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The Time is Now for Smart City Planning

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We’ve got a big year coming in the IoT, don’t we? Lots of folks are making lots of big predictions, and we’ll be joining in, about what the next 12 months will mean for our developing industry.

I’ve already said, I think we’ll see a heavy push to promote the power of the Industrial IoT and that the Consumer IoT will find some function to validate its gadgety form.

The third big trend I see coming is the implementation of the Smart City. Yes, I know we’ve already seen some exciting things happening in this area, but we haven’t seen a full implementation yet, with all relevant parties joining in, from municipal leaders to business interests to the citizenry. I think it’ll finally be time for that in 2016. And I’m not alone.

Verizon has launched a smart traffic management platform as its first big venture into the Smart City marketplace. It chose traffic because the company is interested in making real changes that will get the citizens on board quickly by showing them real tangible results from smart IoT technology.

“When my team and I look at what we want to launch, we look at what we hear from cities and how we can scale broadly,” said Dan Feldman, Director, IoT Smart Cities, Verizon. And in this case, traffic management was the key area.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the general population has to drive through nearly 7 billion extra hours of commute due to traffic congestion. Verizon’s new intelligent traffic management solution is designed to alleviate that with high-resolution, 24/7 data for signal optimization, congestion mitigation and performance reporting, which provides drivers, traffic flow systems and city leaders with up-to-date information for traffic optimization.

By using embedded sensors and hardware installed at intersections and other access points to gather performance data in real time, Verizon’s system will be able to help alleviate gridlock during events and rush hours.

“This is a proven system and platform,” Feldman said. “We’ve just started working with a number of cities, so it’s an active deployment.” I know I’m eager to get the system in play in my area.

The decision may have been helped along by the fact that the U.S. DOT has recently announced a $40 million contest for the city with the best congestion management plan. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the challenge is to create a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind city that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future. The winning city will get up to $40 million to implement its ideas by making transportation safer, easier, and more reliable. What’s more, Vulcan Inc. will award up to $10 million more to the U.S. DOT winner of the Smart City Challenge if the winner works with Vulcan in its solutions planning. To learn more about the Smart City Challenge or to explore joining as a partner organization, visit www.transportation.gov/smartcity.

Of course, traffic isn’t the end of the smart city movement. Many very smart people think that lighting is easily as important as traffic when it comes to Smart City planning. In Taipei, Taiwan, Billion Electric, a networking and energy management provider, will work with LED streetlight vendors to deploy a Smart Streetlight Control Solution for a city-wide street light infrastructure project in Taipei. The system will automatically dim when not needed, based on environmental illumination, motion, and regional sunrise and sunset schedules. Billion is working with the Bureau of Energy and Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs to expand its system capacity to controlling up to 6,000 streetlights.

The U.S. is actually a bit behind the rest of the world in moving toward Smart Cities, in point of fact. Microsoft’s CityNext initiative is designed to help urban leaders re-imagine their communities as more vibrant, connected, Smart Cities. Through the CityNext initiative, data visualization developer Cityzenith is already working to city leaders all over the world  to do “new with less” by using IoT technology to connect governments, businesses and citizens with city services that increase efficiencies, reduce costs, foster a more sustainable environment  and cultivate communities where people thrive.

The Cityzenith 5D Smart City data visualization and management solution uses Microsoft Azure as a key part of its technology stack, and helps city governments and private enterprise users to make sense of the vast amount of collected data with browser-based, 3D simulated models of the city.

“We're proud to partner with Microsoft CityNext to help bring a new era of innovation to cities, transform government infrastructure, deliver improved citizen services and address important challenges ranging from energy efficiency and infrastructure management to environmental sustainability and economic development,” said Michael Jansen, CEO, Cityzenith.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Blue City Solutions, a global coalition for improving lives through Smart City innovation, officially launched at COP21.

“Right now, every city in the world is fighting its own battle when it comes to procuring and implementing complex smart city systems,” said Michiel Frackers, co-founder, Blue City Solutions. “Blue assists cities in defining their technology needs while speeding the adoption of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable solutions.”

Blue aims to test at least 100 solutions per year. It will work with The Global City Teams Challenge, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) initiative designed to advance the deployment of IoT technologies in urban environments, to identify which solutions it will help to scale globally. Blue is a non-profit, international entity that operates in Europe, Asia and the Americas with offices in Amsterdam, Singapore and Washington DC. Its funding comes from private sources, government grants and test service fees.

“Running a city is difficult enough,” said Ger Baron, CTO, Amsterdam. “Cities and utilities welcome Blue, which supports independent testing and implementing of the best solutions from around the world. We look forward to sharing our best practices with other cities and learning about theirs under the auspices of Blue.”

Our cities are old, and what’s worse, obsolete. Let’s see if we can’t make everyone’s lives a bit better by unleashing some IoT on the problem.  




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Editorial Director

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