How advanced connectivity is facilitating Smart Cities

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The Internet of Things has opened a world of new possibilities for both the public and private sector, dramatically affecting the lifestyles of individuals across the globe. By connecting devices to wireless networks, everything from coffee machines to street lamps become more efficient, allowing for a greater level of control and a more in-depth method of data collection than ever before. Above all, connected devices allow for levels of efficiency that many of us would have never expected in our lifetime. This efficiency is rapidly generating a smarter world, and the pace of development is only going to continue.

Smart Cities are just the first step

For Gartner, a smart city is an “urbanised area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real-time information sharing among sector-specific information and operational technology”. Whilst a regular smart home might have a number of devices connected to the network across a relatively small space, by extending this across an entire city, or even an entire county, a huge wireless network of connected things could reach levels of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and convenience that are virtually limitless.

Wireless will connect communities as well as devices

As IT technologies continue to advance, but budgets for public sector IT departments are shrinking, connected devices present an opportunity to cut costs whilst improving output. Government departments, local authorities, emergency services, education and law enforcement are leading the way in this by implementing sensors connected with 4G LTE technology. The government has even founded a programme designed to advance the UK’s IoT advancement, IoTUK.

In fact, here are some of the most innovative examples of currently available smart technologies, and how they can affect an organisation:

Widespread sensors for almost any application

Cities and counties are using sensors to acquire more information and make better resource decisions for their occupants:

Smart apparel with embedded sensors monitor firefighters’ location, body position, heart and respiratory rates, and body temperature. Public sector administrators avoid emergencies, reduce emissions, and save money by monitoring the structural integrity of buildings, bridges, and dams. In winter, some cities use sensors to track which streets have been plowed after snowstorms. Environmental departments access real-time readings of pollution levels, wildlife counts, and water levels. In large cities, sensors are being used in bins and bin lorries to monitor if they are full. This helps regulate pick-up schedules and creates operational efficiencies.

Connected Mobile Devices

WiFi-connected laptops and tablets enable police officers to do more of their work out in the field, giving them more hours each day to focus on keeping communities safe. First responders use 4G LTE for mission-critical communications. Connected school buses enable educators to foster in-vehicle learning during field trips and trips to sporting events.

Save time with remote controls

Remote management will streamline processes and ensures that key data leads to improved cost-effectiveness:

Real-time updates regarding power, heating, and cooling usage give organisations opportunities to regulate their in-office controls as needed. Water managers use SCADA (coded signals over communication channels to remote equipment) to remotely collect and analyse water samples, predict usage patterns and challenges, control valves, and more. Entities that place sensors in streets and traffic signals use data to guide traffic patterns in a way that’s fruitful for local commuters.

Advanced surveillance will improve public safety

Wireless technology enables self-contained surveillance cameras that gather important information:

Law enforcement agencies use dashboard and body cameras to monitor and record encounters between officers and the public. Cameras enable law dispatchers to remotely examine incident scenes in real time to accurately determine the right number of officers to deploy. Police use cameras to remotely spot stolen vehicles, theft, illegal dumping, and suspicious activities.

Connectivity on the go

For years people have been buzzing about the concept of “Smart Roads,” an infrastructure that that could eventually lead to driverless cars. We’re not there yet, but the surfaces we drive on are becoming a lot less passive.

Sensors embedded in streets and traffic signals capture data that leads to decisions affecting congestion and energy use. While still in the trail stage, solar-powered roads would transform transportation. Paved with durable solar cells, the average highway would be able to capture and store solar energy, which could then be used to operate digital traffic signage and charge electric vehicles as they pass by.

These incredible advances have created a great demand for faster, more robust connectivity, as the number of connected things increases, and the bandwidth needed to support them rises in turn. “Smart” applications are only possible with a constant, secure connection, and the benefits are widespread across Smart Cities. However, as our Smart Cities evolve into Smart Counties, and eventually a smart country, the challenge of maintaining a connection on such a grand scale will have to be addressed. When that happens, the benefits will be almost unimaginable.

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