With regards to the future, one thing is certain – everything we do must take into consideration the changes in climate caused by the stress that humans are putting on planet Earth in order to maintain our living standard. But this standard is being challenged every day due to growing urbanisation which was set at 51 percent this year and is expected to rise another 19 percent by 2050.
The rapid changes we experience nowadays require technologies that are able to keep up with the new rhythm of the world and are able to adjust to the lifestyle of each individual.
The internet has revolutionised the way people communicate and most importantly how they are informed about what is happening around them and throughout the world. It has allowed all areas of people’s lives to develop faster by making information more readily available to everybody.
Lately, there is a technology that has come to play a major role in individuals lives by making an impact on their big city lives and it’s called the Internet of Things. Depending on the context the description of IoT differs from one to another, but simply put it is a large number of devices – more devices were connected to the internet in 2008 than people – interconnected, that communicate with each other in order to create value for people, governments and companies. Even if the idea of interconnected devices has been around from the 70’s, the term was invented in 1999 in order to promote RFID technology and coined the same year by Kevin Ashton when working at Procter & Gamble. It was not until 2011 that the term began to gain popularity and 2014 that it reached the mass market.
So what is the role of IoT in a smart city strategy?
When speaking of it in the context of smart cities, IoT facilitates the delivery of services to citizens while increasing the quality and reducing costs of operation. The Internet of Things makes possible the vision of effective municipal services, better transport systems as well as helping citizens to reduce energy use.
How can this vision be achieved with IoT?
Energy – Smart grids are a new way to adjust the amount of energy we consume at both city and household level. Integrating intelligent sensors that track movement so the street light will only light up when someone passes by is one way a city can reduce consumption. Citizens now have countless options for smart household devices which allow them to save on energy by regulating the supply when people are not at home. Being able to ‘talk’ to your house, tell it to prepare for your arrival is not a movie scenario anymore thanks to companies like Smart Utility Systems and services like smart-me.
Parking – Smart sensors that tell you where you can find a free parking space? Check! The whole idea is to have sensors in parking lots which are connected to the internet, then the driver can see which spot is available directly on their phone through an application. Cleverciti and Parkeon are two of the many providers offering solutions for intelligent parking. The main advantage of IoT-enabled parking are that it offers citizens the opportunity to save time when searching for parking – it also means less pollution from cars across the city.
Waste – With regards to waste management, IoT is again a time and fuel saviour because implementing sensors on rubbish bins lets workers know when a bin is full. This way they will save minutes even hours by not going blindly around the city to empty all the bins, even if they are only half-full. It will save the city, time, money and mean fewer exhaust fumes from dustbin lorries.
Public Transportation – It’s the venous system of the city so it needs to run smoothly, but the fast pace of urbanisation is overtaking existing infrastructure. IoT solutions can skip a lot of waiting time for citizens by providing real-time visualisation of the location of a bus. When considering alternative modes of transport, people can see where they can find public bikes and how many are available or even better, by having all modes of transport connected to a cloud system can provide customised routes for each individual. There is a real opportunity to use technology to educate citizens about different modes of transport and to make positive changes in behaviour patterns.
Lots and lots of opportunities have opened up with advances in Internet of Things technologies and this is only the beginning of an industry expected to impact nearly six percent of the world economy by 2020. The only thing we are left to do is to make the most of the possibilities for the planet, our society and ourselves.