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Being smart: unprecedented economic developments have opened the door to meaningful change

The global economic recovery remains fragile and the effects of the crisis are still being felt by public and private sector organisations alike. Many of them are limping along in a zombie state unsure how to meet the demands of the post-recession world.

Governments are facing particular challenges from increased demand. They need resources to meet needs ranging from health and welfare services for ageing populations to the infrastructure to accommodate rapid urbanisation being seen in many parts of the world.

However, smart approaches are now becoming viable options to help meet these challenges. Smart technologies like cloud computing or mobile business have matured quickly and are now suitable for large-scale enterprise deployment. Significant funding has been made available under government stimulus programmes for new energy and technology platforms. In the US the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 (ARRA) provides:

  • $7.2 billion for broadband grants – recognising that broadband access is essential to the development of smart approaches

  • $6.5 billion to fund electricity transmission lines to enable smart grids. 

  • investment in smart infrastructure for health IT, education and transportation.

The economics of smart technologies are also becoming more attractive. Processing power, transmission capacity and data storage per unit costs have all improved. We now routinely talk about ‘terabytes’ rather than ‘megabytes’ of data storage for digital content, and the cost per byte has been decreasing. This means that smart solutions that had previously been dismissed as unviable are now seeing renewed interest. 

In the UK, Vodafone recently announced that it is working with British Gas to use the mobile network to transfer energy data from smart meters. This kind of ‘machine-to-machine’ (M2M) business is attractive as it typically has low churn rates in contrast to traditional mobile phone business. Once deployed, the device can be in the field for up to 15 years or more so these opportunities could protect the operator from the impacts of the economic cycle. As a result, the biggest US mobile operators are now setting up more new data connections to devices such as the iPad and M2M networks than to traditional phones.

Smart approaches can also help the public sector do more with less. In healthcare, telehealth-the remote monitoring of medical conditions-has the potential to improve the quality of care by reducing the number of hospital trips and giving patients more control over their own conditions. Even more significant are the potential cost savings, with a University of Texas study suggesting that telehealth could save more than $4 billion a year in the US.

The recession has forced governments and companies to review their business and operating models. It has been a painful process, but it is acting as a critical catalyst for the development of the smart solutions that are vital to meeting the economic and social challenges of the future. So there are now real economic imperatives to move rapidly towards the smart grid, networked homes, healthcare in the home and intelligent transport systems.

To speak to a PA expert on what smart means for your organisation, please contact us now.



Tom McEwan
IT Consulting
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