How IoT Helps Create Smart Cities

Christina Szoke, Co-Founder

Cities and the number of people living within their borders are expanding rapidly. In fact, the number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million each year. This vast growth is spurring new ideas, innovation and discussion about smart cities, which is fueled by increased connectivity and increasingly inexpensive connected sensors, or the Internet of Things (IoT).

smartcityHyper-connectivity has entered every corner of our lives, from the workplace to the home and even the car. It’s now estimated that 90 percent of cars will be connected to the Internet by 2020, compared to only 10 percent in 2012. But how will this affect our cities in the future? IoT could hold the answers boosting efficiency, increasing the quality of life and yielding unprecedented insights.

Smart Cities of the Future
Calling a city smart may seem like just another buzzword, but this single word could describe the future of many cities. A smart city harnesses data to solve urban challenges. But what does this type of city look like? Here are a few examples.

Garbage driven by sensors, instead of schedules – Garbage is something that most people rarely think about, until its trash day. Smart cities, however, take a simple process such as trash collection and increase efficiency.

For example, sensors are used to tell trash collectors when garbage is full and needs to be picked up. There are no longer preset trash collection days. Instead, trash is picked up as needed based on real-time data. As a result, the efficiency and collection process is greatly improved.

Precise amounts of light delivered drives energy efficiency and savings – Smart cities could also include simple changes, such as attaching sensors to streetlights. These smart sensors could measure footfall, noise levels and even air pollution. The data could then be used to help urban planners and other relevant parties make decisions that improve the quality of life in cities or increase efficiency.

Lights could be kept on dim most hours and only brought to full capacity when sensors report direct movement. This simple change could save up to 80 percent on energy consumption.

Real-time weather keeps drivers off unsafe roads – Factors that are difficult to predict and control, such as weather, could also be greatly improved through the IoT.

For example, weather has serious impacts on city traffic. Using sensors would help us better understand weather at the ground level, where most technology fails to reach. Sensors could help improve traffic flow, minimize injuries and even prevent deaths. For trucking fleets, dispatchers could be alerted of real-time weather conditions, such as high water on roads, freezing rain or other treacherous conditions and reroute their entire fleet.

There are many benefits to smart cities, including increasing efficiency, saving resources and decreasing waste. However, for this to become possible, devices must talk to each other. They must aggregate, share and disperse data. But today, data is trapped in silos and to create these smart cities, we must set the data free.

IoT: Setting Data Free
The current state of IoT is one of locked-off data. At best, each data source requires its own app to view the data. At worst, data disappears into a database, not to be looked at again.

Building these smart cities requires data to flow seamlessly between IoT and business critical systems. For this to happen, we need:

  • The ability to add new sensors and data streams to a centralized hub with ease.
  • The ability to visualize data from multiple sources in one central location.

The capability to manage apps with various permission levels, such as management, Department of Transportation, city officials, citizens and others who require access to the data. Once we accomplish this, people can start building cities that make simple tasks easier and more efficient. But first, we must integrate various data sources into a single hub, allowing real-time data to flow freely.

For example, IoT solution provider, Fathym, aggregates free-flowing data to make an impact. This solution provides users with powerful tools to extrapolate meaningful information behind data with visualization widgets including charts, gauges, graphs and maps, along with data-triggered alerts.

Data is collected through virtually any kind of sensor and then quickly pushed out to user dashboards in real time. The platform brings multiple data sources into a single dashboard where users can view all data in a single place.

When data is consolidated into one place, cities can leverage IoT to make their infrastructures stronger and more efficient, and better serve their citizens.

Smarter Cities, Tapping into Data
Data is key to making the best strategic decisions, but it cant just be any data, it must be real-time data. The smart cities of the future will be empowered by harnessing this data through IoT solution providers.

Drivers will be safer, cities will be more efficient, and citizens will be better served. For this to all be possible, data must be released from their silos and able to flow easily and freely.

About Christina Szoke:
Christina Szoke is co-founder at Fathym. She is passionate about technology that empowers more users to innovate. She is a skilled digital designer, front-end developer and writer. A former journalist, her work has appeared in The Daily Camera and Dirt (now the Colorado Daily). She serves on the board of the nonprofit One School at a Time (1schoolatatime.org), working with Ugandan communities to expand access to quality education. She also serves on the leadership committee of She Says (shesaysboulder.com) to promote female leadership in tech.

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