Dystopian fiction stories (1984, Minority Report, V for Vendetta) make rampant surveillance seem like such an imposition. The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance—a collaboration between municipalities, companies, and research institutions founded in 2017—offers a cheerier vision: Citywide monitoring technology could predict human behaviors and desires, thereby increasing safety, efficiency, and affordability. And that future may be closer than you think. This fall, the alliance is partnering with Centennial’s Arrow Electronics to debut Colorado Open Lab, a tech accelerator for companies intent on developing smart-city gadgets. Here’s how two of the facility’s participants (plus two other local companies) might soon be stalking Denver’s streetscapes.
VIMOC Technologies—from Mountain View, California—makes cameras that can understand parking trends, recognize license plates, and identify open spots. The system will be tested at Colorado Open Lab.
Looking Forward: The upside? In the future, Denverites should be able to download an app and see whether there are any vacancies near, say, Coors Field. The downside? The system notifies cops if a car has overstayed its welcome in a paid parking lot.
Hear All Evil, See All Evil
Developed in Fremont, California, V5 Systems’ supersmart, portable security system has a good eye—its recognition software can detect unwanted visitors—and a well-tuned ear able to identify the sound of a gunshot up to 1,000 feet away.
Looking Forward: Several police departments in the Denver area plan to employ the solar-powered sensors, which text officers if they notice trouble, following trials at Colorado Open Lab.
Brown Cloud Cover
Traditional air pollution sensors are difficult to maintain because they frequently need new batteries. Denver firm Lunar Outpost developed a solar-powered version that can help city officials and scientists collect air-quality statistics for a larger area in real time (data is constantly updated via a wireless network).
Looking Forward: Using money from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Denver Public Schools recently deployed Lunar’s Canary-S model at 10 schools across the city. One day, an app may detect which neighborhoods are too toxin-filled to be safe.
This year, Australian software company Switch Automation moved its headquarters to Denver, where it’s developing ways to simplify building management. Currently, data about electricity usage, air filters, and more remains separate. Switch detects inefficiencies across all utilities.
Looking Forward: Eventually, a single operator will have the ability to create the ideal work environment across a huge network of buildings. For example, if increased CO2 levels in Building Four are making workers sleepy, the operator could boost air systems—and productivity—simply by tapping a button.