Parking meters, information signs, CCTV, traffic signals – almost everywhere that you look in a modern city, there’s a microchip embedded device, connecting to what has now become known as the all-encompassing Internet of Things. Although we often overlook the fact, cities are, in essence, huge and complex businesses. Cities compete for residents, investors, tourists, and even funding from central government. For cities to remain relevant, they have to become smarter, leaner, and more connected. The IoT is helping the world’s largest cities to do this, and it’s all happening on a grand scale, and at a phenomenal rate.
According to Gartner Research, in this year alone, 5.5 million new ‘things’ are expected to become connected every day. From consumer devices like smartphones and fitness devices, to interactive flat panel displays and information kiosks, IoT is seeing huge adoption rates and staggering investment. Just over a year ago, an IDC FutureScape report predicted that local government bodies would represent up to a quarter of all government spending, specifically because of investment into the research and implementation of connected technologies.
Simple Ideas are Changing How Cities are Run
Looking at just a few of the innovative technologies from the last five years, it is possible to start developing a picture of what smart cities will look like within the next decade. Bitlock is an innovative technology that uses proximity keys to automatically activate or deactivate bike locks. At the same time, the system uses an owner’s smartphone to record the GPS location of the lock and bike. Such a system could be utilized on a large scale, such as in a bike sharing program in heavily congested cities. Private and government organizations could track bikes for better management, and they could even use the uploaded data to provide real time updates for bike availability, while also recording patterns of utilization.
Streetline is another smart city technology that shows great promise. Using networked parking sensors, Streetline can record parking availability in real time, and report to city officials and publicly available smartphone apps, simultaneously. The technology is in widespread use around Los Angeles, and as of May this year, over 490 million individual parking events had been recorded and reported using Streetline sensors. Studies have shown that smart parking systems can reduce peak parking congestion by up to 22%, and can reduce total traffic volume by 8%. With other technologies like IBM’s Intelligent Transportation Solutions, local governments could utilize devices to gather real time aggregated data which can be used to measure traffic volume, speed, and other metrics, which could be used to design better policy and city planning.
Opportunities for IoT Skilled Professionals
Innovative technologies like these are just the beginning of what is possible in a smart city. Emerging technologies have the potential to make major cities more functional and convenient for residents and visitors, and more manageable for government bodies. Even so, there are still challenges to overcome. Infrastructure is a major challenge, and cities will need to plan and implement high speed networks, as well as the servers that are necessary to support their sensors and other systems. Storage and processing needs will increase as IoT becomes more widespread, and security will need to become a major area of focus. Security is not just necessary to safeguard systems, but also to protect end user privacy and data.
It’s clear that smart technologies and IoT are the future of the world’s major cities. Which in turn means that experienced developers, operations professionals, engineers, and IT security specialists will be in high demand, with growing opportunities in the immediate future, and in the coming years.