Nathan McGregor, senior vice president, Asia-Pacific, Cradlepoint.
Sponsored by Cradlepoint.
For many years now, we have heard predictions that cities would become tech hubs of science fiction proportions. While few urban areas have transformed into something quite as cinematic as Blade Runner, and the lifestyle of the Jetsons still seems a long way off, a wave of pioneering advances and applications are breathing new life into the Smart City concept. .
A smart city harnesses technology to provide better governance and improve citizens’ quality of life, and one of the key elements of smart cities is connectivity. Breakthroughs in wireless technology including 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN are contributing to the revival of the Smart City movement. In Australia, investments in infrastructure by state and federal governments have also created opportunities for technological innovation to be central to the design of many new public spaces. The ubiquity of mobile devices – along with the ongoing shutdown of 3G connectivity across Australia – means that 5G connectivity has become increasingly available and accessible in more and more parts of the country, creating opportunities for using Internet of Things (IoT) applications in Smart City Settings.
Life is a beach with IoT
Environment NSW’s Beach Water Quality Program monitors recreational water quality at Sydney area bathing sites. The data generated by the project is open for reuse, allowing Randwick to display the level of water quality on its Coogee Beach digital signs.
Using smart sensors over LoRaWAN (a low-power, long-range wide area network system), Randwick is able to provide real-time local weather information such as UV, air temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed. Using open data from the Bureau of Meteorology, Randwick can display the predicted daily maximum temperature alongside its own locally generated data.
Other IoT applications used by Randwick Council include using Transport for NSW’s open data portal to ingest real-time bus arrival times at key stops along Coogee Beach, free Wi-Fi connectivity for local community and smart lockers providing real-time locker availability. .
Randwick also offers smart cooktops, equipped with smart sensor technologies, which provide beachgoers with real-time information on the availability of beach barbecues. The council also uses sensor technology in the bins to measure the fill level, using this data to calculate the amount of litter generated by bathers in Coogee.
Smart Cities, smart option for sustainability
Installing LED lights should reduce energy consumption by approximately 60-70%.
Smart cities for community engagement
The report outlines ten suggested approaches for cities to collect and use public data, including:
- Develop and implement public data detection models in accordance with the core values of preserving trust, confidentiality, transparency, open communication and caring;
- Incorporate local values and practices into sensing city data – for example, inclusion of quotes from locals or localized information;
- Create multiple and playful ways to interact with city data sensing, to encourage engagement of people of all ages, abilities and diversities to access information;
- Encourage two-way communication between the city and the public through established modes such as accessing city data on smartphones via QR codes and providing notifications when data is collected;
- Create opportunities for people to receive self-care information via city data alerts like wearing sunscreen or real-time updates on park capacity during closures;
- Encourage a better understanding of public data as an asset that can provide service, education and a sense of community to residents.
An infinite number of Smart City applications
Other cities have started implementing IoT sensors for a host of different applications, including monitoring smart water meters, which wirelessly transmit water usage data to collection centers. This eliminates the expense of manual meter checks and shutdowns.
Other applications in development aim to equip traffic lights with sensors that determine if emergency service vehicles are approaching and automatically provide them with green lights.
Building a smart city from scratch
Of course, smart cities don’t happen without funding or public buy-in.
Leaders who want to effect smart city transformation must ensure that they partner with citizens every step of the way to gain the necessary support. The next step is to do a thorough assessment of the problems they want to solve.
Since connectivity is one of the fundamental components of smart cities, city managers should involve experts in wireless communications as well as data analytics and storage, cloud and edge computing. These advisors can help determine costs and identify which technologies deliver the most value.
For example, a real opportunity for innovation in the Smart City space comes from the superior performance offered by 5G, the fifth generation technology standard for cellular networks. This technology will prove useful for cities working with autonomous vehicles, robotics or large video files to achieve more enhanced results. These applications will likely need the full capacity and low-latency 5G offerings. But applications such as measuring water or pollution levels, with much lower data requirements, can be powered by 4G LTE or a throttled 5G wafer. Deploying 5G on a large scale would simply be a waste of resources.
When deciding where to spend taxpayer dollars, local councils and state governments must remember that flexibility is a key factor in keeping technology up to date. Purchasing hardware and software that easily integrates with equipment and applications from a wide variety of vendors will prevent you from being locked into one vendor’s walled garden and save you money at the time of the upgrade.
Boards and ministries should look for vendors that provide open APIs and work well with top services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Decision makers should worry less about technology bells and whistles, and more about whether the hardware and software they acquire generates real savings and, above all, improves the lives of citizens.
About the author: Nathan McGregor, senior vice president, Asia Pacific at Cradlepoint.