In 2015, the White House announced a $160 million federal initiative to help U.S. municipalities become smart cities. But what is a connected city, also known as a smart city? The concept takes Internet of Things innovation and technologies and applies them to urban needs. For example, a connected city might use IoT devices to monitor and streamline traffic flow on area roads, to detect gunshots and other disturbances, or to connect utility meters.
Applications and benefits of the connected city
Pinpointing the exact definition of a connected city is a challenge, given the wide variety of IoT devices and their potential applications. Many self-proclaimed “smart cities” have adopted traffic lights that keep track of patterns and changes, automatically adjusting their timing to keep traffic flowing. Other technologies useful to a connected city could include sensors to monitor air quality, wearable devices for first responders that keep track of vital signs, parking sensors that can determine when a parking garage is full, and garbage sensors that can notify city personnel when dumpsters need to be emptied.
Connected devices can save time, effort, and expense for municipalities that adopt the smart city model. However, it’s important to consider the bottom line – will the cost of installing a particular technology outweigh the subsequent savings? Rather than seeking to incorporate a dozen IoT systems at once, city officials are wise to adopt new technologies one at a time, considering which ones are most feasible for their particular situation.
Creating a connected city
When a municipality is interested in becoming a connected city, what is a good place to start? The initial considerations should include size, population, and composition of the city. What are its population’s greatest needs? If traffic is a frequent problem, installing smart stoplights could be a top priority. In cities where gun crime is rampant, instating gunshot sensors might be the best initial project.
Whatever the order of priorities, city officials should consider the big picture of how their IoT systems will fit together. Can information be shared easily between sectors? Are there security issues with information storage? How could analytics be used to leverage the information gathered by sensors?
Choosing a platform for smart city technologies can be challenging in view of the numerous questions and concerns involved. A point system can provide connection between specific elements, such as linking utility sensors to the local power company, but lacks the integration of a horizontal platform. The horizontal approach provides streamlined operations, open communication and end-to-end security and scalability for IoT systems, a perfect choice for connected cities wanting to link various departments and entities. There’s also a cost-savings benefit, since a single horizontal platform increases efficiency and reduces the number of personnel needed to operate multiple systems at once.