IoT ruins movies: Speed

By | 3 minute read | September 19, 2016

leadspace image of a tachometer on fire to show the film speed

Setting the scene

So I have to admit – yesterday, the most I knew about 1994 action thriller ‘Speed’ was that Family Guy’s Peter Griffin thought the movie’s title was “The bus that couldn’t slow down.” So seeing the film today was an unexpected treat.

The film: ‘Speed’

Released in 1994, Speed was a surprise hit, achieving two Academy Awards and an enduring legacy in pop culture references. It tells the story of Jack Traven, an LAPD cop who must rescue people from an armed bus, set to explode when its speed drops below 50 mph.

How IoT could ruin ‘Speed’

In some ways the bus is the star of the show. Even if you’ve not seen the film you can imagine the consequences of not being able to slow it down – pedestrians fleeing for their lives, red lights recklessly run, queued traffic forcing the bus the wrong way down a one-way street – and so on.

So what if the bus had been a connected vehicle? And what if it had been operating in a connected city, where vehicles, infrastructure (buildings, car parks, and traffic control centres) and individuals could share information?

The cop-out option: we catch the baddie in the first scene

In an early scene, Howard Payne (henceforth – the ‘baddie’) tries to gain access to a building’s restricted zone in order to sabotage one of the elevators. Challenged by the security guard, he says that he’s there to fix “screwed up wires”, and bending down to retrieve his ‘paperwork’, is able to conceal a knife behind it to finish off Mr Security.

Well now – if the building had had an IoT-enabled maintenance and repair solution, the security guard would have received a digital warning about the faulty wires, detailing the scheduled date and time of the impending repair, and probably the identity of the maintenance engineer too. Without such a warning, he would have known that Payne was lying and potentially dangerous and might have managed to escape prevent the attack.

But then we’d have had no movie, and that would be a shame.

Predictive lift maintenance

Payne rigs an elevator full of people with explosives, which will detonate if his $3-million demand is not met. A smart elevator would have had sensors collecting data about the physical health of the elevator, and predicting when certain components would need to be replaced. The rigged device would have been picked up and a maintenance engineer dispatched to remove it.

Early warning systems from the emergency services

Jack Tavern runs alongside the bus, banging on the door and shouting to the bus driver to warn him of the bomb. Unable to hear over the noise, the driver just thinks he’s out to cause trouble and accelerates away. If the bus had been a connected vehicle, it would have been equipped with inter-operable wireless connections between other vehicles, city infrastructure and personal devices. The police, knowing the vehicle had been compromised, would have been able to send an alert directly to the driver to let him know. Having said that, if the bus had been a connected vehicle, it could say it had been tampered with and alert the driver before the fateful journey started.


In a later scene, ‘Wildcat’ Annie takes control of the bus on the freeway. Faced with a sudden queue of traffic across all lanes, she has to make a split second decision: whether to stay on the grid-locked freeway or risk the turn-off. In a nail-bitingly close shave, they turn off. If the bus had been a connected vehicle, it could have had access to detailed real time data from LA’s Traffic Management Centres to determine traffic hot spots, giving them earlier warning and more decision-making time. In another scenario, a smart freeway scheme could have ‘held’ a lane free for them.

“This freeway isn’t finished!”

Crisis seems averted when the police successfully escort the bus to a closed freeway. But little do they know that some of it hadn’t yet been constructed – leaving a 50-foot chasm that the bus must either clear or plummet down. Real-time data from the TMCs together with GPS tracking could have shown that the road wasn’t yet constructed and even suggested an alternative, traffic-free route.

This is just a fun way of showing how IoT can and will have an impact on everyday life. IBM has lots of other real-life examples for smart vehicles and connected commuting – including buses, naturally!

What movie story lines do you think should get the ‘IoT ruins movies’ treatment? Let us know your thoughts below, or via twitter with #IoTRuinsMovies.