The basic principle behind making a smart city successful is discovering what parts of the city are already working well and identifying what parts could use improvement. How do you find out what’s working and what isn’t? By monitoring devices that play a role in efficiency. Monitoring expands upon the “Internet of Things” (IoT) principle, enabling municipalities to leverage real time data to achieve efficiency.
It’s not quite as simple as it sounds.
Take for example, the smart house, the key unit of a smart city. The only way for a house to become more efficient is to gather real-time data on what's going on inside of it. For example, reducing home water usage means installing a smart shower in your own bathroom. Behavior change starts once you can quantify your baseline water use.
What’s true for monitoring home electricity and water usage can be applied to the city as a whole. The goal is the same: measure the areas in which you are in the dark. Get an overview of the city’s arteries of energy and usage, assess ways to allocate resources, foster collaborative efforts and encourage people to make use of the most responsive systems in place.
Let’s look at a much bigger example than the home shower—the American football game, one of the most population-dense American activities. Football deftly illuminates the potential of the IoT. According to the website statescoop.com, when the San Francisco 49ers moved into their new home in Levi’s Stadium for the start of the 2014 season, city IT leaders started brainstorming ways to ease the congestion and chaos created by the sudden influx of football fans. (More than 76,000 people—over half the number of Santa Clara’s 120,000 residents—go to the games.)
The city’s IT department decided to adopt the IoT, installing connected devices around the stadium and its parking lots to assess how many fans arrived for the game, and their foot traffic patterns. The IT staff also coordinated with police, first responders, emergency medical and transportation authorities to pool resources, data and ideas to ease congestion. A whole new set of possibilities opened up as a result of that collaboration, which has made the data openly available in the form of an app quickly growing in popularity.
Here are some other not-so-far-off ways that the IoT can enhance a city’s functionality:
- A LED lighting system that uses an app to view and manage lights remotely and lets maintenance crews easily locate and replace broken luminaires.
- Parking garages that save energy by only turning on (or brightening) the lights when a car (or person) approaches.
- Traffic signals that can organize traffic flow based on the number of vehicles and pedestrians.
- Street lighting–embedded gunfire detection technology that alerts law enforcement when and where a shooting occurs.
- Water meters that alert maintenance personnel about leaking pipes.
All this goes to show that the IoT can help develop the necessary technology to save water and reduce energy consumption. Although discernment is required, the IoT is fast proving essential for cities to preserve resources and better serve their community in a more sustainable way.