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How Innovation in IoT Makes Cities Smarter?

The term Smart city has evolved over the past few years to denote different things to different people all over the world. Nevertheless what remained same is being “smart” by making use of information technology along with internet to deal with urban challenges.

Each year the urban population is expanding by nearly 60 million with an estimated 60 percent of world population to occupy cities by 2050. At this rate a projected 1 million people will occupy more than 100 newly built cities in over a decade. The challenges faced by today`s cities include economic growth, job creation, social resilience and environmental sustainability.  Going by these trends, it is important to know where we stand in the process of evolution of internet to plan for the future.

Cities Getting Smarter

Smart city initiatives are sprouting all over the world with the adoption of IoT (Internet of Things) which leverages everywhere connectivity, analytics and big data with stunning potential including remote monitoring, managing and controlling devices with logic designed by the inputs of live and real time data received. This results in the transformation of cities by improvements in various sections such as public transportation, infrastructure, safety and security of citizens, minimizing traffic bottlenecks, addition of efficient as well as effective community services and well engaged connected communities.

It’s time for giants offering smart city solutions, system integrators and futuristic cities to realize that IoT in cities should not only deliver different smart city point solutions, but also enable secure IoT infrastructure which is scalable and can integrate into multitude of systems.

The Internet of Things is all about putting in beacons, Wi-Fi beacons, sensors, GPS, RFID, IR, scanners and lasers etc. for anything and everything which connects and communicates to internet for exchanging information to attain intelligent recognition, management, monitoring and location tracking. Backed by technological support from IoT, smart cities are driven by the three specialties of being automated, connected and intelligent.

The heart of smart city remain the analysis and integration of data from different parameters such as demographics, weather forecasts, public transport, machine-to-machine data and performance statistics and so on. This is where IoT find space to breathe in life of ease. There were several discussions conducted at the international level by the world leaders on how IoT could be leveraged to address challenges such as traffic congestion, waste management, security etc. in urban areas.

To site a few examples, Wi-Fi-enabled Solar Powered garbage bins use solar energy, powered from solar panels to control the compactor which helps bins to gather trashes fivefold than normal bins before it requires to be emptied and Nottingham council is one of the few who successfully tested it. These technology driven garbage bins enabled the city to be clean by keeping an eye on the volume of litter gusting along the streets and sending out notifications when it needs to be emptied.


Role of Beacons

Beacons in combination with automated services can make a super star entry when it comes to the design of the infrastructure for making cities truly smart. By implementing a massive web of Wi-Fi beacons all over the city through a private network to transmit the data back and forth to a centralized hub and this is indeed a low cost solution when compared to various smart city technologies.

Additionally implementing Bluetooth mechanisms through Wi-Fi beacons for controlling devices makes it much more efficient. This is one of the main USP considering the fact that IoT in smarter cities doesn`t depend on a lone technology, but a combination of several technologies such as bluetooth, sensors, Wi-Fi and cellular.

From Push notifications to addressing Urban challenges

Beacons including Wi-Fi beacons are most notable for their traits to push the proximity based notifications such as offers or discount coupons to the end users mobiles. Recently, with the boom of IoT we have seen Wi-Fi beacons finding its place in dealing with real world urban challenges such as navigation, public safety, traffic problems etc.

  • Contextual Advertising in Smart Cities

In Certain cities such as Sao Paolo that has ban on commercial advertising, Wi-Fi beacons bring up life by offering contextual advertisements. Advertising agencies or firms who deploy this Wi-Fi beacons in such cities notifies consumers with contextually relevant notifications such as deals or offers specific to a location. In comparison to other competitive technologies, these beacon technologies hold the advantage of reaping benefits with respect to determining attribution that may be able to identify customer inclinations.

  • Helping the physically challenged

Even the most experienced travelers find it difficult not to lose ground during rush hours in a crowded tube station like the London underground tube station. So what might the case be of visually challenged who wants to navigate and find their target, it’s hard to imagine. The RLSB (London Society for Blind People) Youth forum developed a smartphone app named Wayfindr to assist the visually challenged.

The application make use of Wi-Fi beacons zero-down the user’s position and provide them with audio based instructions through the headphones to find their way by avoiding any obstacles. These headphones not only help by giving accurate information on navigating, but also does not prevent users from hearing sounds near them, so as to make the user take confident strides without any hesitation.

  • Public Safety in Remote Areas

By the implementation of a 1000 connected beacon through the city, Columbus earned its place to be the foremost iBeacon City in the United States. Besides its academic, commercial and non-profit uses, this beacon network ensures safety of the public in the remote Chattahoochee Riverwalk area.

This safe city program installed 37 beacons along the Riverwalk to help cops to trace the exact location of any user who is need of any emergency or under threat. The users with this app downloaded to their phones will be alerted of the most near beacon number which may help them to report anything suspicious through the app itself.

From the above examples it is clear that IoT has lot to offer in cities that plans to go smarter. Effective citizen engagement is key and when cities expand at a fast pace, involving citizens in decision making processes become complicated. bfonics, one of the leading player in this arena has a platform network of IoT devices that will enable effective planning, implementation and engagement inside a city.


Anupama Pradeep
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