Top IoT Innovations for Smart Cities
Modern technology has connected us in increasingly efficient and convenient ways. When visiting new cities, you can use your phone to search for points of interest, make reservations, and pay for events. Your car can tell you how to get from point A to point B without the need to stop and look at maps. Even your watch can update you on important events and keep you current with breaking news alerts. But what if cities got smarter? Imagine parking meters that sync to your phone to let you know whether or not you have time to stop for a bite to eat. What if those parking meters could direct your car to an open spot on a busy weekend? Besides personal convenience, imagine cities where public safety was driven by the Internet of Things (IoT) to keep our streets, parks, and public servants safer. The IoT is starting to produce innovations that help society as a whole, from law enforcement to public service and beyond, and the cities at the forefront of these technological shifts are already seeing positive results from their IoT investments.
Protecting our FirefightersMany cities across the country are adopting IoT technology in their firefighting units, and cities like Fort Lauderdale, FL are making a big push. Firefighters risk their lives daily in the line of duty, and some sacrifice all for the benefit of those they serve. Any technological improvement that could potentially save the lives of our firefighters is worth pursuing. To that end, Honeywell worked with Intel to create wearables for firefighters to track their oxygen levels, fatigue, pulse, and posture. The wearables can provide precise GPS positioning to assist crews in rescuing a fallen firefighter who is trapped or otherwise unable to escape a fire. They can even use these devices to alert firefighters to potential hotspots while they are actively fighting fires. As this technology advances, and the life-saving benefits are realized, more cities are bound to jump on board.
Revolutionizing RetailRetailers already employ theft-deterrent tagging that also include inventory tagging capability. Some of those tags are now being planted with an RFID chip to help employees track down misplaced items within the store. Levi Strauss of San Francisco introduced the smart tag system so that employees could find items that have been left in fitting rooms or that have been placed on the wrong rack or shelf. The additional benefits realized from these smart tags were many. They were able to determine which items were most often taken to fitting rooms, which helped determine trends in sales. They were able to quickly manage inventory without the need for constant shelf counting. And they found that customer satisfaction increased due to the store being better organized.
Repurposing Street LightsAcross the globe, there are more than 350 million street lights forming the largest grid of powered objects ever created. TVILight, the European company behind the push for intelligent lighting solutions, is now offering cities IoT-enabled lights that do way more than just provide illumination. The first step in creating intelligent lighting was to offer systems that dim or turn off completely until they are needed. But TVILight took the idea of smart lighting much further. According to their website, the Smart City application and connected lights provide, “air quality monitoring, smart traffic lights, real-time energy demand response, smart water and gas metering, city-wide beacon advertising platforms, EV charging, intelligent parking, and much more.” These systems are already in use in Ireland and Holland, and the company has inquiries from cities all around the world. With smart streetlights, cities could streamline many of their monitoring needs while actively cutting down their carbon footprint.
Automating Parking EnforcementIn Melbourne, Australia, the city is placing sensors in metered parking spots that alert parking enforcement if a car has sat too long without paying. Rather than having a parking enforcement officer cruise the city streets for hours, checking on cars that have paid, the system alerts law enforcement to actual violations. The system frees up law enforcement officers for more important duties, which can provide for a safer overall environment. In Pittsburgh, parking officials have seen high levels of success with their “pay-by-plate” method of parking. Rather than using coins or cards, the pay-by-plate method allows people to enter their plate number into the system to generate a bill. The system went online in 2013, and since its inception, they have rolled out advancements such as license plate recognition and linked smartphone applications. The city has seen an increase in revenue, a decrease in time and energy spent on enforcement, and a significant decline in violations. Because of the success of the project, the city is continually looking for ways to improve and expand upon its smart parking systems, and other cities across the United States are taking notice and are implementing smart meter systems of their own.
Keeping Citizens SafeIn 1995, SST began its mission to keep cities, campuses, and public gatherings safe with area-wide protection systems. As technology has advanced toward the IoT, SST has created cloud-based solutions to alert authorities whenever a gunshot is heard. This system has proven successful in Washington DC, Miami, and over 80 other major cities. In 2013, SST logged around 51,000 instances of illegal gunfire. Sensors are placed around the protected area that pick up on the loud, unique sounds of gunshots. The data is sent to the police station where the operator can see, based on how far away the sound was from the sensor, the approximate location of the gunshot. The closest officer is then notified, which can greatly reduce the response time, and can put critical resources where they need to be in an active shooter situation.
Smart Cities Need Area-Wide WiFi to SucceedEach of these smart city devices demonstrate the future trend of cities employing IoT innovation. However, in order to fully realize the benefits that these devices can offer, cities need to improve their infrastructure to offer area-wide WiFi coverage. Cities that have already adopted area-wide WiFi, or those that have become an Internet Service Provider with a WiFi offering, already have the infrastructure in place to adopt this life-changing technology. Without public WiFi and IoT-capable infrastructure in place, cities that want to employ IoT incur the additional costs of connectivity to major ISPs, or they have to use inefficient and unreliable cell technology. Eventually those streetlights could communicate over WiFi with the gunshot detectors to provide even more data for responders. Retail systems could alert passers-by to sales, and those parking meters could let you pay for more time though your phone so you can enjoy a casual meal. The future is happening, and innovation is spreading. Is your city ready for everything the future has to offer?