Towards the infrastructure age

Tesla announced "batteries for the home". A nice design, they come in 7 and 10kWh at a price of 3,000 and 3,500$ respectively. Credit: Tesla

I gave a number of talks in these last two years underlining the role of infrastructures in cities. I went as far as saying that infrastructures are the trademark of cities and the smarter they are the smarter the city. At the same time I pointed out that we are now leveraging technology to create newer infrastructures, not just better ones, like increasing the bandwidth and making it ubiquitous. 

We are developing infrastructures of things (IoT) and infrastructures of people. And these will be pivotal in the path towards smarter cities.

Now I read an interesting article commenting on the announcement made by Elon Musk on a new Tesla line of products, batteries designed for the home. You get (according to Elon) 120 million of these batteries in US homes and 1.2 billion of them all over the world and you create a completely new power grid infrastructure that is no longer controlled centrally but operates in a completely distributed way. Each home harvest (photovoltaic) energy, store it, use it and share it.

What interested me most, however, was the point raised in the article that we are beginning a transition from the information age (which has not yet been matured to its full potential in my opinion) to the infrastructure age.  And nicely enough (it is always nice to hear someone voicing very similar concepts that you have been voicing before) the article pointed out that the Internet of Things is actually an infrastructure of its own.

Indeed, I share the same feeling. Networks (infrastructures) are much more important than collection of objects. Their networking generates new properties (emerging properties) that are more valuable then the simple collection of the nodes in the network (the sum is greater than the total).

This does not only apply to “things” (IoT). It also applies to data. As we are connecting them through relations and computations and access (which is what happens in our brain) we are generating more value. And it also applies to citizens, that are at the same time “things”, “sensors”, “computation” and “access” (plus you may want to say they are also “actuators”).

Interestingly, and this point is also made in the article, we will no longer reach out to the internet, or to things, or to information We will be part of the whole, reaching and being reached out, creating a new fabric that will be the trademark of the infrastructure age.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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