No matter what corner of the globe you travel, Internet of Things (IoT) technology is rapidly transforming every facet of city life.
For instance, Singapore is building a smart nation by harnessing technology with the aim of improving the lives of its residents, creating more opportunities and building stronger communities, while Dubai launched its smart city strategy, which aims to engage various constituents and stakeholders to shape the city’s efforts.
Here in the U.S., the Obama administration is pushing forward with its Smart Cities Initiative to invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate and improving the delivery of city services. And on a local level, Chicago is implementing the Array of Things project, a network of interactive, modular sensor nodes that will be installed around the city to collect real-time data on the environment, infrastructure and activity for research and public use.
These global initiatives are examples of the modern, integrated city, where working, living and playing are no longer separate entities. Modern cities, and the activities that determine a city’s culture, are smartly connected.
They are instrumented to collect massive amounts of data about a wide variety of “things” going on in the city, and built to analyze that information in meaningful ways to make the city better for its residents and businesses (e.g., optimizing rapid transit routes, determining more efficient water cleansing systems, analysis to ease congestion during rush hour traffic and so on).
This is an ongoing trend and there appears to be no slowing the global spread — the smart city infrastructure market is expected to grow 17 percent worldwide by 2020. Given the growing interest among governments to leverage sophisticated IoT advancements to enhance the ways they deliver vital services and programs to their residents, it’s no surprise that technologies such as sensors, data storage and analysis have evolved tenfold over the past few years.
ABI Research estimates that machine-learning-as-a-service models will hit nearly $20 billion in 2021 as companies increasingly adopt IoT-based technologies, such as security, analytics and operating systems. Additionally, IDC predicts there will be approximately 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes, of data by 2020 — a staggering amount to take place in such a short period of time (to provide some context, this means data amounts will more than double every two years for the next decade or so).
IDC also reveals that data amounts in emerging markets such as, for example, South America and Asia will surpass those in more mature markets by 2017. What’s more, standardization across these technologies has become more prevalent. At the first World Smart City Forum, three organizations — the International Electrotechnical Commission, International Organization for Standardization and International Telecommunication Union — came together and published International Standards that provide technical tools to enable the integration of city services and technologies.
At the forum, these organizations heard from city planners, utilities and service providers who said international standards are critical to help connect the different suppliers — who are responsible for operating many of the systems used in today’s cities — both physically and virtually to ensure an expected performance level and compatibility between technologies. What this means is that the emergence of standardization policies is making it easier for governments to implement smart city initiatives than ever before because the various puzzle pieces are starting to fit together in an easier fashion.