It is clear that the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming every aspect of cities. From the many forms of transportation to devices used to maintain homes and offices to retail companies and industries that power economies to gadgets that keep people healthy, very few elements of daily life will be untouched. It is equally clear that these same connected technologies offer great opportunity to improve the management and provision of infrastructure and services to city residents.
To realize value from IoT technologies, cities must recognize the opportunities these technologies offer, address the barriers to implementation and decide where to start their IoT journey.
So, what are the opportunities offered by IoT technologies? The first is business model innovation by using connected devices and the data they produce to create value. In the private sector, this could mean enhancing customer experiences through a cloud-based software update based on data collected by a device about how customers have been using the device itself. For cities, this could mean altering how infrastructure is used to be more responsive to residents’ needs. For example, a parking lot may not be full after 5pm. The lighting could be adjusted to a higher level some evenings to allow the lot to be used for sports like street hockey. The city could learn more about how the lot is used from smart lights themselves to be more responsive over time.
To make the most of IoT technologies, cities must thread the need between opportunity and barriers to value of IoT technology
The second opportunity is applying real-time information to mission critical systems. When cities link sensors, secure networks and analytics platforms, they can understand the performance of infrastructure in meaningful ways and improve performance with better daily decision making and long-term planning. Chicago is doing this with its Green Infrastructure Pilot, launched with UI Labs earlier this year. This solution integrates sensors in Chicago’s water system with the network and analytic processes to provide information about flooding and to evaluate solutions to the problem like bio-swales. This information will tell Chicago where the current water system is overwhelmed to support immediate action like more precise flood warnings and to influence long-term investment in upgrading the water system.
The third opportunity is data-information policy development. Connected devices collect an amount of data with a greater level of precision and diversity than cities have ever had before. This means policies can be more responsive and reflective of the true needs of residents, businesses and the environment. The ground-breaking Array of Things project is deploying 500 multi-sensor nodes across Chicago to collect data about the environment, infrastructure and activity of the city. That data will be used to inform all types of policies including the city’s focus on reducing vehicular and pedestrian accidents to zero as part of the national Vision Zero program and to improve the health of youth by sharing air quality data with researchers studying adolescent asthma.