Internet of Things – Barcelona, the world’s mobile capital, held the Mobile World Congress (MWC) from February 27th to March 2nd. MWC is one of the most influential mobile events in the world as it consists of over 2,000 companies internationally. Some of this year’s featured categories are 5G, App Development, and Connected Living through the Internet of Things.
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Smart City IQ
With the growth of the tech industry, many cities are looking for ways to use digital information or the Internet of Things (IoT) to solve some of their biggest problems. Barcelona is a smart city that has implemented new technology to better connect and enhance the city’s efficiency with digital sensors that monitor parking and waste management. During the 2008 financial crisis, Barcelona suffered economic hardships which made it difficult for the city to financially sustain itself. In efforts to rebuild its structure, the city channeled energy into becoming what is now called, SmartCity Barcelona, through the integration of the IoT.
It is through success stories such as Barcelona that enable other cities to identify and harness new technologies to increase efficiency. What is a smart city? There are multiple buzzwords encompassing this idea such as intelligent, green, livable and sustainable. These buzzwords however, are regarded as linked components through a continuous network of digital information generated by people. Through the web of interconnectivity, cities can extract data needed to improve infrastructure. In other words, the stronger the connection within the network, the smarter a city will become. Use of the Internet of Things is vital in assisting the development of a sustainable society.
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The Internet of Things (IoT)
“In 2008, history was made as the number of appliances connected to the internet surpassed the number of people on the planet for the first time ever, foreshadowing a future where it is not only the people on this planet which are connected, but also the things” – The Alexandra Institute 2011
Driven by urbanization, many cities are thriving thanks to the integration of the IoT―which not only refer to sensors, but also includes a diverse group of technologies such as smartphones, augmented reality and cloud computing.
Partnership with the Internet of Things helps cities like San Jose and Copenhagen utilize smart technology which translates to an increase in environmental stability, economic growth and quality of life for its residents.
Many may not know of the problems California has faced such as droughts and major water pipeline failure in August 2016. San Jose has taken preventative measures to ensure this does not happen again through determination to become smart. Its location is an advantage because it is nestled in Silicon Valley, a popular area for tech startups. With San Jose’s Go Green Vision plan, it aims to address issues such as wasted energy, polluted air, and water supply challenges through partnership of Smart Cities USA and Intel Corporation’s pilot program to sustain economic growth.
Intel’s program and Smart Cities USA will implement digital sensors throughout the city to interpret some of the environment’s problem areas, such as wastewater, air pollution, and transportation systems that help the city make effective decisions based on real-time data. It is through these data residents can become more educated about their surroundings and take curative measures conducive to their community. For instance, on days with polluted air, people can take Uber or carpool with friends to reduce car pollution.
Greener Community in the IoT
In 2014, Copenhagen was awarded the World Smart Cities Concept award in Barcelona for its Copenhagen Connecting (CC) project. Like San Jose’s project, CC aimed to create a greener community knitted together with the Internet of Things and a conscious neighborhood of residents. Most cities including Copenhagen, use an array of digital sensors to collect data and interact within the city. But to shake things up, Copenhagen is using street lighting as its framework to improve the city’s integration.
The use of the city’s street lighting is an excellent platform as there is no need to create new housing for the sensors; lamp poles are plentiful throughout the city.
“The lighting poles are also excellent for housing sensor equipment for water, wind and pollution as well as for traffic sensors,” says Søren Kvist, spokesperson and Project Manager at Copenhagen Solutions Lab, Copenhagen’s incubator for smart city initiatives.
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Using new and existing technologies to create an ecosystem of connectivity makes a city efficient. Copenhagen demonstrates this concept well by showing how lighting can be a viable source for building this web of interconnectivity.
“An innovative twist is how Copenhagen is planning to use outdoor lighting as infrastructure for the smart initiative. Street lighting is everywhere and every luminaire is connected with electricity, something that’s crucial to get all this tech stuff working. In the coming years 20 000 existing streetlights will also be changed into LEDs.”
“LED-luminaires also have an important advantage as they are always operating. ‘They’re never totally switched off, only dimmed to extremely low levels. This means that other equipment will have power supply, regardless of the time of day,” says Kvist.
Many cities are dealing with numerous economic hardships from recessions to growing populations. While San Jose and Copenhagen have differences in terms of smart city design due to variations in environmental and cultural characteristics, the two share a desire to create economic growth for their cities.
San Jose’s project is expected to bring in about 25,000 clean-tech jobs as part of its economic strategy. With these new jobs, residents will have the opportunity to become part of a new workforce in different sectors such as healthcare, transportation and disaster response. Following pursuits to succeed in economic leverage, the city aspires to create an open-data system with the aim to encourage sharing of bigger business ideas from local entrepreneurs that complement the city’s clean-tech jobs.
In Copenhagen, the CC project predicts almost €592 million in economic leverage and €104 million in new jobs if the project succeeds, according to a report done on the project’s socio economic analysis.
Quality of Living
Copenhagen Connecting is well underway as it brings the user experience side of Internet of Things to its residents. For instance, as part of Copenhagen’s hygge-style approach, the project has implemented a sensor-based bike post which records the number of riders cycling in certain areas. The post shows bikers how many riders have taken this route, thus giving that extra boost of encouragement for others. The CC project is also working to alleviate its problem of traffic congestion through improved traffic management fueled by the IoT. According to the Business in Copenhagen site, the project will reduce travel time for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists by up to ten per cent.
San Jose plans to improve the quality of life for its residents by establishing a more user-friendly infrastructure. It plans to design a digital neighborhood dashboard which will allow access to real-time data information and create an open dialogue for residents to interact and find solutions to problems that may arise. Though not as busy as surrounding cities, San Jose makes for an excellent place to experiment with new technologies and concepts. The city itself is working to build a downtown area from scratch. This is very useful in building the infrastructure required for the Internet of Things as new technologies can be placed directly within systems being created.
Will the IoT save the day?
It is through ideas of everyday people that form the basis of what a smart city should and can represent. The migration of people to urbanized communities has birthed the creation of the smart city―which is beneficial for the many creative, tech and business professionals. However, issues such as quality of life have risen. Traffic is one of the top problems urbanized cities deal with around the world.
As the world moves into the era of transformative technologies, the potential to make our communities more livable are endless. The transformation into a world powered by the Internet of Things will provide cities the tools needed to create a communicative network for its residents to access.
Without a community of educated residents, smart cities would diminish because it is only through the distribution of shared information that people will be able to make better decisions about their place in the world. It is well understood a device can only be as intelligent as its user. With that said, how are you becoming an integral part of your city? What improvements can be made in your city and do you envision the Internet of Things to solve some of its issues? We’d love to hear your thoughts.