The Internet Of Things will revolutionise city living – here’s how

The Internet of Things (IoT) – just like things themselves, you might say – is everywhere. The international research firm, Gartner, estimated that there are 3.8 billion connected things ‘out there’ in the world today – spanning smart cars, trains, parking lots, litter bins, and even tennis racquets and toasters. And Gartner only expects this amount to exponentially grow: by 2020, 25 billion of these devices will be passing data through the cloud – sending signals to each other and, ultimately, providing useable data to us. With more than half the world’s population now living in urban centres as part of a growing trend towards metropolitan life (two-thirds of humanity will be city-dwellers by 2050 according to official UN forecasts), city councils are one of the key markets for IoT implementation. For those looking to build a so-called ‘smart city’, this technology represents a promising means of managing urban planning projects of increasing complexity.

Some have even talked about the rapid rise of the IoT in grand terms as a fourth Industrial Revolution – after steam, electricity, and of course, computers. While this might be slightly premature, there’s no doubt that this pioneering technology is going to affect almost all aspects of our lives – lives which will more than likely be passed (at least to some extent) in cities and other urban areas. In this article, we take a look at some of the most revolutionary uses of smart technology being adopted by proactive city councils in preparation for our connected future.

1. Transportation – Without The Traffic

In light of the aforementioned increases in urban population – jobs and accommodation are increasingly clustered in city centres, and people are following in ever greater numbers – cities are having to urgently examine their transport systems. More often than not, these systems are extremely strained, and in the worse cases, traffic can be stuck in a permanent gridlock, with dire effects on local air quality as cars sputter exhaust fumes in long queues. But IoT technologies that are now in their early stages will almost certainly help cities manage traffic flow far more effectively in future.

One such technology is video-embedded traffic sensors, which can communicate with other devices to adjust green and red according to where cars are and the time of day, helping to alleviate traffic. Parking sensors are another form of tech making a big difference – information about available spaces can be relayed onto an app with GPS guidance for drivers. There are even startups working on building parking drones to guide cars to available spots! This will be inestimably handy; not least, because up to 30% of city congestion is thought to be caused by drivers swarming the streets in search of parking spot, while idling traffic is estimated to contribute more than 64% of air pollution alone.

2. Efficient Energy Usage

IoT is set to make all of our lives much easier in the near future, but if there’s one social group more likely than all others to truly appreciate this technology, it’s the environmentally conscious. For managing our carbon footprint, the early signs are that connected ‘things’ are going to change the game. Take LED streetlights, for example. In many global cities already, streetlights switch themselves on only on the approach of a pedestrian or vehicle. In one example, the local council is saving $250,000 a year with the move, not to mention all the energy that would otherwise be wasted.

Sensors being currently tested in global cities’ trash cans are having similar effects. Usually powered by solar energy, they can crush waste when required and send a message to request pickup only when required, causing reduction in both traffic and the carbon footprint of drivers. And most excitingly of all, ‘Smart Grid’ technology is set to revolutionise the pricing and delivery of energy to private homes and public areas. Using this system, power is priced on the basis of demand, and smart meters, thermostats, and appliances will be able to draw the power they require at off-peak times, ensuring the cheapest prices.

3. The Cars Of The Future

The Internet of Things is set to truly revolutionise transportation. Car manufacturers around the world are using IoT sensors in prototypes designed to self-drive. Ford has announced its intention to introduce fully driverless cars to the public by 2025. Using enormous amounts of data gathering and analysis through connected objects, cloud-based traffic and GPS services will allow these vehicles to save energy – and time for their passengers – in picking the quickest route from A to B. And that’s not all they will save, either. The Huffington Post recently reported that ‘all consumers are likely to financially benefit’ from the road safety improvements offered by autonomous cars. After all, safer driving will mean fewer accidents, which in turn will mean fewer insurance claims are filed – and a concurrent lowering of insurance premiums.

Forward-thinking city planners are fast preparing for another revolution in technology – electric cars. Many cities have already installed charging stations for residents to park and refuel their vehicles. This may prove to be a wise investment. The global market for electric cars is booming – Tesla makes 500 electric vehicles per week in California, for which the stream of buyers hasn’t slowed. Even the earliest prototypes have proven to be vastly more energy-efficient than their petrol-fuelled counterparts. And so it’s hardly a surprise that other manufacturers, including Nissan, BMW, Ford and Honda are jumping aboard Elon Musk’s battery-charged bandwagon. One thing’s for certain: drivers of the future will be going electric – that’s if they’re needed behind the wheel at all.

Don’t Miss Out On The Connected City Revolution…

Even after the enormous, transformative, advancements listed in this article take effect, there is almost certainly much more to come. Excitingly, we are still only at the early stages of IoT’s development. As this technology – and its adoption – advances further, there will be scope for creativity with its uses, and a greater understanding of its potential. Analysts already predict that IoT’s impact could be that of a ‘fourth Industrial Revolution’ – behind steam, electricity, and of course, computers. We could rewrite this article year after year and probably have new innovative uses for the technology to discuss – particularly as an increasing tide of entrepreneurs and startups put their resources into further facilitating urban living.

Across the globe, cities are introducing smart technology bespoke to their unique day-to-management needs. With 54% of the world’s population living in urban areas, and that figure rising fast, a connected city infrastructure is sure to prove a wise investment for the challenges of urban area management in the future. Cities across the world, from Seoul to Edinburgh are recognising the enormous social and economic benefits of connected IoT-ready smart city platforms.

IntechnologyWiFi’s smart digital infrastructure creates a secure and safe platform for consumers, businesses, and technologies to engage and interact with each other, allowing local councils to benefit from data-driven insights. If you’d like to find out more about how our Connected City Platform can enable modern cities to face the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the future, please get in touch.

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Whether you’re a local authority looking to provide public WiFi or seeking a connectivity solution for Smart Cities, the IoT or 5G / Small Cells in your town or city, or if you are interested in partnering with us around the Connected City Platform in any of our forthcoming town and city roll-outs, we’d love to explain more about who we are and what we do.

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