Cities have evolved quite a lot over the years. From small, walled enclosures to sprawling metropolises containing millions of people, practically every aspect of living in a city has changed, especially in those areas where technological developments disrupted the old way of doing things- remember horse-drawn carriages?
That type of evolution hasn’t stopped, and the internet of things is the new frontier of development in how cities are built and run. The concept of IoT is essentially that various devices (from the usual suspects like smartphones and cars to more mundane ones like refrigerators) are connected and able to share information with one another. Most times, the term also covers the autonomy of those devices to take specific actions when they receive pre-set trigger data.
The revolutionization of cities is going to be a hotbed of business opportunity for those savvy enough to get in at the right place and time, especially with several governments beginning to express a clear intention to incorporate IoT tech into urban strategy. For instance, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, declared that “The Dubai Digital Certificates and the Dubai IoT Strategy mark the official launch of smart living in the Emirate and we have directed all government institutions to co-operate and fully implement the initiatives by the year 2021”, at the launch of a new government IoT program.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor, administrator or just someone interested, here are three of the most notable ways IoT will shape the smart cities of the future:
- Traffic Management
As cities have expanded and affluence has spread, there has continued to be an increase in the number of cars and drivers, which comes with the inevitable problem of congestion and higher incidence of accidents. Several innovations have been made to solve the problem, from redesigned traffic lights to improved parking systems, but it’s still a major issue in most cities.
The first way the Internet of Things is addressing traffic problems is by replacing the current system of fragmented and unreliable self-reporting by drivers with a comprehensive system that gives accurate, real-time information about traffic dispersion, making it easier for drivers to be guided to other roads or for autonomous vehicles to simply reroute on their own.
Parking automation is another developing area. In Shanghai, a pilot program is being run by the city to allow drivers to search for, book, and navigate their way to a parking space as well as pay directly with their smartphones. Automation like this reduces the loss of productivity while people circle blocks in search of space and also provides extra revenue.
- Smart Architecture and Energy Management
Everything from the shape and structure of buildings to the lighting in them is currently being geared toward being greener and having minimal impact on the environment, especially since energy efficiency has a major effect on building value. The IoT provides exciting potential to harness energy usage in a more efficient manner.
“Energy efficiency and coverage should play a pivotal role when implementing new technologies for city development,” said Sheen Xin Hu, CEO of MXC Foundation. “Sometimes the most efficient solution, isn’t the solution most commonly used.”
Smart bulbs are already quite common, and even elevators are being modified to make them responsive to population factors in the course of a day and reduce wastage of man-hours (A 2010 study by IBM showed that in New York City, people waited a total of 22.5 years for elevators). Allied Market Research expects the smart elevator market to nearly double from $12 billion in 2015 to $23 billion in 2020.
Street lighting and meter systems for resources such as water, gas, and electricity are also being updated. A recent Amsterdam program installed smart electricity meters in homes to allow for automatic management of generated solar power and the sale of excess electricity to the central grid.
- Security and Privacy
The most obvious area in which the Internet of Things has been implemented to improve security in urban areas is video surveillance, which allows for the police to monitor live feeds from across an entire city, relying on AI systems to detect and report incidences of crime or the sighting of wanted persons or vehicles.
As city administrators and tech developers work to strike a balance between privacy and efficacy, some programs have already been implemented including a gunshot detection technology in some parts of New York City, which automatically alerts nearby police officers whenever a gunshot is captured.
Ultimately, there is massive potential to innovate and make profit from the shift toward the IoT across various sectors, including city planning. The difference between entrepreneurs who will succeed in the IoT industry and those who will not is whether or not their innovations maximize the features of the internet of things to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact while keeping privacy rights strong.