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Smart Cities and the Internet of Things

Last month we had an article highlighting the Internet of Things (IoT), which is the latest buzz phrase. Essentially it is about the collection and analysis of data without direct human intervention.

The idea of creating smart cities isn't new, but it's becoming more important as the population continues to grow.

In the UK alone it is estimated that 7 out of 10 people live in a city environment and this will also increase in the future.

Proactive Data Analysis

In a nutshell, smart cities set out to create environments that enhance the performance of services and reduce costs, which enables them to run more efficiently.

Analysing data to solve outstanding problems is also not a new idea. In New York the Director of Analytics and his team have been helping city officials tackle long-standing problems for years by analysing complex data. But all of this is done after the fact and it doesn't change the flow of traffic in response to current events.

Smart Cities

There are a number of ongoing experiments to create smart cities in both the US and the UK which implement some of the latest sensor technology.

Bristol has recently announced a multi-million pound project, called Bristol Open, to tackle issues such as air pollution, traffic congestion and assisted living for the elderly. Bristol is also one of four UK cities to experiment with driverless car technology.

Peter Wilson, managing director of Bristol is Open, said the experiment was "disruptive" to existing infrastructure and would look at how networks can "measure beyond consumption and into quality of life". He described it as the "mother of all big data systems"."Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city's data sets on traffic flows, energy use, crime and health trends to kickstart the creation of innovative new services," Wilson said, adding that the technology would allow people to "interact, work and play with their city."

Source: Bristol is making a smart city for actual humans (Wired UK)

In San Jose, California, city officials are working with a technology company, anyCOMM, on a pilot program to implement data nodes to improve services including garbage pick-up, irrigation, electricity and parking. These services will be controlled and monitored with the goal of making them cheaper and more efficient.

The city last week finalized plans for a pilot program with anyCOMM, a fledgling Internet of Things company out of Sacramento County that makes Wi-Fi-connected devices, or nodes, which can collect volumes of data from city streets that will be stored, sorted and returned to city officials to help with city planning and improve public safety.
The nodes -- box-shaped devices not much larger than an Internet modem -- will be installed along main city roads. They are equipped with sensors, smart-meter chips, high-speed Internet and mobile phone chips. With that technology, the nodes can sense movement on the streets, send alerts when the trembling of an earthquake or the blast of a gunshot is detected, act as a Wi-Fi hot spot and tell the streetlights to turn off when the sidewalks are empty.

Source: San Jose tests Internet of Things startup to become a smarter city - San Jose Mercury News

Other cities in the US are considering pilot projects but it is very much in the early stages.

Cities in Europe and Asia, such as Barcelona and Singapore are leading the way.

They are ranked as some of the smartest cities in the world and have utilising similar data monitoring technology for years.

While some people may not be interested in social media and apps for smart phones, they will use integrated devices in the home that transmit data because it can save them money.

Smart meters that allow you to remotely control your central heating are already available and are being used by people of all age groups.

The trend of creating smart cities is only going to increase in the future and data collection devices will soon be integrated into every aspect of our lives until we wondered how we ever managed with them!

Written by Ken

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