View Full Version : Urban OS - is it a good idea?

October 1st, 2011, 12:12 PM
I came across this tech. story (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15109403) about an Urban OS to control every aspect of running a city. A good idea to allow computers to run services in the city or a step too far from human operatives?

On a lighter note, I hope they don't develop it based upon Windows.

October 1st, 2011, 12:17 PM
I just can't wait for "call to fire department not established:segmentation fault".

October 1st, 2011, 12:34 PM
"System Alert; Terror Attack! - Kernel Panic."


October 1st, 2011, 12:46 PM
Why is that necessary when many areas are already controlled by software?

Is there any need for sewerage, power stations, traffic lights etc. to all be controlled by the same stuff? Imagine how bad things become when it all goes down.

October 1st, 2011, 12:49 PM
Good idea. Automation is increasing anyway, and at the moment interoperability is pretty non-existent. Either a common OS or a common standard for communication would be very helpful.

October 1st, 2011, 01:09 PM
Does a city really need its own OS? Can one OS deal with the fire department, hospitals, traffic control, the police station, and sewage? Seems like it would be better for a city to develop its own systems where needed.

October 1st, 2011, 01:19 PM
Cities are already controlled by software in many areas, this is just a more centralized scheme. It is perfectly fine, so long as there are fail-safe mechanisms (say for traffic control in the case of system crash) and so long as a human can take over at any minute (don't rely on software 100%).

October 1st, 2011, 01:45 PM
my two cents:
this is inevitable, and in time will probably make public services ect far more efficient.
I also think that it is perfectly fine for this to happen, as long as it happens slowly. My biggest fear would be a bureaucratic group, like the mayors office trying to do it all at once and then bugs causing the city to come to a halt.
like the london ambulance service:

October 1st, 2011, 02:33 PM
Talk about a juicy Terrorist or cyberwar target ............
More limited systems today have the same potential but damaging or destroying one segment of a city's infrastructure is easier to deal with than potentially knocking out traffic control, communications, electric power, water & sewer all in one stroke. Perhaps design some sort of "circuit breaker" between segments? If so, can someone figure out a way to destroy things without tripping the "circuit breaker"? The phrase "all your eggs in one basket" comes to mind.

October 1st, 2011, 02:37 PM

Don't want to make it to easy now do we?


October 1st, 2011, 02:37 PM
I just wonder why a 911 telephone system, a traffic light system, and a city sewer system all need the same OS... Its like having the washing machine, the garage door, and the air conditioner use the same control panel.

October 1st, 2011, 02:41 PM
i think it would be great if the traffic network could expedite access for the emergency services, by timing the lights and scheduling the traffic.

October 1st, 2011, 02:45 PM
it can be a dangerous move , because all you need now is to attack this one OS

October 1st, 2011, 03:02 PM
i reckon if the google platform can exists without destroying the world it should be ok.

I think it might have to not be a conventional OS though, it would have to be distributed, and therein would gain a lot of security.

October 1st, 2011, 04:56 PM
Imagine the funny hacks though,like only lighting up certain LEDS in a traffic light to make an image

October 1st, 2011, 05:40 PM

Don't want to make it to easy now do we?


Oh noez, Cylons...

October 1st, 2011, 05:45 PM
I think it's a fine idea, as long as we don't move into it before the technology is ready and mature. Kinda like America kept it's nuclear research top secret back during WW2, until they were sure they could use it to end the war and not just give everyone else a weapon to attack them with.

(Not trying to get into a discussion about the ethics of nuclear weapons and their proliferation, just trying to make a point about not widely using technology until we have a good grasp of it.)

**actually read the article, what they're describing is a terrible idea. Why does a citywide system need to monitor individual patients in a hospital? Would make more sense to have various separate systems that can communicate with each other (i.e. the hospital can start its fire sprinklers in the case of a fire, then make a call to the city's fire defense system to dispatch the FD)

October 1st, 2011, 05:55 PM
I'm actually quite concerned with this, since if the central computer crashed, systems all over the city will fail, like ambulances, police, and fire, and loads of people will be affected.

October 1st, 2011, 07:04 PM
human beings shouldnt be doing trivial jobs, so i like the idea of having machines take over as much as possible.

October 1st, 2011, 07:11 PM
human beings shouldnt be doing trivial jobs, so i like the idea of having machines take over as much as possible.

You sound like one which would like The Venus Project (http://www.thevenusproject.com/).

I myself would like to see it happen.

October 1st, 2011, 07:49 PM
Related: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15004063

" "A typical city of the future in a full IoT situation could be a matrix-like place with smart cameras everywhere, detectors and non-invasive neurosensors scanning your brain for over-activity in every street," says Rob van Kranenburg, a member of the European Commission's IoT expert group."


1. Be programming

2. Go for walk as you think on hard problem/bug

3. Scanned by the minority report

4. Walk into the wrong building

5. Arrested for terrorism 5 minutes later

Theres a word I was looking for to describe this.
It's a prison designed so that the imprisoned can not tell weather or not they are being watched.
The intended effect is better behavior.

October 2nd, 2011, 02:30 AM
so, i'm withdrawing my previous bomb related comment.

October 2nd, 2011, 11:35 AM
Talk about a juicy Terrorist or cyberwar target ............

Less so than today. Current SCADA systems have little or no security at all, as Stuxnet showed. Any kind of an integrated system designed with even basic security would be an improvement. They tend to be protected only by "security by obscurity" and the fact they use proprietary comms protocols.

SCADA systems are already a massive liability, due to the fact they've all been developed in isolation, are heavily proprietary, and their architecture tends to date from pre-internet days (serial comms are still ubiquitous). They're slowly being dragged into the TCP/IP world, but the security hasn't caught up at all and a lot of critical infrastructure is now dangerously exposed IMO.

We urgently need to do something about this now, but SCADA systems generally aren't replaced or upgraded separately from the infrastructure they control, so it's going to be an issue for several decades.