How three cities are addressing these smart city challenges

san francisco bay golden gate bridge

Both public and private institutions are continually bombarded with suggestions on how IoT can make their services better or “smarter”. The deluge of information is overwhelming and have many wondering where to start.

An IoT project must start by solving a business problem. Over the next few articles, I will examine how enterprises have implemented IoT projects to solve their business problems.  

IoT for Smart Cities

A smart city initiative uses communication technologies like monitoring devices, sensors, video cameras and data collection and analysis to enable a city to optimize functions and drive economic growth while improving the quality of life for its citizens. According to the Machina Research strategy report, “The Smart City Playbook” smart city projects can be broken down into three categories.

  • Smart Living: Projects that improve the quality of life and make a city a more attractive place to live in
  • Smart Safety: Projects that help prevent the impact of events such as crime, accidents or natural disasters
  • Smart Sustainability: Projects that reduce environmental impacts such as carbon emissions and energy consumption

Currently, New York and Barcelona are leading the way in all three categories; however many smaller cities are now seeing the value of implementing smart city projects to accomplish these same end results.

The National League of Cities has identified the top ten issues facing US cities in 2018.  Let’s look at how smart city projects are addressing three of these issues:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Public Safety
  3. Energy and the Environment

Smart Living: Stratford, Ontario

downtown city buildings illustration

Stratford is a small Canadian city that has developed a thriving theater industry. It has become a center of musical theater and has attracted visitors from all over Ontario. As a result, they are facing infrastructure planning issues.

Theatergoers need to get parking spots quickly. The faster they find a parking spot the more likely they are to visit a local restaurant or business. If customers become frustrated and cannot find parking, it undermines the attractiveness of visiting Stratford.

The city needed to decide what additional parking would be required to ensure that customers would find parking spots quickly without building unnecessary infrastructure. To solve these problems they chose to implement a smart parking solution. The solution enables them to provide visitors with a mobile app to quickly identify where parking spots are available and also gives them information about parking spot usage. The data collected from the app helps the city determine what additional parking infrastructure will be required based on actual usage.

Smart Safety: Auckland, New Zealand

downtown city hall with skyscrapers illustration

Auckland has thousands of cyclists and motor vehicles. They’ve also had many road accidents. The city’s goal was to improve safety in their streets. They chose to collect data from 2,000 cameras installed across the city. The information obtained from the cameras enabled them to do accident situation analysis and determine how to change the infrastructure design to reduce the probability of an accident.

The city also analyzed the data from video feeds at specific locations such as level crossings to determine when a car illegally went through a level crossing when the bars were dropping. These networked cameras use machine learning to detect the incident, capture the license plate and create the ticket package. The information is then forwarded to an enforcement officer to charge the offender.

Smart Sustainability: San Francisco, California

san francisco hill and trolley illustration

San Francisco also had parking problems. Parking spots on some downtown streets were tough to locate, while parking garages were often unfilled. Retailers complained that customers could not find parking near their stores and as a result customers would continuously circle the block looking for space. This process increased traffic congestion and pollution and lowered air quality.

This Bay-area city wanted to reduce the congestion and pollution caused by cars continuously circling a block, so they implemented a smart parking solution to understand parking usage and to be able to adjust the price of the parking spots. Their solution enabled them to raise the prices on specific parking spots based on actual usage information and as a result dramatically reduce the number of cars that circled the blocks reducing congestion and pollution.

Each of these smart city projects was driven by particular business reasons. The benefit of this approach is the project team was able to quickly prove the value of the smart city IoT project.

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