Have you spoken to a lamppost?
Everything today is ‘smart’ – almost to the point of being slightly, well … silly.
I read recently about Amazon’s extension of the Alexa craze with their introduction of smart glasses and a smart ring and did wonder if we haven’t moved from the sublime to the ridiculous.
According to reports, Amazon has now added ‘Echo Frames’ and the ‘Echo Loop’ to their offerings. The Frame’s are Alexa-enabled glasses which can ‘deliver audio without needing in-ear earphones, or headphones,’ by utilising bone conducting technology. In addition, you can ask Alexa … actually, whatever you need to. These are priced at €164 and will be available by ‘invitation only’ from Amazon.
The second offering is the Echo Loop, a ring that you can query Alexa through. It has a built-in speaker so you can hear the responses. Again it is available only ‘by invitation from Amazon’ and will cost in the region of Euro 118.
I love gadgets – if it lights up, connects to something and is even vaguely useful, I’m totally for it. But well, I’m not sure I see the point of smart glasses or a smart ring. Even wireless earbuds are something of a mystery. I have a pair, but am not quite sure I see the utility in them. They need to be charged, they are easily affected by ’noise’ within their Bluetooth spectrum and more often than not, give people the impression you have gone mad and are talking to yourself (when in fact you are on a call).
So, I wondered whether the concept of smart lampposts would be one of those: “well, it’s nice, but what does it do?” innovations.
The European Union’s Humble Lamppost project is putting a new spin on an old, overlooked part of our city landscapes. With more than 90 million lampposts in Europe alone, and as much as half of a city’s electricity bill being spent on energy, could some upgrades and ’smartening’ of the lamppost elevate the position of this most simple of lighting fixtures?
Plans are underway to upgrade 10 million lampposts, making them solar-powered and equipped to deliver a range of services. These include digital street signs, pollution monitoring, flood monitoring, EV charging, image sensing for parking and security, plus hosting free public Wi-Fi.
Now, this is an innovation I can get behind.
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And it’s not just the EU that are seeing the benefit – Hong Kong has installed more than 40 of these smart lampposts and is joined by Singapore and cities in Australia, Bulgaria, China, France, Germany and others.
London and Bristol have added a bit of a quirk to the lampposts, and are encouraging people to ‘talk’ to them (and some other street furniture). By utilising each object’s unique identification number, users can message questions about their surroundings to the lampposts. I’m not sure about this one, but would love to hear from anyone who has actually ‘spoken’ to a lamppost in London or Bristol.
As we continue to look for ways to become more energy-efficient, ‘smart’ is going to become more attractive. There is already talk about how smart homes will provide monitoring facilities for ‘at risk’ residents and the aged; promises that applications and smart plugs will ensure we arrived home to a warm, well lit home; and that our fridges will be able to order milk and a pizza for us.
The challenge, of course, apart from the cybersecurity implications… and privacy implications… and the cost implications… is going to be…
Do we really need it?
What do you think? Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you a smart week!
PS: Having said all of the above – it would be pretty cool to have my fridge tell me what to cook!