Urban IoT: what is it, and what does it mean for cities and citizens?

Mit Verteilnetzautomatisierung aus einer Hand zum Smart Grid / Creating the smart grid with distribution automation from a single source

The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. As recognised by its position at the very peak of inflated expectations on Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle for emerging technologies, and the volume of Ovum research taking it into account, anyone working in or with the technological sector in 2015 will not be able to escape it.

A high-level definition of IoT is the ability of ‘things’ (whether that be beings or objects) to be set up to communicate with each other and transfer data without human prompting. IoT-esque technology is well-established in processes such as container tracking and fleet management, but it is increasingly moving into the mainstream in many forms. In this post we’ll be discussing the dawn of urban IoT.

While urban IoT may sound like a buzzword, it is garnering enough attention to pay serious consideration to it. It was mentioned several times during the research period of the Smart to Future Cities Summit 2015, and there has been a queue of volunteers to discuss it at the event. So in the context of a smart city, what does it signify?

Firstly, a bit of background: the world’s population is increasingly urban: 54% of the world’s population live in urban areas, an increase of 58% since 1960 ; this figure is forecast to grow a further 72% by 2050. The world’s population is also increasingly connected: mobile access to the internet now exceeds fixed access, and there are more devices connected to the internet than there are people in the world . The scene for urban IoT has been set, with usage proposals on the increase.

One such use is in the energy market. Urban IoT is ready-made for the production and distribution of smart sustainable energy for the city. Energy efficiency and use of renewables is crucial for cities; what city administrations must do is evaluate different technologies and innovations for smart energy, and integrate smart grids into cities. This is where IoT comes into play – when grids ‘think’ for themselves, storing energy from renewable and traditional sources, and supplying it where appropriate and required, energy becomes more efficient, reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

Another practical use for urban IoT is in Assisted Living, specifically by exploiting IoT and ICT software to enable patients to receive medical care and support at home. Integrating smart home, telecare and smart city technologies and services will meet the needs of aging populations within cities, developing services that enable elderly people to live independently, improving their standard of living.

Central to urban IoT (and IoT generally) is the sheer amount of data generated, and management of this Big Data. This can be done by adding an intelligence layer to existing city infrastructure, and/or by building IoT frameworks in to city platforms, allowing cities to manage real time data, and effectively analyse urban data. Moreover, there is a public safety requirement: effectively managing and processing large volumes of data gives public safety personnel the optimum tools and information to respond to critical situations, enhancing city resilience. If these personnel can access data to enhance situational awareness; integrate and visualise data from different sources to identify risk; link data to first responders smart phones, their job becomes easier and a city becomes safer. The automated nature of IoT is ready-made for this application.

future smart city

These are just a few examples of how urban IoT and Smart Cities go hand in hand. What national governments and supra-national organisations have uppermost in their mind is developing standards and protocols for future city governance and IoT management. This includes creating frameworks of best practice for smart city projects, collaboration on city services, managing risks and resilience in developing smarter cities and communities, and developing a city protocol as a practical way to effectively manage urban IoT.

Over and above all this, however, we must not overlook the human factor. As IoT and wearable technology becomes more a part of the daily life of the inhabitants of cities, technological development in the fabric of the city will feel more natural to them. Therefore if urban IoT enables smart citizens in the resilient, smart city, it has met its objectives. Watch this space.

Find out more about urban IoT at Smart to Future Cities Summit 2015, London, 28-29 April, where 50+ industry leaders, including 19 global smart city case studies, will present their view of the smart city market. City/government administrations can claim a complimentary pass.

Smart Future Cities

Image accreditation 1: http://www.siemens.com/press/photo/soicsg201302-01e
Image accreditation 2: https://www.infobright.com/index.php/exactly-smart-city

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