By Kameshwar Rao Sorda, Solutions Director, Huawei Enterprise Southern Africa
Communities around the world are turning to innovative information communication technologies (ICT) to re-imagine the way in which residents live, work and play, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is playing a growing role in turning safer, smarter cities from vision into reality.
When combined with other components, such as communication, security and network infrastructure, IoT takes the concept of cities being aware of their environment to the next level, with a multitude of sensors making it easier to collect large volumes of data from both homogenous and heterogenous systems.
Armed with real-time monitoring and analytics, city administrators can make data-driven decisions to improve efficiency and delivery of civic services, increase engagement with communities, cut down on costs and/or gain new revenue, and even promote environmental sustainability.
IoT: what has changed?
In an IoT solution, devices and sensors are connected to a network so that they can communicate with each other, or send data to a cloud-based platform where it is combined with data from other peripherals to be processed, with the value coming from the resulting analytics.
Rapid changes across these three elements are helping accelerate the adoption of IoT, starting off with devices. Not only are vendors now releasing devices with multiple interfaces and lightweight embedded operating systems to meet current industry and bulk device deployment demand, but the cost of sensors continues to decline.
Research shows sensor prices dropping from over $20 to less than 30 cents per sensor over a ten-year period between 2010 and 2020, meaning that cities can and will be able to monitor more variables at a lower cost.
Similarly, telecom operators are playing a vital role by ensuring that their networks are capable of securely handling the growing volumes of data being communicated between these devices. The development of new protocols, as well as technologies such as narrow band (NB-IoT), LoRaWAN/Sigfox and eLTE-M have been introduced to support increased IoT deployment.
All this data is meaningless without being able to make sense of it, and city administrators looking for advanced analytical capabilities are turning to cloud-based data centres, which offer enhanced product efficiency, scalability, affordability as well as improved management of deployed devices.
What can cities do with IoT?
Cities around the world are using innovative IoT solutions to decrease costs across services provided: in electricity by using smart grids and meters, and water by using sensors to reduce wastage, and in refuse collection to enhance delivery and fleet utilisation. Connected street lamps can help municipalities save up to 80% in lighting energy costs and 90% in maintenance costs.
Rather than work in isolation, cities are increasingly realising the need for a wide-reaching IoT ecosystem that requires them to partner with business (equipment vendors, system integrators, service providers, etc) and communities (including together with local small business), and drive revenue by providing access to new services, including in education, healthcare, and transportation. One example is the rise of connected car solutions which can enable unified platforms that support multiple applications.
Digital transformation for transit management systems such as elevators is another example, where IoT can help in selecting elevators remotely so that they are ready for the passengers instead of having to wait for them to arrive. and more.
The adoption of industry standards further bodes will for IoT, as it ensures that deployed systems meet the requirements for interconnectivity and interoperability, allowing for future growth – or even giving governments the ability to connect several smart cities together as part of a broader Smart Nation initiative.