Building the Smart Cities of the Future Now

Amber Plante for Zondits, June 29, 2015. Image credit: WT Vox

Engineers are looking to take the terabytes of data that are being collected each year and use them to build “smart cities” in which the various components – waste management, traffic sensors, law enforcement, transit, electricity, etc. – can “speak” to each other along the grid and keep the system moving as efficiently as possible. And, it isn’t just the Big Data collection and machine interaction that will keep the system running; it will depend on the interactivity of our smartphones, smart watches, and other wearables to feed our information to the grid.

It sounds like a true city of the future, and it is: garbage collectors who know exactly which dumpster is about to overflow; your car guiding you to the closest empty parking space; park paths and sidewalks measuring footfalls to create better safety and measure appropriate electricity usage; traffic lights that know when cars are backed up into the intersections; and interactive commercials based on what side of the street you’re walking on.

This future “smart city” isn’t as far off as one would think. Governments around the world – in Glasgow, Scotland; Bristol, England; and South Korea – are incentivizing the development of these new, environmentally friendly technologies using the “Internet of Things.”

Wait, what is this Internet of Things? Read more in this Zondits article, IoT: Energy Hog or Energy Hero?

How Big Data And The Internet Of Things Create Smarter Cities

Forbes, May 19, 2015

The model most commonly adopted so far is to attract businesses which develop software and hardware applications for the Internet of Things, and encourage them to put their ingenuity to use to smarten the surrounding areas. Public money is often put up as an incentive to do so – an example is Glasgow, Scotland, the government has offered £24 million ($37 million) for technology which will make the city “smarter, safer and more sustainable”.

Applications developed or planned for the program include intelligent street lighting which will switch itself off to conserve energy when there’s no one around, mapping energy use around the city to better understand demand, and mapping how people get around to maximize the use of bicycle and foot paths.

Sensors attached to street lights and other outside urban furniture will measure footfall, noise levels and air pollution and this data will be used to prioritize delivery of other services. The government’s Technology Strategy Board, which is coordinating the project, says that more than 200 potential streams of data have been identified and although many of them are already enabled to collect data, the information is often held in isolation. That’s about to change. The extensive CCTV network in Glasgow will, for example, begin monitoring traffic and street lighting as well as crime and disorder. Data from multiple sources analyzed together is almost always more valuable than sources held in isolation.

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