That Sound You're Hearing is Cities Getting Smarter


The world continues to become more urbanized. The UN predicts that by 2050 some 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from 54 percent today. As more and more of us move to cities, it’s worth asking: Can they be improved?

The answer is yes. By harnessing data, we can make our cities more efficient and livable. Data  from traffic patterns can help to ease autonomous cars through our streets and keep accidents to a minimum. Already, cities are using  data to respond more quickly to fires (in New Orleans) and to prioritize health inspections of city restaurants (in Chicago), and to help global cities manage their power, water and energy metering.

As those instances illustrate, the quick adoption of IoT means that such “smart cities” aren’t so far off from becoming a reality. Already, some 30 percent of major cities in 2018 plan to put in place a smart cities platform strategy that uses IoT, intelligent software, sensors and wireless technology, according to IDC FutureScape. Such efforts are still nascent, but we’re taking steps towards this vision all the time. To cite one example: One of our partners in Australia, Novecom, developed innovative integrated IoT solution using Datonis IoT platform. The company measured an aspect of city life that we’re all aware of, but few have thought to quantify: sound.

The program
We usually don’t think of noise pollution as a menace on par with air or water pollution. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, noise is the No. 1 complaint about their neighborhoods and the top reason that they choose to move. (Noise is also the top complaint among New York City residents, for whom the city keeps getting noisier.) City residents have also been shown to have hearing levels of people 10 or 15 years older because of their constant exposure to noise. Students at schools in noisier areas also tend to do worse than those in quieter areas.

Exposure to noise can not only cause hearing loss, but hypertension, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular dysfunctions and limit childhood development.

Noise then seems like one of those aspects of urban life that we’re helpless to influence. But that may not be the case. Before we can attempt to minimize noise though, we need to measure it.

With this in mind, Novecom, a leader in environmental monitoring and data management systems, used Altizon’s Datonis platform to measure noise levels at the recently completed Newcastle 500 Supercar race in New South Wales, Australia. Since the V-8 “supercars” can produce sound levels of 95 dbs or more, the idea was to understand the effect of such noise on nearby businesses and homes during the races. The assessment was modeled to take into account the various environmental realities of the Newcastle 500 precinct and the particular circumstances of every business and home within that area.

Thirty-one buildings surrounding the track were identified as having the potential to experience sound that was one to four decibels above public safety guidelines.

This initiative was instrumental as a demonstration illustrating the power of smart cities and the industrial IoT, gathering data and making it available in a form that is highly meaningful to end users. By measuring noise levels and reporting them to the community, they are now more informed about their environment. 

Just the beginning
We all know that some places are noisier than others. We also know that noise can have a deleterious effect on our health. But until we can quantify such noise and look for patterns of noise emission, there’s not much we can do about it.

But noise is just one element of urban life. With the spread of smart city technology, we can better measure air quality, energy use, motion in the city and even the relative happiness of people in the city with IoT devices.

Of course, citizens and their governments will have to determine which measurements are for the public good and in which cases privacy trumps the need to quantify.

As we look ahead to the near future, we have reason to believe that we will have more meaningful and thoughtful control of our environment than ever before.

About the author: Vinay Nathan is Cofounder & CEO at Altizon Systems, the Industrial IoT Company. He is a strategic thought leader with 15+ years of global expertise in corporate sales and engineering. Vinay is frequently quoted in leading publications for his views on technology, trends and industry insights regarding the Internet of Things. Prior to founding Altizon, Vinay headed sales at Persistent Systems for North America and APAC region. Vinay holds three patents in the US and four globally pending patents on work related to USB, wireless and security code. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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