a core element of the European Union's Digital Agenda is the "Internet of things."

There is a real need for smart systems, as evidenced by aging physical infrastructure, booming health care costs, and tight funding in many countries—and the more intelligent use of resources can stretch taxpayers' money further. Most significantly, smart systems that marry the digital with the physical may turn out to be mankind's best hope for managing global warming and other key environmental issues, as more efficient power grids would cut greenhouse emissions substantially.

From The Economist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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