I was recently discussing smart cities technology with a client and the question came up about what new IoT capabilities will shape consumer behavior and how to be sure that your enterprise is ready to implement strategies that take advantage of these exciting new IoT offerings. We couldn’t really cover every aspect of smart city tech, because there are now thousands of IoT options that support the digital efforts that are shaping the city of tomorrow. But, I thought it would a good start to mention a few innovations that are becoming more prevalent and should be considered by enterprises that want to become part of this new urban landscape’s untapped potential.
The idea of “smart cities” was generally unknown 20 years ago, but today there are hundreds of smart cities worldwide with that number growing monthly. As a nation, our population is moving increasingly toward an urban landscape which will need to be as efficient as possible to sustain the massive rise in population density. The only answer to being more efficient is to develop better technology that can enable automation of many of the day-to-day activities of city life. There is an endless variety of smart city apps and projects that are currently available or in development. I’ve focused on a few of the most necessary infrastructure elements and common issues that every smart city is working to improve.
This issue is high on every smart city’s list of “must haves.” It’s inevitable that more people make more trash, so handling it efficiently and cheaply while still making as little environmental impact as possible is a constant challenge. There are already many technologies used to manage waste and recycling, such as sensors that automatically trigger compaction when cans are full and IoT connectivity via RFID that lets trash collectors know when dumpsters are full. There is continued growth in this space through emerging technology which includes: trash cans that sort recyclables themselves using smart sensors, bioreactor landfills, and remote sensor readings for waste water usage. There is opportunity in this sector for any organization that can routinely utilize IoT deployments, harness and analyze large amounts of data and support renewable resource efforts.
As everyone knows, parking in a city is consistently a problem and even though more cities are working to improve mass transit, the need for better and more available parking will continue to grow. There are mobile apps that can direct you to open spaces in an area you need a parking spot, using GPS on your mobile device coupled with small IoT sensors embedded in the space that can sense when it is empty. Any enterprise that sees the potential in emerging technology, such as devices that issue parking citations remotely based on IoT data, parking reservation apps and smart phone remote payment solutions for parking meters, would stand to build revenue in this expanding area of smart cities design.
We’ve all seen an increase in solar powered, LED lighting on city streets; that is just the beginning for how smart lighting will become. Currently smart lighting sensors are used in various ways like turning lights on/off based on pedestrian traffic and alerting workers when the lighting needs maintenance. But, those same lights and light poles can be used for far more than just lighting since they already provide a power source and are installed at strategic places throughout a city. Often, cities don’t own the lights themselves, (most US city lighting is owned by the city utility provider) and the power companies are looking to change their business model as traditional revenue is lost from increased LED efficiency. Smart city utility providers are beginning to view those lights as a chance to rent easy, pre-set space for remote sensors. In the near-future we will see that street lights are used for gathering weather, traffic and pedestrian data for use in retail design, public safety efforts and improving traffic. There is endless opportunity for enterprises that can gather and use metadata to provide marketing guidance or infrastructure support to citizens of smart cities.
Everyone is aware that cities often have poor air quality and we have all heard of No-Zone Action Days when the quality of the air is particularly poor. As more people pour into large cities, the significant decrease in the quality of the air is an important factor that smart city planners have been attempting to address. Already in place in most smart cities are monitoring devices for CO2 emissions, temperature at ground level and humidity. There are many diverse opportunities on the horizon for an enterprise interested in being part of this space. New technology will include: UV exposure monitoring via an app to let users know when UV is most damaging, apps that interface with remote sensors to alert users of air quality levels, pollution predictive analytics that use big data to share warning signs of highly polluted areas, and more accurate early-warning weather threat detection based on advanced GPS, fiber Doppler, LIDAR data and air pressure sensors. If your enterprise is willing to invest time and money into developing a network of sensors and software that can pull in climate specific data and provide usable feedback via an app or a service to the public based on that information, the ROI would be significant.
I recommend that your team stay current with how smart city technology is innovating and changing the way that city processes are managed; this will allow your organization to see potential consumer trends, market transitions and population shifts that could impact business strategy. The smart city technology changes we see being implemented today will impact the business processes we build for the future. Be sure that your team is ahead of the curve in this growing area of telecom and technology, so that any initiatives proposed might provide the intended additional business for your enterprise.